Puerto Rican organizations and leaders are angered by the logo used by MillerCoors on its Coors Light cans ahead of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. (Courtesy Boricuas for a Positive Image)

Furor after Coors puts Puerto Rican flag-like image on beer cans ahead of NYC parade

MillerCoors, which has been criticized for its Puerto Rican Day Parade marketing in years past, is under fire for an image on its Coors Light beer cans that is said to combine the Puerto Rican flag and the Big Apple, ahead of the parade.

“This is an insult to our culture, history, and flag,” says Lucky Rivera, of Boricuas for a Positive Image. “We will not allow Coors to insult us.”

The image, which looks to be the Puerto Rican flag over an apple,  appears under Spanish text designating Coors Light as the official beer of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

In a statement to NBC Latino, MillerCoors says it has a strong track-record of responsible advertising and marketing.

“Coors Light has supported the National Puerto Rican Day Parade for the last seven years in celebration and honor of Puerto Rican heritage,” the statement read in part. “We’ve included a variation of the official National Puerto Rican Day Parade logo on our packaging, which incorporates an apple to symbolize New York, a star and red and blue colors as a demonstration of our official alliance and support of the organization.  As part of our partnership over the years we’ve contributed to the Parade’s Diversity Scholarship Fund which has helped dozens of students manage the financial burdens of attaining a higher education.”

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) was more forceful in admonishing critics of the image.

“The mark in the promotion of Coors Light is NOT the Puerto Rican flag, NOR the logo of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc,” wrote spokesperson Javier Gomez in a statement. “It is an artwork created exclusively by Coors Light for this campaign, that integrates elements for the Parade’s symbol such as an apple, a star, and red, white, blue, and black colors. We call on community leaders to clear this misunderstanding, and stop misguidedly telling the public that the Puerto Rican flag has been posted on beer cans, something that the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc. would NEVER authorize.”

A Puerto Rican flag during the 2011 parade in New York City.

A Puerto Rican flag during the 2011 parade in New York City.

Still, Puerto Rican leaders were unmoved by the explanations from MillerCoors and NPRDP.

“It’s total bull, let’s be honest,” said New York councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is Puerto Rican and represents a traditionally Puerto Rican community known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio.  “It’s not just me — look at the web, look at Facebook — when people see that, they see the flag. For them to try to say its not a depiction of the flag, that’s ridiculous. It was irresponsible and ill-advised and they should just apologize and move forward.”

Asked why she takes such offense to the depiction, when many might categorize the image as harmless, Mark-Viverito says it’s the mass commercialization of a culture, and she is particularly angered because the theme of this year’s parade is “Salud: Celebrating Your Health.”

“The flag is the ultimate representation of a nation and its contributions,” she says. “To equate that with a can of beer is disrespectful, especially when you look at the theme of the parade and the health disparities in the community. It doesn’t make sense, it’s counterproductive.”

Two years ago, MillerCoors backtracked after criticism of its ad campaign for “emborícuate,” a word meaning “make yourself Puerto Rican,” which also doubled as a play on emborráchate or “get drunk” in Spanish. In response MillerCoors and NPRDP decided to voluntarily discontinue the ads.

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade is June 9 in Manhattan.

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