The Taco Bell Conspiracy


Sombrero Man

Sombrero Man

One night, at a dinner party with my friends, I ran across a peculiar picture while watching a Flickr slide show.

We had just finished watching Sarah Haskins from infoMania do her Superbowl Special on Current, which was freaking hilarious. (The special is montage of her best clips so if you don’t know who Sarah Haskins is, here’s your chance.) When the special ended,  I began a Flickr slide show for the search term “taco.”

Now there are many things that are notable about this search. The two things that stuck out the most to me are:

  1. It took at least 24 pictures before we saw a picture of a taco. There were lots of pictures of dogs, horses, and birds though.
  2. There were awesome pictures of old and new Taco Bell signs and branding.

It is from #2 that we discover our conspiracy.

While the slide show was playing, a picture of the first Taco Bell location showed. In the left-corner of the picture is a curious looking mascot figure. It’s a short man, with a sombrero, who’s basically dressed like Speedy Gonzalez.

Another picture in the stream shows the mascot figure re-painted (above). I decided to look for information on the mascot and it turned out to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I finally found a piece of information about the figure from the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food.

In an entry, labeled mascots, there is paragraph that states:

“Not all mascots … have been successful …. Taco Bell initially had a sleepy Mexican wearing a sombrero. When PepsiCo acquired Taco Bell, it jettisoned the existing icon and replaced it with a mission bell.”

Further research reveals that Taco Bell first opened its doors 1962 and was purchased by PepsiCo in 1978. For 16 years this mascot existed and yet there is no mention of the mascot on the Taco Bell Wikipedia page and most search results for “Taco Bell mascot” only have some thing to do with the “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” dog.

Is the sleepy sombrero man being quietly written out of our history? Or could it be a coincidence? It is a mystery for time to solve.

Another thing discovered in the Flickr stream is Taco Bells’ promotional album featuring Herb Alpert, called “Tijuana Taxi.” For the curious, I’ve posted the song below, frisky dancing is extra.

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View more pictures from the Vintage Taco Bell pool on Flickr.

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