Kendall Jenner Monetizing Mexican Culture with New Tequila Brand

Kendall Jenner with dollar signs and 818 tequila

Kendall Jenner has announced that she is launching her tequila brand after four years of researching, tasting, and developing her brand, Drink 818. The drink name, 818 pays homage to her home area code of Calabasas. Her Instagram announcement post has generated over 6 million likes and plenty of comments congratulating her, but there are plenty of comments condemning the gentrification and monetization of Mexican culture and labor.

One of the comments on Jenner’s Instagram post from a user named Emily states, “I don’t think you, a rich white woman, gets to decide/“create” the “wOrLd’S bEsT tEqUILa” or whatever you claim it to be. Also you could at least acknowledge its significance to Mexico/Mexican people. Lastly, yess I know, you’re producing it in Mexico. But are you paying the Mexican people who are working to add to YOUR fortune fairly, or are you exploiting them?!” – Emily, @emilycadena (February 16, 2021)

More individuals on Twitter have voiced their own critiques of Jenner’s announcement, accusing her of gentrifying a culture and product that has no roots in her white upbringing instead of supporting smaller, Mexican-owned brands that already exist.

Tequila and spirit sales soared in 2020,the industry seeing a large increase in agave sales as well. Unfortunately, the demand for agave has put a strain on farmers who do not foresee being able to keep up with the demand. This means prices are also rising for agave, leaving smaller brands to suffer because they will not be able to afford the price of the plant.

Bringing in another celebrity-owned brand with serious clout on their name into the market will continue to push smaller brands out of business and hurt the local economies of Mexican families and laborers.

The issue that we must realize when we see a very influential white woman capitalizing on the Latinx culture is not that she enjoys tequila and wants to invest in a brand. It’s that in a largely complex industry, Jenner has created a brand that has the potential to hurt many others along the way, including communities of color that have a heritage-based tie to the product she is capitalizing on.

The way tequila is cultivated and produced impacts a lot of people, some on Twitter taking the opportunity to explain the complexity of the process as well as recommendations for tequilas that are already on the market.

Ultimately it’s our purchasing power with over 60 million Latinx people in the United States, and if we divert our money from those who monetize from our culture by actively contributing to our communities and culture, we’ll be better off for it. We have the opportunity to invest in brands that truly reflect and understand our culture. It’s the only way we will be able to keep the small businesses and brands alive that make us so unique. Much more than that, we have the power to help these same small businesses grow names for themselves and stabilize in a market that profits those who are already rich instead of supporting the owners that make it ours.

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I often wondered how my abuelita could be so religious, praying all the time and never missing a Sunday at church. Yet there she was, sticking a knife in the ground whenever storm clouds rolled in, thinking it would "shoo the rain away." She'd give me the side-eye for my magic wand tattoo and believing in the power of manifestation, but would be the first to blame trickster “chaneques” when stuff went missing, and hang ceramic sheep on the door to supposedly "bring in the cash."

When I was younger, I found it to be somewhat hypocritical of her. Now, I just think it’s funny and sort of beautiful how our ancestors and surroundings have shaped our beliefs in such unique ways.

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