Sunday, 4 July 2010

Peru/Chile: Disgusting Ad from LAN

I couldn't believe my eyes when I clicked on a tweet from the EPAF (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team) and it took me to this ad from airline LAN:

"MISSING: Last seen looking at an irrestible offer from LAN. Disappear from Lima with this promotion..."

Where do you even start? Peru still has thousands of people unaccounted for following its conflict. Organisations like EPAF are still painstakingly recovering their remains some two decades later. Chile, where the LAN concern hails from, also suffered numerous incidences of forced disapperance during the Pinochet regime - incidentally, the new Chilean president previously owned a majority stake in the airline. And elsewhere in the continent, those disappeared people were disposed of by throwing them out of aeroplanes.

But it's still acceptable to use the idea of the disappeared for an ad for cheap plane tickets? Accompanied by a photo of smiling young people just like those who were never seen again?

In case any English speakers are thinking "Well, but it's just a word, surely it could be a coincidence?", let me just say: no. The verb desaparecer and the related desaparecido have a very particular resonance in Latin America. If you say "S/he was disappeared", everyone knows instantly what you mean and there is an immediate connection with the actions of authoritarian regimes. The struggle for the disappeared has been absolutely central to human rights in numerous countries in the region for nigh on thirty years. So this is kind of like using an image of two burning towers to sell something in the US and then arguing that it doesn't necessarily have to be connected to 9/11. We're talking about icons here; people know what they're looking at.

This is pretty disgusting. I hope that there is enough of an outcry that LAN decides to remove the ads.

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