MEXICO CITY — It looks like many Coca-Cola ads with long-haired, do-gooder hipsters teaching the world to sing or sharing a Coke and a smile.
But the “Open Your Heart” holiday campaign by Coca-Cola Mexico is coming under fire as “faux philanthropy” and an insult to indigenous groups for its portrayal of a truckload of festive, fashion model-looking white people driving into the remote hills of Oaxaca hauling Coke and a Christmas tree as a service project.
The Alliance for Food Health, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups, wants the Mexican government to block the ad, saying it is an attack on the dignity of indigenous people. It also says the ad contributes to the deteriorating health of Mexico’s indigenous communities. Mexico is a major consumer of soda and other sugared drinks and has skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes.
The alliance said it would formally ask the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to block the ad campaign immediately.
“It’s outrageous for the indigenous,” said Diana Turner, a public relations person for Consumer Power, one of the groups in the alliance.
Calls by The Associated Press to Coca-Cola Mexico all went to voice mail.
In the commercial, the company says the campaign is meant to “break down prejudice and share.”
“This Christmas a group of young people decided to give something very special to the indigenous community of Totontepec (Villa) de Morelos in Oaxaca. You, too, open your heart,” Coca-Cola says in the ad.
It says 81.6 per cent of Mexico’s indigenous people feel rejected for speaking a language other than Spanish, though it doesn’t cite the source.
The ad shows long-haired blond women and bespectacled young men joyously sawing wood, welding and painting before they playfully head off in an El Camino pickup to the eastern mountains of Oaxaca where Totontepec is located. They build a red tree with Coca-Cola lights to the smiles, hugs and appreciation of the locals, who belong to the Mixe community. Across the lighted tree are the words “We will stay united” in the Mixe language.
The commercial on YouTube and its hashtag #AbreTuCorazon (#OpenYourHeart in Spanish) have drawn a slew of critical comments.
“Coca-Cola is working on some genius colonial branding in Mexico with its out-of-touch, racist #AbreTuCorazon campaign,” one critic says. Another asks: “Why don’t you have the people of Oaxaca taking their culture to other countries?”
Coca-Cola responded: “We appreciated you sharing your concerns. We will be sure to pass along your comments.”