New Mexico's upcoming tourism ad hasn't even hit the airwaves but already it's creating a whirlwind of controversy after a casting agency posted a call for Caucasian or light-skinned Hispanics only.
The controversy began when the New Mexico Tourism Department hired out of state, enlisting Austin, Texas-based Vendor Inc. to produce its new brand campaign. That firm then chose a California producer to shoot the spot. Then on Friday, locals were up in arms over a casting notice posted by Albuquerque subcontractor On Location Casting looking for so-called real people to showcase New Mexico.
The resultant criticism has been contagious. An editorial by the Santa Fe New Mexican called the $2 million spot wrong-headed.
Native people dance and make art, yes, but they are fully in the modern world. They, along with dark-skinned people, even take vacations. That's why the call for 'light-skinned' applicants is wrong-headed. Hearing that term brings to mind a vision of casting agents holding up paper bags next to people's faces to ensure they can pass. We don't know, of course, who made it into the shoot and how New Mexico will be presented to the world once the campaign is unveiled. But really, light-skinned only? What were they thinking?
Forty-six percent of New Mexico's residents are of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to the latest census data. Roughly 10 percent are Native American. The Land of Enchantment also boasts the nation's first female Latina governor, Republican Susana Martinez.
The ad is an attempt by Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson to attract more out-of-state visitors, but after the unanticipated controversy, many New Mexico residents are eager to see how they'll be advertised to the world.
I don't think it's a very good representation of New Mexico because we have all kinds of people here, Santa Fe resident Kathy Burhans told local TV news station KOB.
The reason I moved here is for the diversity that Santa Fe has to offer, another resident told the station.
Hispanics have often complained of the glaring bias for light-skinned Latinos, a hallmark of Hispanic media in both print and television across the Americas.
Jacobson defended the actions of the casting agency.
The particular casting call getting all the attention is in regards to our 'tourist' role and we wanted a tourist who could represent people coming from a wide range of states like Maine, Texas, Florida, or Washington, she said, reiterating that the production company that wrote the casting call is an out-of-state company enlisted by the advertising agency they contracted.
She later called the wording a distraction from the true intention of the ad, saying that it was never the department's goal to be racist in any way, shape, or form.
The finished ad is scheduled to be unveiled next month.
What do you think about the wording of the casting call? Share your thoughts in the comments below.