Latino group no lo quiere Taco Bell pooch

o quiero Taco Bell,” says Dinky. “No me gusta Dinky,” says Gabriel Cazares, president of the Tampa chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Cazares called the ad “immigrant bashing,” “insensitive,” and “criminal,” saying it borders on “contempt and hate for a minority.” His chapter is asking Hispanics to boycott Taco Bell.
Cazares doesn’t say what is degrading about the funny little Chihuahua.
Having watched the advertisement more than 40 times, often with friends, I have heard only compliments for the little rascal. So many people, in fact, like the dog that Taco Bell is selling T-shirts starting in April.
Cazares is creating a problem out of an innocent, fun portrayal of a Mexican dog.
Responding to the nationwide attention, the national president of the league, Belen Robles, said Cazares is not speaking for the organization. “I personally do not find the commercials offensive, and I suspect that most members of LULAC would agree with me,” she said, calling the advertisement a “non-issue” that has run for four months without any complaints.
Guillermo Rojas, the director of the Chicano Studies department at the University, said he has seen the dog only once or twice. “That’s a damn smart dog, if I ever saw one,” he said.
Cazares and his unnecessary concern may pass, but the incident alludes to a problem in race relations in America.
Look at the evidence: Here is a company with (ostensibly) Mexican food, using a Mexican dog (smart enough to understand logarithms!) to sell that food. And yet a respected member of the Latin American community feels strongly enough to call for a boycott, saying the ad should be outlawed as a hate crime.
This ridiculous criticism undermines the goal of increasing acceptance of all races and ethnicities.
When people are hypersensitive to harmless portrayals of minorities, they make the mistake of unconsciously assuming the portrayal is a negative one.
For example, when I was a bartender, I had a black customer who told a hilarious joke, which benefited from his vocal inflections.
Repeating that joke, I used the same tone in which he told it. I could see that the people listening were uncomfortable with my replication of his mannerisms. Noticing the anxiety, I realized they assumed there was something degrading about the way I told the joke.
The unfavorable implications were being created in the listener’s own head.
I hadn’t attached any negative connotations to the representation. Nor had I any concern that a black person would get angry with me, had he or she overheard.
Perhaps my employment in a bar frequented by black people taught me something: Most people are not offended when someone portrays their culture in a good-natured way.
For that reason, I was angry and confused when I heard Cazares’ baseless complaints.
I was confused because a friend expressed surprise that the ad had not been criticized, and I insisted the dog was an innocent icon, with nothing that could be construed as demeaning.
The anger came from my frustration at Cazares for his reaction, which stifles creativity and makes everyone more nervous about what is acceptable. The fallout from criticism like this may prevent more depictions of Latin American culture on television.
In many other countries, people are more comfortable joking about their own culture. They don’t automatically assume depictions and jokes are derogatory. Perhaps the situation in America has been aggravated by our history of racial tension.
But, just as a Mexican-American might laugh at an Ole and Lena joke, a Norwegian-American can appreciate a joke about Polish cultural idiosyncrasies.
Everyone in America has an ethnic background, and despite the obvious Americanization that occurs as generations pass there are cultural differences between people of the same racial backgrounds. For example, there are strong cultural differences between Russians and French. Their ethnic origins reflect their cultural differences, whereas the racial category does not — they are both white.
The racial categories, like white and black, are used for fair hiring practices because they reflect appearance. Since that is what discrimination is often based on, those tags are useful.
But in general, this division is unnecessary and harmful, as it portrays a country in “black” and “white,” so to speak.
We are all originally from different countries, and whether that was Norway, Africa, or China, we should all, both “white” and “minority,” accept that we are similar creatures with different cultures.
Toward that end, when a Mexican — albeit a Mexican dog — is chosen to represent Mexican food, people should judge the portrayal on its merits, without feeling that simply the use of a Mexican is degrading.
And since the dog is charismatic and smart, Cazares’ comments are unnecessary and harmful, and I am proud of the national organization for distancing themselves from him.

Brian Close is a German/Norwegian/English-American junior majoring in journalism.