Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taco Bell: Offensive Cuisine?

Who remembers the Taco Bell commercials in the 90s? The chihuahua became Taco Bell's mascot as he was featured in numerous commercials saying "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" in a heavy Spanish accent. I always wondered what happened to the commercials, but it appears as though they ceased after 2000. It was rumored to be due to Gidget's death, however it was due to Latino advocacy groups that lobbied against the campaign. Now Taco Bell has moved to more neutral campaigns of "think outside the bun" and "the drive thru diet."

What sparked my interest in this topic came from a late night Taco Bell run, what they now market as the "fourth meal." My friend and I discussed how Taco Bell's food taste is processed and vile, that it is not considered Mexican food, yet does not attempt to come off as authentic thus not making it offensive. However, it raised an interesting issue as to how one's adaptation of a particular cuisine when not executed properly can be exhibited as offensive because it still maintains the label of that particular cuisine. It seems as though that after the "Yo quiero Taco Bell" campaign, Taco Bell no longer attempts to sell its food as Mexican food, but instead as an alternative to hamburgers.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. I think this is a really interesting post. I go to Taco Bell a lot and I too noticed that they stopped marketing their foods as Mexican Food. However, I think that the era of the "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" Campaign still looms about in people's minds and it makes it so that the population still thinks of Taco Bell as needing to be Mexican food. This was evidenced to me on a recent trip to the taco bell in Oakland that I go to a lot. It is on Telegraph and it is a Taco Bell/KFC and they have ads for both in their drive thru. I took a friend of mine who hasn't been to that specific taco bell before and when we got there she started laughing hysterically and was asking why a Taco Bell would be paired in the same establishment as a KFC. I asked her why that was so weird and she said because they were two completely different kinds of food. I asked what she meant by that and she said that Taco Bell was supposed to be Mexican food and KFC was supposed to be "American" food, whatever that means.

    I got to thinking about it a lot and I have seen quite a few Taco Bell's paired with KFC's and never thought anything of it. However, apparently my friend had never seen one and thought it was just some type of disgrace to the fast food industry because she said that Taco Bell has always been considered the "Mexican food" fast food joint and I disagree I think if you were to think of an iconic Mexican food fast food place it would be El Pollo Loco and I realized that was because they continue to specifically market themselves as Mexican Food whereas Taco Bell no longer does and hasn't for quite some time.

  2. I too remember the Taco Bell commercials from the 90s where the chosen spokes"person" was a Spanish speaking chihuahua. After just watching the posted clip I became immediately aware of several troubling aspects. This ad seems to reinforce and reinscribe several racialized stereotypes about Latinas/os into the dominant social imaginary, a topic we have extensively covered in class and readings. The music, setting and campy "excess" all contribute to the idea of the Latina/o as a free spirited love sick creature. Also the idea that "authentic" Latinas/os would be interested in consuming Taco Bell because it is so authentic is curious since it barely resembles the type of food that one would actually find in México, a point expressed in the initial blog posting. The idea that Taco Bell is even remotely similar to any sort of cuisine other than unhealthy slop is ridiculous. Also, the idea that you would have some sort of authentic experience at a Taco Bell "restaurant" is absurd.

    Much the same way that the U.S. category of "Latina/o" or "Hispanic" intends to discursively reduce millions of people with different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, et cetera to a homogenous category, Taco Bell seems to reinforce the idea that it is the food steeped in tradition and would come straight from México. While many people who live in an area where the have exposure to actual Mexican cuisine and culture would probably realize that this is just processed junk, some people who live in communities that do not expose them to actual culture and cuisine could have particular stereotypes codified with the presence of such an establishment and certainly through the advertisements used. Advertisements can do much to damage perceptions and understandings of particular communities or groups and give people false impressions about what is reality and what is a creation of a marketing team. For these reasons, I think that it is critically important for corporations to exercise better judgment and consider the racialized consequences of such campaigns.