Broward County Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month With Insensitive Dancing Taco GIF

On the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Broward County Government pages on Twitter and Facebook posted an ethnically insensitive gif, inviting ire from South Florida Latinos.
On the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Broward County Government pages on Twitter and Facebook posted an ethnically insensitive gif, inviting ire from South Florida Latinos. Screenshot via Broward County Government/Facebook
On its hard-shell face, posting a midafternoon dancing-taco GIF on social media seems like a great idea: It's silly, tasty, a little unconventional.

But as one Broward County staffer learned today, it can quickly become the gyrating epitome of an ethnically insensitive stereotype when used to commemorate the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

After being up for roughly four hours on Broward County Government's official Facebook page, the post was taken down and replaced with a new post that stated the dates of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) that were a lot more tasteful despite the lack of a sour cream-topped taco wielding maracas.

"A dancing taco is not representative of the Hispanic community and should not have been associated with the annual celebration. It was not our intention to offend anyone with our previous post, but rather acknowledge National Hispanic Heritage Month in a celebratory way," Gregory Q. Meyer, assistant director for Broward's Office of Public Communications, tells New Times via email. "We are proud of the County’s Hispanic community and everything they’ve accomplished. The employee has been counseled regarding sensitivity to all cultures."

People of Hispanic or Latino descent make up 31 percent of Broward County's population of nearly 2 million, according to census data. Demographic data from 2017 indicates that people of Mexican descent make up about 7 percent of Broward's total Hispanic population, compared to 36 percent South Americans (the county does not divvy this up by specific country), 19 percent Cubans, and 17 percent Puerto Ricans.

Though the post was taken down, the internet never forgets, and Twitter users across South Florida and the Hispanic and Latin community were quick to deride the faux pas after WLRN public radio reporter Daniel Rivero tweeted a Facebook screenshot on Wednesday afternoon.

Some were quick to joke that the image of the festive hard taco, with what looks like a cross between a sour cream dollop and a poop emoji on top, isn't even an accurate representation of authentic Mexican cuisine, but rather to American Tex-Mex tacos popularized by Taco Bell.
Others pointed out that the use of a stereotypical taco with maracas to describe the whole of Hispanic heritage, beyond being cringe-y, is also racist.
Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, a Colombian-American woman from Weston and senior advisor on Latino issues for gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, opines that the GIF was a poor way to uplift South Florida's immigrant community, many of whom are frontline medical workers, doctors, and agricultural workers that have upheld Florida's economy during the pandemic.

"There's so much to highlight and to see a taco with maracas being what they think of is really shocking," Pérez-Verdía tells New Times.

Adriana Rivera, communications director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and a native-born Puerto Rican, tells New Times she saw the screenshot of Broward's post when someone shared it in a group chat, and she was shocked.

"My reaction was, 'WTF. Are you serious, Broward County?' I was trying to figure out if this was real or Photoshopped. Why would anyone publish this?" Rivera says.

Rivera says the post was "tone-deaf" and that it showed a disconnect between Broward County government officials and the actual people who live in the community.

"Broward has a lot of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, and Colombians, and for those groups, a taco is just as foreign as any other food from another country. Plus, this isn't Mexican Heritage month," she says.

Rivera also compared the post to former President Donald Trump's Cinco de Mayo 2016 tweet: an image of himself eating a taco bowl with a caption that read, "Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" (Many noted that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican independence, not Hispanic heritage, and that taco bowls aren't Mexican.)
Pérez-Verdía says she hopes the county will take this opportunity to learn how to properly engage with their Hispanic residents, going so far as to offer her services pro bono.

"It is so sad that it's funny. It is really so completely disconnected that I honestly would be glad to give them the first advice," she says.

Maybe the folks in the county's communications office will, um, taco bout it, too.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos