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Ruben Navarrett Jr / Politics

Se Habla 'Free Pizza'

SAN DIEGO -- There is a pizza chain in the Southwest that specializes in serving up controversy. And its latest promotion is certainly spicing up the culture wars.

That phrase refers to those recurring skirmishes where Spanish is seen as a threat to English-language dominance and where folks try to reconcile the country we used to be with the one we are now.

For those who fret that the United States is becoming too Latino, wait until they hear the news that the Dallas-based pizza chain, Pizza Patrón, is hosting a "Pizza Por Favor" event at each of its 104 restaurants. The chain operates in Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and other states.

The rules are simple: On June 5, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., if you go into a Pizza Patrón and ask for a large pepperoni pizza in Spanish, you get the order for free. Company officials -- who say the promotion is intended to strengthen the relationship with their core customers and highlight the brand's focus on the Hispanic community -- predict they'll give away as many as 80,000 pizzas.

This could just be the appetizer. According to the company, Pizza Por Favor night is the first of three marketing campaigns Pizza Patrón has planned for 2012 to celebrate the Hispanic immigrant community that makes up its primary consumer base. About 70 percent of the chain's customers are Spanish speakers.

While most Americans will probably respond to this promotion with a shrug or a yawn, others are angry about it. On local talk radio, and some of the national shows that discussed the promotion, some people even claimed the promotion is discriminating against non-Spanish speakers.

That would be a twist, all right. Imagine this happening in a country where, just six decades ago, Mexican-American students were punished for not speaking English in public schools.

Meanwhile, the controversy doesn't make any sense. A business can give away its product for free, and establish its own ground rules for doing so. Can't it?

An establishment can also accept whatever it wants as currency. In the states that line the U.S-Canada border, businesses will often take Canadian dollars. Nobody seems to care much about that.

But in 2007, when Pizza Patrón launched another promotion -- one where it took Mexican pesos in exchange for pizza -- a lot of people couldn't stomach the concept. Store managers reported getting hate mail and even death threats.

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Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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