Gidget the Taco Bell dog during a photo session
The Controversial History Behind The Slogan 'Yo Quiero Taco Bell'
By C.A. Pinkham
If you weren't around for it in the late '90s, you may not be aware of the "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" campaign and its chihuahua mascot, played by a dog named Gidget. Those ads were everywhere back then, but in hindsight, the ads also had a lot of issues that white audiences largely ignored at the time.
On its surface, "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" might seem like a perfectly fine slogan, as it just means "I want Taco Bell." The issue here was the commercials themselves, which featured a talking dog named Gizmo, who would walk right past a female Chihuahua to get the chain's food. (There was some variation, but this was the persistent theme.)
Equating an entire group of people with a dog breed is not great, as civil rights activist Mario Obledo made clear at the time, and a later ad where Gizmo wore Che Guevara's beret understandably angered the Cuban-American community. Per The Buffalo News, the ad existed only because "Che Guevara and tacos both come from south of the American border," and Taco Bell saying they "wanted a heroic leader to make it a massive taco revolution” made it worse.
The ad wound up costing Taco Bell money due to a successful $42 million lawsuit alleging Taco Bell had stolen the chihuahua-themed campaign idea. The company also lost around 6% yearly revenue from 1997-1999 until it discontinued the campaign in 2000, showing that the offensive nature of the campaign didn’t pay off.