In the summer of 2016, Los Angeles resident Jerónimo Saldaña saw a supporter of Donald Trump at a march wearing a costume with a brick pattern and bearing the slogan ‘Mexico will pay!’ – in reference to the then presidential candidate’s pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. At the time, the 37-year-old political activist assumed it was home made and he would never see one again.
He was wrong. In March of this year, Saldaña saw another, this time on a Facebook page. After a short online search he discovered the costume could be bought on Amazon.
“I was very annoyed. It seemed a way of normalizing Caucasian supremacy,” said Saldaña. “That same day, I published a petition directed at Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, in Mijente [an online publication for the US Latino community]. I wanted to tell everybody that Amazon was promoting anti-Latino feelings, the same as the president did during his campaigns.”
I know this is a small gesture, but for me it is very important that we do not remain silent
Saldaña’s missive reads: “The party costume being sold on Amazon promotes despicable xenophobia and is nothing less than a modern version of the Ku Klux Klan outfit. We demand that Amazon remove this and all racist merchandise on its website.” Within days, the letter had garnered hundreds of signatures. “I know that this is a small gesture,” says Saldaña, “but for me it is very important that we do not remain silent.”
Asked whether he thought he was over-reacting, Saldaña said: “A hate message should not be a way of expressing oneself. I’m not asking people not to wear it. They are free to decide, but I don’t think that Amazon should sell it, because it promotes racism.”
An Amazon representative said that the costume is not available on its Mexico site, but remains on the US site.
Saldaña says that he has received no response from Amazon, but has been contacted by a number of people who suggested that he return to Mexico. “The majority of the comments are insults and say I am going to be deported. They don’t know that I was born in Los Angeles and that that would be impossible,” he adds. “I believe that these messages betray ignorance, but I prefer them to waste their time with me instead of bothering other people in my community. If they want to spend their time insulting me, so much the better.”
English version by Nick Lyne.