Photo: La República
Photo: La República.

Kendall Jenner's tequila sparks accusations of cultural appropriation

The Kardashian half-sister has faced harsh accusations on social media just one day after announcing her 818 Tequila launch.


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The Kardashian sisters' business ventures are sometimes a success — as evidenced by the zeroes in their bank accounts — and sometimes they flounder before they hit the water. 

Just 24 hours after launching her new Tequila brand, 818 Tequila, which Kendall Jenner claims to have been working on for four years, the Internet is ablaze with accusations of cultural appropriation.

The main reason is not that the 25-year-old model and entrepreneur has started distilling this drink originating in Mexico, but that she has named her brand '818', the zip code of Calabasas, the Los Angeles area where the Kardashian's have lived for years. 

In an Instagram post addressed to her more than 151 million followers, Kendall shared the process of creating her tequila and showed some images:

"For almost 4 years, I have been involved in this adventure to create the best-tasting tequila. After dozens of blind tastings, trips to our distilleries, participating in worldwide tasting competitions anonymously, and winning... Three and a half years later, I think we've done it!" she wrote.

And then, the scandal broke. 

Are we going too far?

In a context in which the visibility of BIPOC minorities and their cultural contributions to the country still needs a bigger push — we have lived through a fierce and historical cultural assimilation — accusations of cultural appropriation are the order of the day. 

In some cases, such as what happened with Jeanine Cummins' book American Dirt or the cultural impersonation cases of H.G. Carrillo, the writer posing as Cuban, and Jessica Krug, the ethnic studies professor posing as Afro-Latino, the outrage is perfectly logical, as they are not only usurping the place of a minority that receives little or no attention but much of their pain and history. 

However, can we feel equally cheated in this case?

Maybe, for one reason.

Tequila, which comes from the agave plant, is a Denomination of Origin product made in Mexican regions such as Jalisco, part of Nayarit, part of Michoacán, part of Guanajuato, and also in Tamaulipas. And its origin can be traced back to before the colonization of America by the Spaniards.

As established by law in 2019, for a drink to be called tequila, it must have been made in one of these aforementioned places. 

In the case of 818 Tequila, Kendall Jenner showed what, according to Internet users, is a null knowledge of Mexican culture by naming the product "818" and without highlighting that it is a drink only produced in Mexico. 

To put it another way, it erased (something to which the Latinx are well accustomed) the inherent Mexicanness of this drink in order to make a profit. Perhaps it would have been enough if, for example, Jenner had referred to the place where it was actually produced or her fascination ( if there was any) for the neighboring country's gastronomic and cultural richness. 

Sushi is not Japanese copyright, nor can tacos be prepared only by Mexicans, but the food is culture and culture needs to find a place in people's stomachs as well as in their brains. 

Even at the root of the agave, we still have to go deeper and bring to the surface what has historically been buried. 


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