October 09, 2007

Decision to Open Taco Bells "Last Straw," Says Aggrieved Mexico

By FERNANDO HERRADURA
El Diario Rant

SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE, Mexico -- RELATIONS BETWEEN the United States and Mexico have fallen to a new low after Yum Brands Inc., the Kentucky-based owner of the Taco Bell fast-food chain, said it was expanding into the country after a 15-year hiatus in operations.

Already at loggerheads over issues ranging from immigration to trade, the company's move has infuritated partisans on both sides of the border. But its effects have been most strongly decried in Mexico, where culinary tradition is paramount and citizens often resent what they see as American interference in their lives. Still, the company -- in announcing its move -- did not flinch from criticism.

"We believe the people of Mexico deserve access to the spicy, grilled, melty, crunchy taste of Taco Bell, whether they like it or not," said Chad Finnster, a Yum brands spokesman. "We're sure they'll come to find value in our product offerings -- particularly at 2 a.m., when other restaurants are closed and the people, suffering from a lack of grilled and melty offerings, find they have the munchies. We're confident our strategy, based around ecumenical concepts such as "Fourthmeal" and the quasi-creative use of industrially-produced foodstuffs, will prove as successful in Mexico as it has in America."

Despite the company's optimism, though, the move was met with derision not only in Mexico, but also from marketing experts.

"Oh, sure, Taco Bells in Mexico. That's a real winner right there," said New York-based marketer Floyd Pantaleon. "I mean, I can see it possibly working if the value meals were, you know, values in a country where the minimum wage is roughly $4.25 a day. But based on reports I've seen, Taco Bell's tacos are selling for $1 and burritos are selling for as much as $5.70. Those prices are high enough in America, much less Mexico."

"I mean, why would you pay 11 pesos or so for a Taco Bell taco when you could pay 11 pesos for two or three yummy carnitas tacos, lovingly prepared, from some roadside vendor who has been making tacos, and making tacos well, for thirty years?" Pantaleon said. "Besides, when you're buying from a roadside vendor, you know what you're getting into. With Taco Bell, not so much. I mean, my God. I don't know about you, but last time I checked, overloading a burrito with an alarming amount of American cheese wasn't a hallmark of Mexican cuisine."

"And don't get me started on those faux taquito thingies either," Pantaleon added. "Holy Mary."

"I thought this was some kind of sick joke until I walked down Calle Insurgentes and saw teenagers hanging outside one of those hideous outlets," said Hector Armando Calderon, a political scientist in Mexico City. "Yet it was not a sick joke. Once again a hideous nightmare from El Norte has descended upon the Mexican people. For the love of God, haven't we suffered enough?"

"And this 'fourthmeal' you speak of," Armando said. "What's up with that? One-sixth of our country is living in extreme poverty and the pinche gringos speak of a fourth meal? Scandalous!"

Surprisingly, the establishment of Taco Bells in Mexico has not been met with much resistance from local politicians, many of whom are welcoming the eateries.

"What's that? Taco Bell? Oh, yes. I went down there for a bite and was very pleased. I'm confident they will provide their customers with regular, uninterrupted service and have no problems whatsoever," said local health inspector and sacadolar Nestor Wojciechkowski Cabron. "By the way, what is this "melty taste" they talk about? I don't understand."

But perhaps the loudest opposition to Taco Bell's expansion has come from American expatriates now living in Mexico, who complain "they did not move to Mexico" just so "the corporate Yankee culture" could follow them and "pollute all (they) held dear."

"This is an outrage!" said Marvin Welker, a transplant from New Jersey now living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. "I mean, Taco Bell? In Mexico? I may throw up."

"How dare this American company march in with its adulterated faux-Mexican food and pitch itself as a value-oriented establishment?" asked Welker, who despite the region's poverty has spent the last three years agitating against the construction of a large supermarket on the outskirts of town. "This is as bad as that time a gas station wanted to set up shop three blocks from my house. Soon, people will want all the conveniences of life right at their fingertips, and God knows where that could lead."

"There's clearly only one thing to do," Welker said, as he turned on his computer. "I must write immediately to the editor of San Miguel's tiny newspaper for expatriates. That'll put a stop to this."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 9, 2007 07:45 PM | TrackBack
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