If you commute from, or have happened to walk anywhere in, New York City or Los Angeles in the last three weeks, you've probably seen the posters.
"DONALD ERES UN PENDEJO," they say. And also: "THE ONLY THING THAT SHOULD BE ILEGAL IS MEZCAL."
The posters have become something of a curiosity, attracting dozens of mostly approving tweets, Instagram posts, and stories on local blogs. And if you haven’t seen these posters yet, don’t worry: Chances are they’re coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
"There will be more happening there," John Rexer told Fusion recently over the phone from Antigua, Guatemala—headquarters for Ilegal Mezcal, the liquor brand Rexer started in the early 2000s. "We actually have a few in Oaxaca and they're going up in Miami, soon, too."
How Rexer become one of the most prominent critics of Donald Trump is a neat little story in itself. The ad campaign came together very quickly and, like many ideas hatched in New York City, over brunch.
In July, Trump made several remarks that could be described as anti-Latino when discussing the U.S. relationship with Mexico.
"These people wreak havoc on our population," he said, in front of a few thousand people attending the Libertarian gathering FreedomFest inside a Planet Hollywood ballroom in Las Vegas.
Trump was roundly criticized, but the remarks were quickly swept out of the way for the next bit that dominated the news cycle. However, the incident stuck with John Rexer and, after a fateful brunch, he decided to remind people.
"I used to live in Puebla in the '90s," Rexer says. "At brunch, I noticed all these delivery guys and I said to my girlfriend, 'I bet all these guys are from Oaxaca or Puebla. I said the same thing to the waiter when he came back."
Coincidentally, Rexer's waiter was also a transplant from Puebla and the two hit it off immediately, talking about local dishes and venues in the town. Then the conversation turned a corner.
Unprompted, but with recent events in mind, Rexer's waiter said "I am really glad not everybody [in America] is like Donald Trump."
"And I could tell he was sincerely hurt," Rexer continues. "Then he said 'Donald Trump es pendejo.' Donald Trump is an asshole. I scribbled that down on a napkin."
The next morning, Rexer spoke with his brand director and self-described "head troublemaker" (who also happens to be his niece) Kaylan Rexer. Within an hour they had a mock up of a poster and the campaign was off and running.
The posters now read "Donald eres un pendejo." Donald, you're an asshole.
"I thought we should change the Spanish a little bit to make it direct at him."
Rexer pauses briefly to collect his thoughts.
“I think the timing was all just…this insanely…'Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some compassionate and thoughtful discussion?' It seemed like the right thing to do."
Both Rexers have been shocked by the reception the ads have gotten on Instagram and Twitter.
"The reposting and responses have been crazy," Rexer says excitedly. "'Thank you!' 'Right on!' "'Brooklyn represent.' By and large, it's mostly been people saying one, 'You have a good sense of humor' and two, 'well done.'"
The company did an outdoor campaign about marriage equality a few years ago, in reaction to comments made by Chik-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. However, they didn't take off like the Trump posters. Kaylan thinks they simply caught lightning in a bottle this time, but expresses a deeper concern and impetus for the posters.
"He's running for President."
The two haven't noticed any sizable growth in sales of their mezcal. But there has been an uptick in web traffic, possibly because they are selling shirts with the phrase emblazoned on them. (All profits from the shirts are going to the grassroots organization NYSYLC to "support immigration reform"). But don't worry, the posters aren't going anywhere.
Kaylan was asked recently how long Ilegal would keep the posters up. "I said ‘As long as he continues to be an ass.’ They responded 'Well, I guess you’ll be doing it forever then.'"
"It's a sentiment that a lot of people feel," Rexer says.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org