A Very Extra Special Weekly Remembrance of Gidget, Who Played "Dinky" the Chihuahua in Taco Bell Ads

News of the death of Gidget, who succumbed to a stroke at age 15 on Sunday, prompts this very special Weekly remembrance of "Dinky," the chihuahua Gidget played in commercials Irvine-based Taco Bell began airing in 1997.

Regarding the Byte Marks about the Taco Bell commercial with the little Mexican "rat" dog (your words, not mine): any normal person can see that it's a sendup of Che Guevara and certainly not very complimentary. Wyn Hilty wrote a very confused and confusing piece regarding who would find the commercial insulting, etc. She shows what her feelings are on this issue, however, when she states that "it seems a shame to cheapen the memory of one of its brightest stars," referring to transforming Guevara into a Chihuahua. She also (supposedly) quotes an article that states "some members of the Cuban emigre community were offended by the thought that they glorified Guevera [in the commercial]." I have enclosed an article that says just the opposite. It shows that Spanish-language radio stations in Florida were flooded with calls from listeners who thought the ad was insulting to so-called Hispanics. So what was the point of Ms. Hilty's article?

--Letter to the editor by Patt Monte of Laguna Hills, Aug. 20, 1998

As Irvine-based Taco Bell's market share has increased dramatically since the introduction of a lovable, sad-eyed, Latino-stereotype, revolution-slogan-spewing Chihuahua named Dinky, Clockwork believes the following can't be far behind: "AWW! HEE AWW! Hola, muchachos, it is I: Francisco, Diedrich Coffee's lovable, sad-eyed, Latino-stereotype, revolution-slogan-spewing burro. Every day, I travel deep into hills way south of the border, where peasants fill my sacks with coffee beans they picked in the fields. AWW! HEE AWW!"

--A Clockwork Orange by Matt Coker, Dec. 3, 1998

On Aug. 18, LULAC's [League of United Latin American Citizens] national president informed California director Gilberto Flores to cease and desist using the 65-year-old nonprofit's name in the [Taco Bell] boycott. In March, the national LULAC had issued a news release that stated "Taco Bell's Dinky is Not Offensive to Hispanics" after a Hispanic group in Florida bitched about the Chihuahua. Turns out Taco Bell and its former parent company Pepsico are generous contributors to LULAC.

--"Diary of a Mad Year" by Matt Coker, Jan. 7, 1999

Through [then-CEO John] Martin's efforts, Taco Bell made Mexican food a symbol for what can be accomplished by capitalizing on minimum-wage labor to produce the cheapest food ever served in America, and then parlaying the money saved on wages and benefits into a killer ad campaign whose commercials have broadened, deepened and invented new spins on stereotypes about Hispanic culture through the use of a talking Chihuahua. Taco Bell commercials even have a bit of pidgin Spanglish on everybody's lips; there isn't anyone who doesn't like saying, "Yo quiero Taco Bell!"

--"Five Latinos We Really Like" by staff, April 6, 2000



. Diedrich Coffee takes all Taco Bell rejects. You'll just pitch cappuccinos instead of Chalupas.

--A Clockwork Orange by Matt Coker, Aug. 3, 2000

A true Mexican restaurant is named after an unpronounceable Mexican town. Its tequila is so sweet that you will drink the proverbial worm and so potent that when you throw it up six hours later, the worm will not have been digested. Its wall will be decorated with a mural of a Mexico so idyllic you wonder why the owners left it in the first place. The mariachi will be singing (in Spanish) century-old songs that celebrate death, destruction and the hatred of anything North American. It will be located in a neighborhood in which the only English is on the stop sign at the corner. It will serve dishes the Taco Bell Chihuahua would have trouble pronouncing, let alone making.

--"Mexico, Mexico-Style" by Gustavo Arellano, April 26, 2001

A graphic designer for Chapman University, [Yolanda Morelos] Álvarez hopes to add something more substantial than a talking Chihuahua to the county's Mexican-American archives with "Fire in the Morning: A Pictorial History of the Mexican-Americans of Orange County."

--"Invisible Mexicans" by Gustavo Arellano, July 26, 2001

[Antonio] Banderas' character is the latest incarnation of the Latin Lover, a stereotype played at least once in TV and film by every male Hispanic actor, including the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

--"?Quien es Mas Macho?" by Gustavo Arellano, Aug. 23, 2001

A real Chihuahua named Gizmo nearly choked to death on the snout of a stuffed Taco Bell Chihuahua doll late last month in Janesville, Wisconsin. A 911 dispatcher had to relay emergency instructions labeled "Obstructed Airway--Infant" to the pet's owner, who gave Gizmo several whacks on the back until he coughed up the fake ratdog nose. The Taco Bell doll has since been put out of Gizmo's reach. A macho combo of heavy symbolism, no?

--A Clockwork Orange by Matt Coker, Feb. 27, 2003

A federal jury tells Taco Bell to pay Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks $30 million, after deciding the Irvine-based company's signature talking Chihuahua was actually stolen from the two Grand Rapids men. The jury excoriates Taco Bell for not having something original to say, to which Taco Bell replies, "D'Oh!"

--Diary of a Mad County by Steve Lowery, June 19, 2003

How dare you say this column's logo is defamatory--that's a picture of me. Don't you know most Mexicans look like this? That's why the Taco Bell Chihuahua or the Frito Bandito are such affronts to the Mexican community--they're not authentic enough. When Mexican-American organizations protested the company's Chihuahua in the late 1990s, we weren't angry because he spoke like Mel Blanc's character on the Jack Benny program, Sy the Mexican. We were angry because, in his most infamous commercial, the Taco Bell Chihuahua wore a beret. A beret! Where was the sombrero?!

--!Ask A Mexcian! by Gustavo Arellano, May 5, 2005

Last week, my colleague Matt Coker interviewed Tom Lennon, the unambiguously gay Lt. Dangle on

Reno 911!

This week, Carlos Alazraqui, who was the voice of the Taco Bell Chihuahua that launched a thousand LULAC boycotts and who appears as the incredibly angry Deputy Garcia on (you guessed it!)

Reno 911!

, is coming to the Brea Improv. I decided to totally jack Matt's vibe (and some of his questions), and, hopefully, take his job, just like I once took the job of the Boy About Town. But I just now realized I forgot to ask Alazraqui anything of interest to anyone at all, so I should probably be fired too. Fucking karma, man. She's a bitch.

--Commie Girl by Rebecca Schoenkopf, June 23, 2005

Far from us to feel sympathy for a billion-dollar taco empire, but Taco Bell just can't seem to win anymore. It spent the last couple of years fending off human-rights activists who said Taco Bell's tomato pickers were virtual slaves and settled a similar Colorado disability suit in 2000. And now this. Must make Taco Bell execs wax nostalgic for the days all they had to worry about was P.C. Chicanos whine about a stupid Chihuahua mascot.

--A Clockwork Naranja by Gustavo Arellano, Aug. 15, 2005


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >