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Face masks sticking around as Mexico memorabilia?

May 18, 2009 |  9:23 am

Df-influenza_150The palpable tension surrounding the H1N1 virus here in Mexico City has practically disappeared. Few people these days are wearing tapabocas (face masks), and people's social and economic activities have largely returned to normal after a period of upheaval. 

But the cross-border Latino clothing brand NaCo. isn't ready to let those blue surgical masks, which will forever be associated with the flu outbreak, fade into the past just yet. 

The manufacturer has taken the symbol and applied it to its classic "I love DF" T-shirt, slapping a face mask across the heart in an effort to elicit a wry smile and perhaps some cash from potential customers. DF is short for Distrito Federal, another name for Mexico City.

As the company states on its website:

"Just a bit of a naco twist on our popular 'I love DF' design. Our city may be going through some tough times but we still love it...just thought we'd jump on the hysteria bandwagon to sell some tees (with all the tourists gone, we need to make money somehow)."

The word "naco" in Mexico can be supremely offensive, used as a racist or classist put-down to people with darker skin, or people from the city's urban slums. 

But, as Reed Johnson explained back in 2007 when he wrote this article about the NaCo. clothes brand:

"In Mexico these days, naco (pronounced NAH-ko) is becoming chido ('cool'), thanks in no small part to NaCo., a T-shirt and accessories company that has become one of the country's hottest brand names by declaring that it's hip to be declasse. After all, as the company's directors point out, being naco isn't necessarily a matter of money, education or social position."

If sales take off, it looks like Mexicans and tourists might be sporting those blue-issue face masks for a while yet.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Image: The new version of the classic "I love DF" T-shirt. Credit: NaCo.