5 Facts You May Not Know About the Problematic Cartoon Mascot, the Frito Bandito

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Twitter users on Sunday (Jan. 24) were a bit confused not only about why the corn chip brand Fritos was trending, but why it was trending in the politics category.

It seems like the first mention of Fritos started with journalist Dan Rather suggesting that people start looking for “non-political opportunities” to disagree with one another. He then went on to ask followers what their favorite snack was since the NFL playoffs where happening. “Pretzels or Chips?” Rather asked. “Or my favorite, Fritos?”

Algorithms are funny things in social media. Maybe it was the fact that Rather has been known for his work as a political reporter throughout his career, but Twitter considered the word “Fritos” as a politically charged subject. But even then, Rather did specifically say that he was looking for “non-political opportunities” to debate, so the categorization still doesn’t make much sense.

Since Fritos is still a trending political topic, we’ll play along and actually politicize the salty corn chips by revisiting the Frito Bandito, the controversial mascot the Frito-Lay company used to market its products from 1967-1971. The mascot, which robbed people of their Fritos at gunpoint, was discontinued after Frito-Lay received complaints about the racist, stereotypical “Mexican bandit” image it was depicting. Here are five facts about the Frito Bandito that you may not have known.

The Frito Bandito Replaced the Frito Kid

The Frito Bandito was introduced by the Frito-Lay company in 1967 and replaced a character known as the Frito Kid, a blonde-haired little boy dressed like a cowboy. The Frito Kid was the company’s original mascot from 1952-1967. His stock rose when Mexican restaurant Casa de Fritos opened at Disneyland in 1955.

Tex Avery Created the Frito Bandito

Best known for drawing famous cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, Avery also designed the look of the Frito Bandito. The character’s appearance included a sombrero, gun holster, two pistols, gold tooth, stubble and a long villainous-looking moustache.

Mel Blanc Voiced the Frito Bandito

Frito Bandito’s voice might have sounded familiar to some people when the commercials came out on TV. That’s because legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, who was best known for giving voice to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, voiced the Mexican bandit. Blanc also voiced Speedy Gonzales, who spoke in broken English much like the Frito Bandito.

The Frito Bandito Prompted the Creation of Advocacy Groups

In opposition to the use of racist stereotypes in advertising, the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee (NMAADC) in Washington, D.C., and the Involvement of Mexican-Americans in Gainful Endeavors (IMAGE) in San Antonio, Texas, were formed in 1968. The organizations demanded Frito-Lay stop using the Frito Bandito, but the company refused, citing a survey they conducted that said 85% of Mexican Americans liked the character. Although they were able to convince Frito-Lay to make the character more friendly looking, they started pressuring TV stations to stop airing the Frito Bandito commercials. The character was discontinued a year later.

The Frito Bandito Sang a Jingle Based on ‘Cielito Lindo’

“Ay, ay, ay, ay! Oh, I am dee Frito Bandito…” The Bandito’s jingle is sung to the melody of the traditional Mexican song “Cielito Lindo,” which has been sung by the likes of Pedro Infante, Vincente Fernandez and Menudo.