A new Coca-Cola ad released earlier this week aims to send an important message to its white and Mestizo consumers in Mexico this Christmas: break with your comfort zone and bring civilization to Indigenous people.
This, at least, is what their most recent advertisement seems to convey.
“81.6 percent of Mexican Indigenous have felt rejected for speaking another language,” the ad purports to inform while somber Indigenous faces fill the screen.
Fortunately for Mexico’s Indigenous, white Mexican hipsters are here to save them this Christmas with a “special message,” the ad tells us.
What follows next is a painful metaphor of ongoing colonialism in the country: white kids storm the Mixe Indigenous community, as if a crusade, distribute coke bottles and build a giant Coca-Cola Christmas tree for all to idolize.
Like most white savior plots, the ad is all about having a huge emotional experience about Brown victimhood that urges European descendants to take up the moral duty to save the oppressed from their oppression. It is founded on a white egocentric myth that there is something that Brown people must need that only White people can give them.
In this colonial fairy tale Brown people can only be conceived as passive objects in need of white care, not active agents that might outright just reject white rescue missions.
In fact, for the Indigenous of Mexico, white people bringing Coca-Cola is not just a joyful Christmas ad, it is a reality of corporate and cultural domination and destruction.
“The video is a clear demonstration of the presence of transnationals in the Indigenous territories of Oaxaca. In the last years, these companies have increasingly been taking over natural, economic and now cultural resources from the communities,” Laura Melchor, a human rights advocate in Oaxaca, told teleSUR English.
Since 2000, Coca-Cola has worked with the Mexican government to privatize water resources, including aquifers and rivers that belong to Indigenous peoples. Coca-Cola even uses some of these simply to dump their industrial waste into public waters.
The increasing privatization of water has left well over 15 million Mexicans without access to drinking water, turning Mexico into the second top consumer of bottled water in the world. Horrifyingly enough, these too are mostly sold by the very same Coca-Cola company.
Meanwhile, any attempts to resist Western corporate infiltration, like a multinational wind farm that has been attempting to take over Indigenous land in Oaxaca over the past years, have largely been criminalized.
A 2012 report on state repression against Oaxaca community leaders concluded that mainstream Mexican discourse have made it appear that “if (rights) defenders are opposed to a notion of development, they are opposed to progress and someone who is against progress is harmful for the country.”
It added: “Clearly, the defender is not seen as a person who defends rights."
This idea is precisely what the Coca-Cola ad sets out to propagate. It is the idea that Coca-Cola is the progress that Indigenous people lack, and therefore must be handed to them by benevolent white folks. Because if the Indigenous would resist this, and the implicit corporate exploitation, then surely they must be against progress, and therefore necessarily backward.
2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) March 8, 2012
Hidden underneath this white benevolence, crusaded through a bright and jolly Christmas tree, lies, as we know very well, a vicious greed for power and domination.
“We ask and require that you acknowledge the Church as the ruler and superior of the whole world and the high priest called Pope and in his name the king and queen ... and that you consent and permit that these religious fathers declare and preach to you,” states an extract from the Requerimiento in 1512, a text Spanish colonizers had to read out loud to Indigenous people in order to assert their power.
“If you do not do this or if you maliciously delay in doing it, I certify to you that with the help of God we shall forcefully enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall submit you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses … and we shall take away your goods and shall do to you all the harm and damage that we can … and we protest that the deaths and losses that shall accrue from this are your fault.”
While the Coca-Cola ad and the colonial text are well over 500 years apart, we see little difference between the atrocious intentions driven by white saviorism. They both reveal an aim to loot Indigenous communities in the name of altruistic Christianity.