The “Rent-a-Rican” video has been getting a lot of laughs but has also sparked considerable controversy after being featured on Huffington Post Latino Voices. The video begins with a glum house party that instantly turns fun and boisterous after a Puerto Rican bursts onto the scene downing shots of rum and dancing the Macarena.
Some commenters on the YouTube page accuse the video, which features Puerto Rican actor Nino Alicea, of racism and mischaracterizing Puerto Rican culture.
One member of the team that created the video, Sarah Morzal, says the video is clearly meant to be comedy. “What we’re attempting to mock are those negative and simplistic portrayals of Latinos that are so annoyingly prevalent in popular media,”she says. “By the point I’m putting Nino in the dishwasher…most people get it. It’s absurd”
The “Rent-A-Rican” video is by no means new; Morzal and her team created it in 2009 for a disbanded sketch comedy team that performed at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. She says if the jokes aren’t funny, it’s largely a testament to their inexperience at the time.
“It is not an elegant sketch, and it was early in our careers,” she says.
Other supporters of the group see the video as a jab at a different community.
“It always appeared to me that white people were the butt of the joke in the video,” says Matt Pabian, who stars in a different video uploaded by the group. “It’s not ‘Let’s laugh at the crazy Puerto Rican,’ it’s ‘Let’s laugh at what white people think about Latinos.'”
Morzal says no one has approached her to say the video was racist but has a message for anyone who thinks so:
“To the people who think it’s racist, I would like to congratulate them. They cracked our code and really discovered that the true point of our sketch was to mock Latinos and eventually create this service for real,” she says. “I will not be satisfied until I’m actually putting human beings into dishwashers.”