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Taco Bell Dog Provokes Worry From Some Hispanics

The chihuahua’s cute, but not everyone appreciates his Spanish skills.

Dinky, the dog who says “Yo quiero Taco Bell” (“I want Taco Bell”) on TV commercials, has offended many Hispanics in Florida and California. Some have compared the ads to a hate crime.

In the Inland Northwest, the chihuahua has received mixed reviews.

“I’m amused more than anything,” said Michele Maher, president of the Hispanic Business and Professional Association. “I was relieved that the Spanish was accurate. … At least somebody will have learned a complete sentence in Spanish.”

Ray Veloz, president of Idaho’s Hispanic Business Association, doesn’t find the ad campaign derogatory, either.

It’s far more harmful, he said, to experience race-related violence, like incidents in Nampa, Idaho, where Hispanic children and adults were called names and assaulted last summer.

“There is no comparison with the two,” he said.

Others, however, find the ads insulting.

Margarita Plascencia-Janes, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and a Spanish teacher for Educational Services District 101, said such commercials make it difficult for her to teach students.

“It’s hard to make them see that that’s not Mexico,” she said. “You can’t represent Mexico with a dog. I get upset when I see (the ads).”

The Taco Bell ad could lead to false perceptions about a culture, Plascencia-Janes said. Sometimes, they result in name-calling or the bashing of a certain ethnic group.

Last year, for example, a girl in a Spokane school called her 12-year-old son a “fajita.”

Employees at Spokane’s Taco Bell on West Third haven’t received any complaints about Dinky. And they don’t understand why people are so upset.

“I’m Mexican and it doesn’t bother me at all,” said Ruby Cook, a shift manager. “It’s a cute commercial.”

Several chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens have complained to Taco Bell. Some are urging Hispanics to boycott the fast-food chain and write to its corporate headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

As controversial as Dinky has become, the ads aren’t as insulting as the Frito-Lay commercials in the 1970s, said Carlos Maldonado, who runs Eastern Washington University’s Chicano Education Program.

The ads, which were pulled by Frito-Lay, featured the “Frito Bandito,” a man with a long mustache, sombrero and a stereotypical outlaw image.

Maldonado is especially critical of a radio ad for Trojan condoms in which a man does a Latin dance. The commercial enforces the stereotype of “the sex-crazed Latin lover,” he said.

Many people may find the Taco Bell ads humorous, said Plascencia-Janes, but they don’t realize how the images can easily undermine a culture.

“There’s still so much ignorance out there,” she said.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Virginia de Leon Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.