Advertising: Hope, Crying, and Culture

I often feel a desire to cry during movie previews. Well, not the movie previews, exactly, but some of the ads they play before movies–the ones with swelling music and Spanish words and some bullshit about what it means to be Puerto Rican. The Banco Popular one? Dear lord, it makes me well up like nobody’s business. There’s a longer version out there, but this the version in theaters (and it’s faster-paced):

Click here for it. Like, I’m watching it right now and I’m tearing up, even though I’ve watched it a bunch of times before. The part where the children’s chorus comes in? Ohhhhh man. If I haven’t cracked by then, that does it. (Of course, I have to be in the zone for the tears to be inevitable; catch me off guard or stressed and I will wave away the ad with annoyance.)

Anyway, I’ve translated the lyrics for those of you who are Spanish-impaired. 😛

I’m the light of the morning
that illuminates new paths,
that goes flooding the mountains,
the farmer trails.
I’m the fruit of the future,
the seeds of tomorrow,
planted in pure dung (read: fertilizer)
of my boricua land.
I’m a fisherman of dreams;
I go looking for a sea of spume
of shells and sands,
of sirens and moons.
Of stars and horizons,
my fortune is composed.
I’m a sailing seagull and an astronaut of fog.
Of the bread, I am the yeast that feeds the hope
of the Puerto Rican man,
of the awakening of my mother country.
I bring boricua blood;
I’m the son of the palm-trees, of the toads (does the song say sapos?) and the rivers
and of the singing of the coquí,
of valleys and coffee plantations,
of sugar-cane and pineapple,
of guava and mampostiales,
of tembleque and maví.

I chose to not translate tembleque, maví, and mampostiales. It feels too weird to see them in English, somehow linguistically reduced, or transformed into something else. But, if you MUST know:

  • mampostiales = “very thick, gooey candy bars of caramelized brown sugar and coconut chips, challenging to chew and with a strong, almost molasses-like flavor”
  • tembleque = creamy coconut pudding usually garnished with cinnamon on top
  • maví = “mauby,” a drink! (“The drink or syrup for the drink is made by boiling a specific buckthorn bark, Colubrina elliptica, with sugar and a variety of spices. In looking at individual recipes on how people make mauby, you’ll note spices and flavorings vary exceedingly. Cinnamon is usually included, but then the drink flavoring diverges according to recipe. Some people add cloves, anise, vanilla extract, or cola flavoring. For more info, just check the wiki.”)

If this doesn’t make your mouth water at least a LITTLE, you should get your salivary glands checked. Anyway. Why do I get so emotional? Part of it is the setting of the theater, of course, that sets the stage (no pun intended); everything is bigger and louder and more intense there, plus the darkness creates an air of intimacy and solitude (that’s more believable when one is not in a packed room with some dingbat kicking the back of one’s seat), or at the very least of uninterrupted connection to what is onscreen. However, even when I’m not in the theater, I can get teary-eyed. It’s the idea of this, well, idealized Puerto Rico. It’s a longing for that, and not coupled with the belief that it’s nonexistent, but with the belief that there IS that beauty and that wonder in the Puerto Rico in which I live–that it’s just a matter of stopping and appreciating it, or finding it, or even just knowing how and when to look. The beautiful visuals and music create an air of hope…and if an ad is going to make me feel something, hope is a fucking fantastic choice. It makes the viewer tune in to that part of themselves, the hopeful part, the part that identifies as Puerto Rican, the part that wants to be proud of the mother country and not ashamed. It’s the part that goes “yes yes yes” during the whole ad.

To me, advertising is important. Heck, I wanted to GO into advertising for a while! All things being equal, or more or less equal, I WILL give preference to the organization with better ads, not because I believe their product is better, but because I admire their advertising and feel like rewarding them for a job well done. I will purposefully choose to support a company whose ads I like. And speaking of other ads I like, Harris Paints created a CLASSIC with this one:

Click here.
This thing was played at EVERY MOVIE SHOWING IN EVERY THEATER (of the Caribbean Cinemas chain, at least, but I’m pretty sure CineVista also played them). It ran for YEARS. People went into a movie and sang along to this during the previews, some in barely audible whispers, others in great, booming voices. It was glorious. They eventually retired the commercial after a bunch of years and everyone got upset. And what does this ad have in common with the Banco Popular one? It invokes our sense of Puerto-Rican-ness AND it has great visuals AND catchy music. It talks about paint colors in terms of Puerto Rican things, colors WE know because we see them every day or we are at least pretty damn familiar with them. Green is not fucking…kelly-green or hunter green or limeade green, it’s “verde quenepa.” Red is this red, of the flamboyán (Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant). Blue is the blue of the cobblestones that line San Juan’s streets. And so on. In fact, here are the lyrics:

Paint your life
with the colors of my land.
Paint your life.
Piragua strawberry,
white like coconut,
mango yellow.
Quenepa green,
cobblestone blue,
flamboyán red,
turquoise of the sea.
The colors of my land,
our colors,
paint your life
with the colors
that Harris gives you.

Mmm, gotta love appealing to people’s sense of unified culture. I’ll avoid cynicism for now (shocking!). And for clarification, a piragua is like a snowcone, but the top is pointy like a pyramid (not rounded like a snowball). SO yes. Other ads or previews make me cry too, for different reasons. It’s usually the beauty in them, though, that captures me; they’re so intense and beautiful that I just can’t help but tear up. Same thing with music.

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