Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Memories of Empire, Part One: Absolut(ly) Aztlan

Absolut Vodka has created a huge web flurry with this new ad campaign in Mexico. The ad depicts what an "ideal" world might look like from the standpoint of Mexico--one in which Mexico has the national boundaries it had in about 1821. This was before Anglo-Mexican settlers revolted in the state of Tejas and created the Republic of Texas in 1836; and also before the war of 1846-1848 with the United States (regarded by many to have been an aggressive and unjust war for territorial expansion. Young Abraham Lincoln, then a Congressional Represenative from Illinois, voted against the war. Thoreau went to jail for failing to support it with his taxes. Even Ulysses Grant was shocked at the the conduct of U.S. troops during the war).

Blogs all over the web are calling for a boycott of Absolut, calling the ad "racist" and in poor taste.

While Mexico does have many monuments to heros who fought in the war against the United States, I hazard a guess that most Mexicans are not dreaming of any Reconquista (despite what the nativists are arguing).

What strikes me as more interesting is how vociferous and angry the responses have been to this ad among conservative voices.

I'm sure that the anger is not a reaction of guilt for the imperalist impulse that the U.S. embodied in the 19th century, leading it to land grab so much in Latin America. Its more likely the case that the reaction is part of the growing fear being felt in the U.S. about a loss of power and stature on the world stage. Gregory Rodriguez calls the new border fence a "670 mile-long shrine to American insecurity".

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At 5:50 PM , Anonymous Roger said...

All I know is I love Absolut too much to let the xenophobic conservatives to get in my way. Absolut is sold all over the world, so I doubt the skrinking U.S. economy is going to have any affect on their sales.

At 6:56 PM , Blogger Rev Parisa said...

The Absolut ad is this week's Jeremiah Wright.

At 10:27 AM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Paris: Speaking truth to power? Its funny to think that maybe the Absolut add should have been targeted to the US audience. In an ideal world, in which the United States hadn't been overcome with manifest destiny, imperialist aspirations, and white supremacy, the picture of things would be much different.

At 11:38 AM , Blogger Rev Parisa said...

I don't know if the Absolut ad intended to speak truth to power, or just to be clever. But the reaction is the same as to Jeremiah Wright: the powerful have been made uncomfortable. I think it tells more about an awareness (perhaps not quite at the conscious level, but clearly visceral) of the precarious nature of the power of the dominant culture(s) of North America.

At 1:44 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Paris: I agree absolut(ly). Now only if we coul raise the discussion to one of empire!

At 5:56 PM , Blogger Rev Parisa said...


At 12:44 PM , Anonymous Theresa said...

I read on today that SKYY Vodka has come out in support of the Treaty of Hidalgo, and the movement behind the boycott of Absolut has issued this incredibly obnoxious press release in praise of their announcement:
History was made today when American made SKYY Vodka sent out a press release proudly supporting the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and criticizing Absolut for their offensive advertising in Mexico.

"This is the first time we have ever seen an American brand stand up, recognize, and support US Sovereignty against an import that is pandering to illegal immigration supporters," said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "We want to thank SKYY Vodka for showing themselves as a patriotic and top shelf alternative to Absolut."

The National Illegal Immigration Boycott Coalition (NIIBC) plans to incorporate the news from SKYY Vodka into their boycott website at All coalition groups will be encouraged to share this historic news.

All boycott supporters will now be encouraged to try SKYY Vodka, as a show of thanks to the American brand for standing up for Americans!

"I like SKYY Vodka!", said William Gheen. "It is great to be able to have an occasional martini without contributing to a Global corporation, like Absolut, that is encouraging the invasion of my nation."

At 9:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt this a classic example of the script that has always energised reactive "conservative" politics---the USA white man (and woman) as victim.

Beginning with the notion that the early "settlers" (really invaders) were the "victims" of the "indians" who were really just trying to protect their land and culture.

This victim mentality theme is discussed in The End of Victory Culture by Tom Engelhardt.

Plus Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack Forbes.


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