Fast food is key to contemporary societies. Some people see fast food chains, the majority of which are originally from the United States, as a sign of cultural imperialism, an unstoppable force that just feeds on greed and crushes local industries and culinary cultures. The recently deceased Mexican painter Francisco Toledo, for example, fought and won the battle of stopping McDonald’s from opening a branch in the main square of the city of Oaxaca.
Critics see fast food as a way in which companies want to set an standarized way of living. Companies like McDonald’s, Burger King or Starbucks have expanded worldwide. However, fast food also provides a sense of comfort, of feeling at home basically anywhere in the world.
Well, one of the expansion strategies used by fast food chains is offering products that appeal to the local taste. Menus in different countries offer surprising options that make locals feel cared for and help visitors discover something new while being in a familiar place. These are some of the dishes that you can only find in Latin America.
If you know what queso panela is you will drool at this Starbucks sandwich.
Credit: Twitter. @StarbucksMexico
Queso panela is a delicious Mexican cheese that can be grilled and is similar to Turkish varieties brought by the Spanish conquerors (in fact, many staples of Mexican cuisine have a Middle Eastern origin). If you are on a diet and just can’t let go of cheese, then chances are that this is a must-have in your fridge. This sandwich looks so homemade that we just want to curl in one of those big Starbucks chairs and eat it.
Because Colombians are just a little bit fancy…
Credit: Twitter. @McDonaldsColombia
Yum! Colombians can be very sophisticated when it comes to food and this delicious burger is proof of it. It has melted cheese and prosciutto, aka fancy ham. And this burger was created for a good cause: part of the proceedings went to a charity that provides accommodation for children in need. Delicious and morally satisfying.
Because you can’t have a restaurant in Venezuela and not sell arepas.
Credit: Twitter. @McDonaldsVenezuela
McMuffins are a staple of McDonald’s breakfasts worldwide, but of course the fast food giant had to offer traditional arepas in its Venezuelan branches.
Yuquitas are available in Venezuela, but there is a sad story behind it.
Credit: Twitter. @McDonaldsVenezuela
Due to food scarcity in the South American country, McDonald’s stopped selling French fries in some locations and replaced them with Yuquitas, made out of Yucca plants. Yucca does bring some health benefits, though, and provides relief for osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, inflammation of the intestine (colitis), high cholesterol, stomach disorders, diabetes, poor circulation, and liver and gallbladder disorders.
McDonald’s offers one of the staples of Mexican breakfast: molletes!
Credit: Twitter. @McDonaldsMexico
Molletes are almost as popular as chilaquiles (the delicious concoction of fried tortilla triangles, authentic salsa, cream and cheese). Molletes are basically a piece of bread, traditionally a bolillo, with refried beans and melted cheese on top. The cereza en el pastel is a touch of pico de gallo or the hot sauce of your liking. The McDonald’s version is a bit meh. It uses a sort of English muffin instead of a crunchy, fluffy bolillo.
And apparently you can also get molletes with no frijoles! That is like our worst fast food nightmare ever.
Credit: Twitter. @YurithKat
This poor woman must have had the worst beginning of her day ever. A mollete with no beans is like a burger with no meat (or veggie patty for those who prefer them). Definitely one of the worst ways to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, metaphorically speaking.
And Burger King Mexico no se queda atrás: burritos a la mexicana.
Yes, you can get breakfast burritos in the United States, but this version is only available in Mexico and is made a la mexicana, which basically means that it has freshly chopped tomato, green chili and onion. It is a great morning pick me up and can help greatly with la cruda.
For a Boricua taste, a Monchi Burger.
Launched in April this year and for a limited time, this new hamburger was prepared with sweet and light Mallorca bread. It was available in two versions: beef or chicken, and comes with fresh lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise. Yum.
And of course Burger King has a classic churrasquito in Argentina!
Argentinians love their meat, but they also love their thick, crunchy bread (the kind that makes your jaws ache after you eat a whole sandwich). It is no surprise that Burger King introduced a churrasquito in its menu. Layer upon layer of fatty, delicious animal products (not suitable for vegans, obvs).
