For several weeks now, Coca-Cola Mexico has been bogged down in controversy over a holiday ad called “Abre tu Corazón“, which members of Mexico’s indigenous Mixe community have denounced as completely offensive.
The ad, linked below, claims that many indigenous people feel ostracized because they don’t speak Spanish (though it does not cite its source). Then, a group of young, attractive white people travel to a remote community in Oaxaca, where the Mixe live. They come offering bottles of Coca-Cola and an art installation, ostensibly as an act of solidarity to bring their communities together. But many – including The Alliance for Food Health, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups – didn’t see it that way.
It wasn’t long before social media was ablaze with people angry about the “white savior” narrative depicted, noting that the commercial reinforces stereotypes through a colonialist viewpoint. And then there’s also the thorny issue of selling soda to a group known to suffer from obesity.
Since the video’s release, a lot has happened – culminating, finally, in an apology from the brand. Here’s a loose timeline of everything that went down since the ad first appeared online:
The video is released
On November 19, Coca-Cola releases the ad, and it doesn’t take long for people to use the #AbreTuCorazón hashtag to express their disappointment.
“The video is a clear demonstration of the presence of transnations in the Indigenous terriroties of Oaxaca. In the last years, these companies have increasingly been taking over natural, economic and now cultural resources from the communities,” human rights advocate Laura Melchor told teleSUR.
Coca-Cola Issues an Apology
“As part of Coca-Cola Mexico’s Christmas campaign for this year the video ‘Mixe Community Totontepec’ was launched on digital channels, seeking to convey a message of unity and joy,” Coca-Cola said. “Our intention was never to be insensitive to or underestimate any indigenous groups. We have now removed the video and apologize to anyone who may have been offended.
In nearly 90 years in the country, Coca-Cola Mexico has worked to share messages of unity and friendship to contribute to build a society free of prejudices.”
At that point, Coca-Cola also says they won’t be providing further comment on the video.
The Mixe Community Speaks Out
Members of the Mixe community, as well as human rights activists, banded together to ask the Mexican government to take action against Coca-Cola. “I believe this type of ad encourages acts of discrimination and racism and also encourages the breakdown of the social fabric by trying to impose a culture of consumption unfamiliar to these communities,” said Elvira Pablo, a Mixe lawyer at a press conference on December 2.
The Alliance for Food Health Files a Complaint
The Alliance for Food Health has filed a complaint with Consejo Nacional Para Prevenir la Discriminación, Global Post. This means that more bad news could be coming to Coca-Cola.
Mixes make their own anti-Coke commercial
The Mixe community has created their own commercial to talk about the issues their community faces, namely obesity and lack of health care.
Coca-Cola admits the Mixe featured in ad were not paid
Though Coca-Cola did not plan to comment on the ad after their first statement, they did end up speaking out once again, according to Latino USA.
“The main campaign messages of unity and optimism to leave behind prejudices were well understood and accepted in the focus groups we did. Once we launched this video, we kept monitoring and measuring the public´s response. During this monitoring we realized that the message intended was not understood, so we decided to [remove] it.
Actors were paid and the agreement with the community was to receive a donation.”