Consumer rights and health groups are calling on the Mexican government to ban a new Coca-Cola ad depicting young white people handing out Coke as a service project at an indigenous community in southern Oaxaca state.
The ad has been criticised for its depiction of light-skinned, model-like young people joyously constructing a Coca-Cola tree in town and hauling in coolers of Coke.
Mexico has skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes, especially among indigenous people.
The Alliance for Food Health is calling on the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to pull the ad campaign immediately.
The alliance, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups, says it is an attack on the dignity of indigenous people and contributes to their deteriorating health. Mexico is a major consumer of soda and other sugared drinks.
The ad was publicly posted on a Coca-Cola YouTube channel until Tuesday night when it was removed, after news of the campaign about it broke.
However it continued to appear elsewhere, including in third-party postings.
"It's outrageous for the indigenous," said Diana Turner, a spokeswoman for Consumer Power, one of the groups in the alliance.
In the commercial, the company says the campaign is meant to encourage people to “break down prejudice and share”.
"This Christmas a group of young people decided to give something very special to the indigenous community of Totontepec [villa]de Morelos in Oaxaca. You, too, open your heart," Coca-Cola says in the ad.
It says 81.6 per cent of Mexico’s indigenous people feel rejected for speaking a language other than Spanish, though it doesn’t cite the source.
The ad shows young women and men joyously sawing wood, welding and painting before they playfully head off in an El Camino pickup to the eastern mountains of Oaxaca where Totontepec is located.
They build a red tree with Coca-Cola lights to the smiles, hugs and appreciation of the locals, who belong to the Mixe community. Across the lighted tree are the words “We will stay united” in the Mixe language.
The commercial on YouTube and its hashtag #AbreTuCorazon (open your heart) have drawn a slew of critical comments.
“Coca-Cola is working on some genius colonial branding in Mexico with its out-of-touch, racist #AbreTuCorazon campaign,” one critic said. Another asks: “Why don’t you have the people of Oaxaca taking their culture to other countries?”
Coca-Cola responded: “We appreciated you sharing your concerns. We will be sure to pass along your comments.”