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Did you know that the first ever Happy Meal was created by a Latina? That’s right, in the mid-70s when Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño was operating various McDonalds in Guatemala, she invented what she dubbed the “Menu Ronald”. The “Menu Ronald” was invented to help parents keep their kids satisfied when the family went out to eat. The original “Menu Ronald” included a hamburger, small fries and a small sundae. Naturally, word eventually got back to McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago they decided to adopt the practice as their own. They hired a white American man to develop the idea (and subsequently take credit for it) and voila! The Happy Meal was born.
It’s unfortunate that Fernández de Cofiño’s recognition has been lost to the American public, but it’s still inspiring to know that there were business-minded Latinx people in history whose achievements still impact our lives today. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve decided to celebrate the underrated Latina entrepreneur Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño for the marketing genius that she was. We’ve documented the evolution of Happy Meal toys from the idea’s inception and launch in the 1970s, to its continuing legacy today.
Take a look below for a nostalgic blast from the past!
1. 1979: The Very First Happy Meal
Although the original concept of the Happy Meal was invented by Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño, the first official launch of the American Happy Meal happened in 1979. However, the gift wasn’t half as elaborate as it was now. According to records the toys were “a McDoodle stencil, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet, a puzzle lock, a spinning top or a McDonaldland character-shaped eraser”.
2. 1984: Ronald and The Gang
thegoodtoyshop via Ebay
McDonalds Happy Meal toys evolved from spinning tops and erasers to more complex toys. Like, the above “Ronald and the Gang” wind-up cars that were defitenly a step-up from McDonald’s earlier toys. They weren’t as sophisticated as the toys would eventually get, though.
3. 1987: Mc-Transformers
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The Transformers/McDonalds mashup was innovative in its day because it was blending the IP of two successful brands. Instead of McDonald’s using its Happy Meal to market other products, it was using its Happy Meal to market other products that were marketing McDonalds. It was a win-win situation.
4. 1988: McNuggets Buddies
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In 1988, McDonalds hadn’t yet started to do marketing tie-ins with kids’ movies. Instead, they had prizes like “McNuggets Buddies”, which were chicken nuggets dressed in various outfits and costumes. This lasted until the mid-90s.
5. 1994: Sonic the Hedgehog
By the mid-90s, the powers-that-be recognized that there was a lucrative market to tap by using Happy Meals to advertise kid-oriented products directly to kids. It was around this time that the entertainment industry really began to see the potential for promoting movies and TV shows through fast-food chains. And if you look at the advertisement above, the Happy Meal only cost $1.99. Those were the days!
6. 1996: 101 Dalmatians
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Never the one to pass up an opportunity to advertise, Disney quickly hopped on board the McDonalds train as a means to promote their movies. One of the first Disney x Mcdonald’s ventures were the release of literally one-hundred-and-one collectible dalmatian figurines through their Happy Meals.
7. 1997: “Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection”
Youtube via FastFoodToyReviews
Off the success of their 101 Dalmatians toys, Disney and McDonalds continued their partnership by releasing tiny VHS boxes equipped with a a little toy character from the movie. People really began to see collecting fast food toys as a hobby around this time.
8. Mid-90s: “Teenie Babies”
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Even McDonalds wasn’t immune to the Beanie Baby craze that swept the nation in the mid-90s. Convinced that they would one day be worth thousands, collectors flocked to the Golden Arches to get their hands on miniature versions of the popular plush toys. Unfortunately, most of the “Teenie Baby” toys aren’t worth anything these days.
9. 1997-Now: Barbies
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In 1997, McDonald’s started a lucrative partnership with the Barbie line of toys that would last until today. What young girl doesn’t have memories of getting this in their Happy Meal box (whether they liked it or not) while their brother got a Hot Wheels car? It’s safe to say the ’90s weren’t progressive, gender-wise.
10. 2004: Hello Kitty Keychains
Youtube via Lucky Penny Shop
Into the 2000s, McDonald’s took advantage of the Hello Kitty trend by offering plush Hello Kitty key chains in their Happy Meals.
11. 2015: Minion Fever
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Do you remember the time when you couldn’t escape “Despicable Me” minion merchandising, no matter where you went? Well, that included McDonalds. Nowhere was safe.
While the United States has more serial killers than any other nation, some of the most brutal murderers the world has ever seen came from the Southern Hemisphere. They’ve left hundreds of bodies of children, women and men in their wake, along the way earning grim nicknames like “monster,” “beast,” and “sadist” as the public grappled with their repulsive crimes.
Some of these killers targeted poor, indigenous women and children who lived on the margins of society, police making a horrifying situation even worse by failing to properly investigate the deaths of the victims. While citizens were outraged by the grisly crimes, many of the country’s judicial systems were not structured in a way to handle such gruesome acts, with maximum sentences that did not come close to letting the punishment fit the crime – like a child murderer who went free after just 14 years.
Mexico: The Poquianchis
The “Poquianchis” was the alias given to a group of female serial killers who were guilty of killing hundreds of prostitutes between 1945 and 1964 in Guanajuato, Mexico. The four sisters: Delfina González Valenzuela, María de Jesús, María del Carmen, and María Luisa, owned several brothels in the region, and killed over 150 people – mostly sex workers, their children, and some of their clients.
They are known as the most prolific serial killers in Mexican history.
Mexico: La Mataviejitas
Juana Barraza was a Mexican pro wrestler. What she did after she hung up her mask is terrifying. You’ve heard plenty of La Llorona and El Cucuy stories over the years, but the story of La Mataviejitas is just as scary – and it’s real.
Barazza’s victims were all women who were 60 years old or older.She would gain their trust by helping them with groceries or posing as a nurse.
Why’d she do it? Barraza says it was her way of releasing pent up anger. She says she was full of anger after her alcoholic mother beat her and would give her away to men when she was only 12.
Colombia: The Beast
Luis Garavito definitely earned his nickname “the Beast,” although few beasts would be capable of his atrocities. Garavito admitted to the murder and rape of 140 young boys, but his toll may be closer to 300 victims.
Over a brutal five-year period, from 1994 to 1999, Garavito used food, gifts and cash to lure his young victims, most between the ages of eight and 16. He would occasionally dress as a monk or street vendor to make the children feel safe as he lured them away from their homes and parents. Once he had them in a secluded spot, he would sexually assault them, often torturing them before slitting their throats and dismembering their small bodies.
Colombia: The Sadist of El Charquito
Daniel Camargo Barbosa raped, murdered and dismembered over 150 young girls in Colombia and Ecuador. He earned the name of “The Sadist of El Charquito” for the brutal treatment of his victims, hacking them to pieces with a machete. While Camargo was suspected in the deaths of 80 women and girls, he was eventually arrested in Colombia for the rape and murder of a nine-year old girl. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
He managed to escape from the island prison where he was held, though, making his way through shark-infested water to Ecuador, where he continued his gruesome crimes, raping and killing at least 70 more victims.
Mexico: The Great Blood Sorceress
Magdalena Solís was: a serial killer, a religious fanatic, a leader of a sect, a sex criminal… and responsible for 8 confirmed murders. She killed any dissidents to her faith through sacrifices in which victims were brutally beaten and mutilated. Afterwards, she removed her victims’ hearts and drank their blood.
Some claim that Magdalena was the reincarnation of an Aztec goddess Coatlicue.
Mexico: The Monsters of Ecatepec
In 2018, Juan Carlos admitted to killing more than 20 women in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec in a crime spree shocked the country. His wife, Patricia, has also told police her job was to trick his victims into accompanying her to their “House of Horrors” after luring them with cheap clothes to sell, say prosecutors.
Once inside the house, Juan Carlos would slit their throats, have sex with the corpses, remove the heart and feed it to his dogs.
Many of his victims were young mothers, and the couple have admitted to selling a two-month-old baby, after killing its mother. The husband and wife team were later arrested pushing the tot’s pram, but instead of finding the baby the found body parts.
Juan Carlos has also reportedly told a police doctor that he will kill again if he is ever freed.
Argentina: Angel of Death
In a stretch of just 11 months starting in March, 1971, Carlos Eduardo Robledo Puch committed a string of armed robberies, raped two women, assaulted several women and killed 11 people, becoming Argentina’s most prolific serial killer.
While he occasionally worked with an accomplice, at least one of whom died under suspicious circumstances, Robledo Puch never fit the profile of a killer. He was young, attractive, intelligent and from a wealthy family, but he turned his back on his privileged life.
Colombia: The Monster of the Andes
Known as “The Monster of the Andes,” Pedro López was convicted of raping and killing 110 women, but that horrifying body count is just the beginning of his gruesome crimes. López is suspected in the deaths of more than 300 women and girls, sometimes killing two or three a week, as he traveled across South America from Peru to Ecuador to his native Colombia. López showed his predilections earlier in life and was kicked out of his home for molesting his sister.
According to the Sword and Scale podcast, López was almost put to death by tribal leaders in Peru in 1978, but a missionary saved his life and he headed to Colombia where his crime spree continued. He was eventually captured in Ecuador when the bodies of four young girls were discovered.
He was sent to jail for the maximum allowed by Ecuadorian law at the time – just 16 years – but he was freed after 14 for good behavior. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Brazil: Gomes da Rocha
Over the course of four years, Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha killed 39 people. Gomes da Rocha worked as a security guard in Goiania, a small city in central Brazil. In his off hours he rode the streets of the city on his motorbike robbing shops, pharmacies and lottery outlets. He would pretend to mug people, shouting “robbery” at them before simply shooting them dead instead. Gomes da Rocha targeted women and sex workers – his victims included a 14-year old girl, young women, homeless people, prostitutes, and transvestites.
Peru: The Apostle of Death
God spoke to Pedro Pablo Nakada Ludeña and told him to rid the earth of prostitutes, drug addicts, homosexuals and the homeless – or that’s the justification he used to murder at least 17 people in Peru.
Known as “The Apostle of Death,” Ludeña walked the streets of Lima with a 9 mm gun equipped with a homemade silencer and killed those he felt deserved it, like a 50-year-old woman smoking pot that he passed on the street or a 42-year-old cosmetologist who may have been gay. Police eventually tracked down the “apostle” in 2006, engaging in a shoot-out with him before he was finally captured.
Bolivia: The Killer Actor
Ramiro Artieda was a sex criminal who was responsible for the murder of at least 8 18-year old women between 1937 and 1939, all of whom bared an uncanny resemblance to one another. Ramiro studied drama in the United States, where he learned the techniques that he’d use to help lure his victims. Some of the characters he created to commit his crimes included a film producer, a monk, and a professor. Using these disguises, he took women to secluded areas where he’d sexually abuse and then strangle them.
When he was captured by the authorities, the killer confessed that his intention was to kill any young women that he felt looked like an ex-girlfriend who had dumped him. He was sentenced to death on July 3, 1939.
Brazil: Pedrinho Matador
One of Brazil’s most infamous – and prolific – serial killers was responsible for at least 70 murders, slaying his first victim at at the age of 14. Pedro Rodrigues Filho, also known as “Pedrinho Matador” or Killer Petey. Even before he was born, Filho’s life was not easy – his father beat his pregnant mother so badly, Filho was born with a deformed skull.
He is believed to have killed 10 people by his 18th birthday, including the vice-mayor of his town after he fired his father. When Filho’s father murdered his mother, Filho exacted his revenge, killing the man, cutting out his heart and eating it. Filho was finally captured in 2003. He was convicted of murdering at least 70 people, but going to jail did not stop his crime spree – he murdered at least 40 inmates while he was in prison.
Argentina: The Argentine Vampire
Florencio was a sex criminal suffering from mental illness who, in the 1950s, suffered a delirium that made him believe he was a vampire. This belief lead him to kill 15 women by biting out their jugular veins, and he claimed that drinking blood gave him orgasms. He’d kill his victims by first following them home and then he’d break in through a window when they were alone.
He was caught in February 1960 at the age of 25 while living in a dark cave, since he suffered photophobia. He died a year later in a mental institution.
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