Bicha's Rum Bakara over Rhum Barbancourt Commercial Backlash
The advertising campaign promoting Rhum Bakara brands the product as "cultural rum". The connection made
by Tonton Bicha between the descriptor and its characterization is the trivialization of Voodoo, a Haitian religious belief that has only been legitimized by the government in the last ten years. The content of the commercial depicts a conversation between a houngan and voudouisant (positions held in Voodoo communities) that caricatures Haiti's Rhum Barbancourt, a venerable 150 year-old company that has passed down its legacy to four generations of rum makers.
Max Beauvoir, a Voodoo Supreme Chief, complains, "Voodoo has been treated trivially. They would not do this to another religion . . ." High-profile Haitian citizens have weighed in on the controversy, expressing dismay. Sociologist Jean Leonard questions the judgment of Tonton Bicha, who she remarks has participated in an advertisement that demeans a high-quality and national Haitian product (Barbancourt), to promote a foreign product, which is positioned to go national.
The radio commercial's timing could not be worse. The DR High Court recently issued a ruling that may make tens of thousands of Haitian descendents of illegal migratory workers stateless. And to add insult to injury, Rum Bakara is being used to smear the reputation of, not only Rhum Barbancourt, but the Voodoo religion as well.
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