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Ilegal Mezcal Is Plastering Buildings With Anti-Donald Trump Propaganda

New York City, Miami, Los Angeles are part of a tiny spirits brand’s efforts to make a big political statement.

Ilegal Mezcal posters in Williamsburg, New York.
Ilegal Mezcal posters in Williamsburg, New York.
Rachel Signer

On July 16, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President, he made a speech that included the following proclamation:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. (AUDIENCE APPLAUSE) Thank you. It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

That statement has caused several large corporations such as Macy’s and NBC to withdraw their support for Trump, and it sent ripples through the media; meanwhile, Trump's ratings amongst people who plan to vote Republican went up, pushing him to be the front-runner for that party.

One indie label that's none too pleased is small-batch mezcal producer Ilegal Mezcal, based in Guatemala. In response, the spirits brand has been plastering New York City, Los Angeles and Miami walls with anti-Trump propaganda.

Photo courtesy of Ilegal Mezcal.

Ilegal Mezcal’s founder, John Rexer—who is originally from the U.S.—had been visiting New York City a few weeks prior, and was having brunch at the Jackson Hole diner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. "I was talking to my girlfriend and a lot of delivery people were coming in and out with goods," he recalled in a recent phone call, "and I said I bet you these guys are from Puebla or Oaxaca. Then when our waiter came over, I asked him in Spanish, 'Hey, man where are you from?'" It turned out the waiter was indeed from Puebla, where Rexer had once lived. "I said that I also spend a great deal of time in Oaxaca and how much I love Mexico and the food in Puebla," said Rexer. And the waiter’s response really struck Rexer; he said, "It’s good to know everybody is not like Donald Trump."

"He said it with real hurt and sadness in his voice," recalled Rexer. "And I said, 'No, not everybody is. A lot of people love Mexico, in the States.' And he said, 'Donald eres un pendejo,' which is like Donald is an asshole." Rexer scribbled that phrase on a napkin, and the next morning, when he saw his niece who is in charge of Ilegal Mezcal's marketing, he showed it to her. Together, they turned the phrase into a poster design and within an hour had called a printer. "That was on Monday. We had the posters on Wednesday and started putting them up around NYC," said Rexer.

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Photo courtesy of Ilegal Mezcal.

This isn’t the first time that Ilegal Mezcal has waged a guerilla campaign with street art. In 2012, when Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy repeatedly stated that he was against gay marriage, Rexer and his niece teamed up and within two days had put up a poster showing two roosters kissing, alongside the phrase, "I’d rather kiss a cock than eat your chicken."

In addition to the Trump signage, Ilegal Mezcal has made a slogan t-shirt that’s for sale on the company's website, with proceeds going to an organization that focuses on supporting immigrant populations.

It’s something of a David and Goliath story: a tiny mezcal brand—on average, they bring into the U.S. about 80,000 bottles annually, though their influence is certainly notable amongst industry professionals and mezcal lovers—while Trump is worth billions. What if Mr. Moneybags slaps the little guy with a lawsuit?

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Photo courtesy of Ilegal Mezcal.

"I’m not worried about it at all," said Rexer. "Perhaps I should be, but I generally don’t worry about things if I feel like I’m on the right side of something. I think it’s universal that people think he’s a pendejo."

And the Ilegal Mezcal team is just getting started. They’re not only going to continue papering walls in New York City (where 100 locations have been covered with the ad), Miami and Los Angeles. They’re growing the campaign and, in a few weeks, they plan to mount some "big posters" in visible LA and Miami locations. "We’re putting them up as long as Trump continues to be an ass," said John laughing, "so probably we’ll be doing it for a while."