I chose this ad because I thought it illustrated some of the racist stereotypes of Puerto Ricans around the time West Side Story was released. This is an ad for Merito rum from the 1950s. In this ad, a stereotypically portrayed Puerto Rican man is depicted wearing a sombrero, riding on a donkey and talking in broken, accented English. The language “mountain flavor,” “Sunny Puerto Rico,” and “where soil, water, and tropic air unite” shows how Puerto Rico was seen as exotic and closer to nature (i.e. less civilized). This reminded me almost of extremely romanticized version of the opening to America (“Always the hurricanes blowing / Always the population growing / And the money owing / And the sunlight streaming / And the natives steeming…”)

I was unable to find the original publication this ad appeared in.

One Reply to “WWS and Puerto Rican Stereotypes”

  1. Observations: a Puerto Rican man wearing a sombrero riding a donkey, mountains in the background, “Sunny Puerto Rico”, “not just good, señor, superb”, “Try theese deleecious cool rum dreenks made weeth Merito Rum”

    The descriptions of Puerto Rico, for instance calling it sunny, make it seem as if the ad is romanticizing the land. This is also seen with the mountains in the background, making it seem like a nice place to live. However, this is very different from the ad’s portrayal of the people of Puerto Rico. “Try theese deleecious cool rum dreenks made weeth Merito Rum” is written as if it’s been said with a thick accent. This depicts Puerto Ricans as outsiders who do not speak the English language well. Adding to this representation is the visual associated with Puerto Ricans in the ad. The main picture for the ad is a Puerto Rican man wearing a sombrero riding a donkey, a stereotypical look for Puerto Ricans given by Americans. This makes Puerto Ricans seem like foreigners who do not belong. In general, the ad seems to like Puerto Rico but dislike Puerto Ricans. The use of “señor” in the ad reminded me of West Side Story when the members of the Jets would say some words in Spanish but still disrespect the Sharks and other Puerto Ricans. The ad is not trying to show respect for the Puerto Ricans but instead is using the word “señor” to add to Puerto Rico’s description of “exotic”.

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