By Melissa Gallardo and Jocelyn Ramirez
Fiesta Broadway is marketed as LA’s premier Cinco de Mayo event that has taken place in Downtown Los Angeles for the last 27 years. The event organizers target the Latina/o community, and receive about 300,000 people each year. This is definitely one of the biggest community events organized for this population, and the messages and products featured at this event have the opportunity to reach a very large audience.
This was our first time at Fiesta Broadway, and we imagined it would be a great event to introduce Todo Verde to a mostly Latino/a audience since we are still a small, start-up business. While we noticed corporate sponsors featured on their website, we assumed they were sponsoring stages, entertainment, and other essential components of the event. We were wrong.
These companies were completely dominating the entire event. Not only did they have huge hubs featuring lounges, games, spinning prize wheels, and dancers; but they were also giving away free food items. Everywhere in sight, there were giveaways for free McDonald’s smoothies, Pepsi sodas and “tacos”, Kellog’s cereal, and 5-Hour ENERGY drinks, to name a few. There were some small businesses featured at the event, but most most of us could not compete with all the free giveaways. It was clear, guests attending this event were attracted to the free items.
Marketed as a cultural celebration, it was disheartening to walk through an event which was merely another opportunity to advertise these companies to our community. Unfortunately, advertising done by these same corporations has proven to be detrimental to our community’s health and culture.
There is nothing “authentic” or “local” about having Pepsi give away soda and bacon “tacos.”
There is nothing “cultural” about free 5-hour ENERGY shots.
Generally, events like these, are problematic because promoters not only have the ability to reach underserved communities, they are able to draw 300,000+ people. Instead of having a real cultural celebration, or using that platform to offer resources which might actually improve our lives; the events help facilitate the distribution of products that perpetuate the high rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, that are negatively affecting our communities.
Corporations continue to exploit our communities, sexualize women in order to make sales, and feed us overly processed food that are causing preventable diseases within Latina/o families. Guests were being asked to sign up for store credit cards, car dealership email lists, and our youth were encouraged to enlist in the U.S. Army.
We believe events like these should focus energy towards efforts that target Latina/o communities with resources such as free health screenings, exercise classes like zumba and yoga, bicycle tune-ups, healthy food demonstrations and samples, holistic health practices, and classes on how to achieve cooperative home ownership. Giveaways can include public transit cards, backpacks for students, seedlings for a home garden, fresh fruits and vegetables, reusable canvas grocery bags, and healthy recipe books. We have seen community events such as Boyle Heights Primavera Festival and the Boyle Heights 5k achieve success with these efforts.
If we can make these important and vital events happen in small communities, how can we achieve them at the corporate level? How can organizations with large amounts of marketing dollars help promote better causes? What is the role of the consumer?