A campaign calls for the company Lecasa to rename the famous “Conguitos”, represented decades ago by a cartoon of an African black man
Several generations of children in Spain have grown up with Conguitos, chocolate-covered peanuts that became popular in the 90s thanks to a catchy television jingle. Now a campaign accuses the brand of racism for “stigmatizing” the black population with its representation of a black doll with fat red lips . While the manufacturer defends “the positive values” of the product, the debate on how minority caricatures are perceived has moved to society.
“Since I first saw a bag of Conguitos at the supermarket I stayed in shock: how was it possible that my Spanish friends feel not offended?” Says Infobae French Myriam Benlarech, promoter of the campaign ‘Lacasa Suffer of using the Conguitos brand is racist ‘, which has more than 6,000 support signatures on Change.org .
Lacasa is a family business in the Spanish region of Aragon that has been making sweets for five generations with successful brands such as Lacasitos and Mentolín. In 1987, he bought Conguitos and, far from changing the image of the product, he opted to expand its popularity through advertising campaigns and a song that most Spanish families know: “ We are the conguitos and we are very well dressed in chocolate with the body of peanut ”. Today it is a successful company that employs half a thousand people and produces 20,000 kilos of Conguitos a day.
“Conguitos Lives Matter”
In a statement distributed to the media, the company Lacasa assures that it will take “opinions” into account about Conguitos but does not announce any change in the product name or logo. However, he does value “the positive comments” he has received on social networks with the hashtag “Conguitos Lives Matter”.
Myriam Benlarech moved to Barcelona four years ago and since then she has thought how she could contribute to eliminate a symbol that, in her opinion, “is unequivocally racist “. It has been during these last weeks, in the heat of the Black Lives Matter movement , that he has decided to act. “Although I am not black, I feel offended, I know what it is to suffer racism because my family was part of the Arab migration to France.”
In his campaign he asks the brand for “a public apology” and the donation of part of its profits to anti-racist organizations. “Their response is only making the situation worse, they demonstrate a tremendous lack of sensitivity,” he says. “I understand that they may have doubts on the economic side when it comes to changing one of their star products, but it is not an excuse to continue launching a racist message that reaches children.”
Before launching the campaign, he thought about contacting the brand directly but decided that he would not do so when he checked the media attention his proposal has aroused and the controversy it has generated on social networks. He confesses that he has been afraid of some criticism and that, at first, he refused to speak to the media to avoid problems. “Now I think it is better to give visibility to this fight to raise awareness in society.”
It is not the first time that Lacasa has been accused of racism because of Conguitos. In 2003, university professor María Frías launched a similar campaign to “insult millions of Africans” and “promote negative stereotypes”. Shortly after, the company decided to remove the weapons that the dolls carried in the logo and a few years earlier they had erased the navel from their bodies to “avoid making it appear that they were naked.”
“The pet acquired a friendlier character, with positive energy, good humor, good vibes and leadership,” they explain to Infobae from Lacasa. On their website even today they remember as part of their history the “characteristic blacks with tribal lances” that were part of their image, created by Juan Tudela in the 70s. In an interview in 2003 with ‘El Periódico de Aragón’ this publicist He recognized that, seen with perspective, “today I would not have drawn it that way”, that the product “would not go on the market with that image and that name”.
A social problem
Conguitos is not the only brand that has attracted criticism in recent years for offending or transmitting values that are not in line with the progress of societies. This is the case of companies such as Pepsi (which renamed and changed the logo of Aunt Jemima, a flour to make pancakes) or the Spanish Cola Cao, which erased its popular song for advertising: “I am that little black man from tropical Africa who cultivated singing the Cola Cao song ”.
“It may be understandable that in other times they used that language and those images, but the question is: why don’t Conguitos correct their mistake now, when there is a whole community that feels offended?” Asks Desirée Bela-Lobedde.
The journalist assures that there is a part of the population that does not consider this to be offensive, “it even seems silly to them, something funny.” He thinks the underlying problem is that ” Spanish society is still racist . ” “As are France, England, Belgium, the United States and many other countries that participated in colonization with that idea of superiority, of conquering other communities that they considered savage and uncivilized,” he explains.