According to this slide show at Slate (linked from The Color Line), the Frito Bandito was introduced as a mascot for Fritos in 1967.

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A “cunning, clever-and sneaky” thief who loved the “cronchy” corn chips, he was targeted by the Mexican American Anti-Defamation Committee (MAADC).

Here’s the Frito Bandito in action:

The Slate notes read:

So, Frito Lay ordered a makeover. An ad firm was told to tidy up the Bandito, fix his teeth, and change his expression from sinister sneer to rascally grin. His guns were holstered, too, a response to the assassination of Robert Kennedy… But the MAADC was unmoved and prompted several television affiliates to ban the Bandito. In 1971, a House subcommittee made him the star of hearings about ethnic defamation on the airwaves. It wasn’t long before Frito Lay pulled the campaign.

The campaign against Frito Bandito is a nice example of how collective action can make a difference. I imagine, also, that the time period (the late ’60s/early ’70s) had something to do with MADDC’s quick success also.

See more racial and ethnic stereotypes in marketing and in these posts: the Chinese (here, here, and here), American Indians (here and here), Black Americans (here and here), and the Irish.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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