"Donald Trump is going to pay for our beers—he just doesn't know it yet."
That's the message from Cerveza Cucapá, a Mexican craft brewery that has tricked Trump supporters into financing a massive fiesta to be held south of the border later this month.
In a Spanglish-language video published on the day of the first presidential debate, Cucapá revealed its staff had conned Trump supporters in Los Angeles into buying what appeared to be T-shirts proclaiming "I Support Donald." What the buyers didn't know was that in hot temperatures the wording on the T-shirts transforms into an anti-Trump message and his face resembles a clown's.
Cucapá founder Mario García tells me the idea for the campaign came about "after that infamous clip where he said, 'Mexico will pay for the wall, they just don't know it yet.' So we decided, 'Well, Donald Trump is gonna pay for our beers, even though he doesn't know it yet.'"
While Cucapá could not force the weasel-haired tycoon to open his checkbook, they decided that the next best thing would be for Trump supporters to cover the costs. So they began hawking what looked like pro-Trump T-shirts in affluent areas like Venice Beach, Hollywood Boulevard, and Huntington Beach.
Footage posted online shows that the vendors found plenty of paying customers, but they also had a few run-ins with officious policemen and several locals who did not appreciate them appearing to promote a racist and misogynistic candidate.
"Two police officers wanted to take away our merchandise and another moved us on," says 42-year-old García. "There were a lot of people that insulted us, threw our merchandise on the floor, and shouted at us for supporting Trump, but there were also a lot of people who wanted to buy the shirts."
Unbeknownst to the buyers was that rising temperatures would lead the slogan on the shirts to change to "Donald el que lo lea," a variation of a childish but well-known Mexican saying. The phrase makes little sense if translated into English ("Whoever reads this is Donald") but García says they chose it precisely because it's an in-joke that only Mexicans and Mexican-Americans will understand.
García says they have not yet totaled up how many T-shirts they've sold, but the funds will go toward financing a huge party, most likely to be held in Mexico City in late October. Whatever's left will be used to subsidise free beer giveaways across Mexico, "so that everyone gets a beer paid for by Donald Trump," García adds.
The Cucapá team are not the only savvy marketers using anti-Trump sentiment to promote their brand, as Tecate and Ilegal Mezcal have also mocked the Republican candidate in recent months. Yet while some people may feel uneasy about businesses taking advantage of sensitive political issues to flog their products, García insists that border issues have always been at the forefront of Cucapá's identity.
Founded in 2002, the brewery is based in the border town of Mexicali and takes its name from an indigenous tribe that settled on both sides of the border.
"At Cucapá we've always carried the theme of the border in our DNA, so it was very natural for us as a brand to want to do something about Trump," García tells me.
A glance through Cucapá's repertoire of beers shows this to be true.
They once brewed a blonde ale called Lookout, whose label featured a pair of American vigilantes keeping watch over the border with a pair of binoculars. Then there's Runaway IPA, with its label depicting a fleeing family.
Cucapá also produces seasonal beers like Green Card, a potent barley wine that they claim is as sought-after as the visa it takes its name from, and La Migra, an imperial stout named after the phrase that undocumented migrants shout when they spot border patrol agents approaching.
"Beers like Green Card, La Migra, and Runaway are related to themes that those of us who live on the border know all too well. This is part of our culture. We absorb it, we transmit it through Cucapá, and it defines us," García says. "Other brands perhaps don't have such a valid claim to address this issue and some may be taking advantage of it, but we've been living this for years."
Cucapá's blend of borderland humor and authenticity has certainly struck a chord, with their viral marketing campaign reaching an audience of more than 20 million people and gaining coverage in more than 60 online and print media outlets in Mexico and beyond in the first ten days alone.
Yet what gives García the most satisfaction, he says, is that "¡Donald nos va a pagar las cheves en un fiestononón!"—"Donald is going to pay for the beers at our huge party!"