As ad controversies go, this one's pretty harmless. The Laredo Sun reports that Dallas-based pizza chain Pizza Patrón is upsetting people (and generating massive earned media) by naming their extra-spicy pie after a common Mexican expression — "La Chingona" — which is politely translated as "the badass".
Those of you with even a passing knowledge of Mexican Spanish slang will, however, note that "chingo"and its derivatives tend to be used as a Hispanic version of "fuck". The context is not always sexual, however, as in when we say "bad motherfucker". Which might be a more honest translation of this pizza's name, from what I can tell.
Swearing in another language (even in a country like the United States that pretends it's still unilingual) is a risky yet potentially fruitful strategy. On the one hand, older Mexican-Americans could be offended by it, and the FCC could even potentially fine the advertiser. (Which is why Spanish radio stations refuse to air the product ads uncensored.) On the other hand, the youth market could be quite drawn to such badassery.
I'm pretty sure the latter will be the case, and the advertiser isn't budging. Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón, told Pizza Marketplace, "When the Real Academia Española, the world's foremost authority on the Spanish language, defines 'chingón' as a very positive characteristic, it makes us feel confident in our position and in our decision to move forward without apology."
Aldo Quevedo, principal/creative director for Richards/Lerma, says the controversy north of the Mexican border is really a matter of cultural ignorance:
"In Mexico, people make fun of everything: pop culture, international events and even catastrophes. We are used to it and nobody really gets offended. We have thicker skin and there's a reason for that. That's why it's more shocking to me that the name is being censored here in the U.S.," he said. "I understand that the name of the product could be controversial. But really, after you try it you will understand that it's the best descriptor. To me, it's the only name that fits: La Ch!#gona."