Pizza Patrón, a Texas-based restaurant chain, will soon be serving up an extra spicy pizza with a free serving of profanity. Their new super-jalapeño-flavored pizza is being marketed as La Ching!#a – cover for a slang term derived from the Spanish equivalent of the F-word. Not surprisingly, radio stations have refused to air the company’s ads for the new product, which has Pizza Patrón claiming that they are being unfairly censored.

Nice try. Pizza Patrón’s latest gimmick is tacky and insulting to Latinos. This is an ad campaign that would never be done in English, for it crosses a boundary of bad taste. It’s noteworthy only because it marks a new low for Hispanic marketing.  

Did Rodriguez allow the use of Ching!#a in his 2001 family-friendly movie, Spy Kids? Of course not. Nor did Lopez ever use it in during five seasons of his popular ABC sitcom.

- Raúl Reyes

According to their website, Pizza Patrón is “committed to celebrating the diversity of the Latin culture and lifestyle in our stores.”  The company has franchises in several states with significant Latino populations, including California, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. The company is known for it’s provocative promotions, such as accepting Mexican pesos for payment in 2007, and offering free pizzas to Spanish-speakers in 2012.  

Now Pizza Patrón defends their use of La Ching!#a by claiming the expression is in common usage. “It’s a colloquial Mexican term that’s used very commonly among our core customers, which is a Mexican-born, Spanish-speaking customer, as part of their everyday lifestyle,” Andrew Gamm, the company’s brand director, told Reuters. His words might come as a shock to those customers with young children, who are seniors, or who have good manners. It is offensive to suggest that Latinos are using such vulgarity as “part of their everyday lifestyle.”  

Besides, the “everybody says it” argument doesn’t hold water. Rap music is often loaded with profanity and derogatory terms, including the N-word. That doesn’t make those terms acceptable.

So far, Univision and CBS have refused to air Pizza Patrón’s radio commercials, and NPR canceled a segment discussing the controversial promotion. Yet this does not constitute censorship. These stations are rightfully concerned with the FCC rules regarding “obscene, indecent, and profane broadcasts.”  And since the F-word is banned from the public airwaves in English, its Spanish equivalent should be treated the same way. 

On the company Twitter account, Pizza Patrón notes that filmmaker Robert Rodriguez had a band with a similar name as their new pizza, and that George Lopez used the word for one of his comedy tours. True. But the issue here is what is appropriate for all audiences – meaning anyone with a radio, or anyone who could walk into one of the Pizza Patrón stores. Did Rodriguez allow the use of Ching!#a in his 2001 family-friendly movie, Spy Kids?  Of course not. Nor did Lopez ever use it in during five seasons of his popular ABC sitcom.

To make matters worse, Pizza Patrón’s La Ching!#a will be available starting March 31, a date that is celebrated as Cesar Chavez Day in California and other states. So much for cultural sensitivity.

Sure, some young adults use La Ching!#a and similar terms to mean cool, or tough. The words still don’t belong in an advertising campaign, or on a restaurant menu (some Pizza Patrón franchises have refused to sell the new pizza). The company is playing to the lowest common denominator by using crude language for shock value and publicity. The Ching!#a campaign is not even particularly inspired or creative. A well-crafted business strategy should attract as many potential customers as possible – not alienate them.

Hispanic consumers deserve better than what Pizza Patrón is offering. Their latest pizza promotion is lazy, lame, and lowbrow. 

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

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