INK_BLAST | IS THIS IGNORANT OR CLEVER?
By Juleyka Lantigua
The other day I was in Hackensack, NJ, at a local Latino supermarket with my sister, picking up some stuff for dinner. I decided to browse the aisles for some traditional Dominican treats. You know, things like the salted crackers that come in slender clear packs, or the guava paste so thick and rich you have to count your teeth after eating it. It was great to walk through aisle after aisle filled with all kinds of products that were so familiar to me and elicited such nostalgia for my childhood in Dominican Republic. (I also got to browse sweets from places like Mexico and Ecuador and Colombia, which I was not brave enough to try.)
Snuggled between other chocolate treats, I spotted something called "Beso de Begra" in a bright red wrapper. At first, I was sure I read it wrong. So I picked it up and read it over. "Beso de Negra." Then I got a full look at the illustration of a curvy black woman with ample breasts, a small waste, full red lips and a head wrap. My first thought was, "SERIOUSLY?" Then I took an even closer look and saw the big corporate logo so familiar to this chocoholic, Nestle.
That’s when my brain went schizoid on me. My left side–the analytical, logical and conformist one–was appalled and offended and wanted to write a letter to someone, anyone immediately. The vitriolic missive would have included phrases like: "This is an outrage." "As a professional Latina, I am appalled that such an international brand would debase the image of women, specifically a Black Latina, this way." "I will boycott all Nestle products and convince all my family and friends to do the same." Oh, my left brain was seething at the mouth just thinking about the multi-page letter we’d be writing as soon as we got home.
In the meantime, my right brain–the artistic, free-spirited and goofy one–was laughing it’s ass off, thinking how clever and sexy it was to name a sweet treat resembling a s’more (a marshmallow sitting on a cracker, covered in dark chocolate) after the kiss of a woman. My right brain was also thinking that, of course, it could only happen in Latin America, where sexual innuendo is part of every day life to such an extent as to render it innocuous. While my two cerebral hemispheres duked it out, I decided to get a second opinion.
I held the candy up to my sister and asked, "Are we really this ignorant? Or is this funny?" She did a double-take and hissed at the wrapper as she asked me if I was ready to go. That, of course, forced me to make a decision–not about which side of my brain was right on this one–but about whether I would put down the $1.19 so I could taste Nestle’s version of a Black woman’s kiss.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."