On the eve of March 8, this year’s International Women’s Day, the Mexican liquor company Ilegal Mezcal projected a silhouette of President Trump on the side of a bank in Manhattan’s Union Square. Above Trump’s hair, the projection read, “Donald eres un pendejo” — “Donald, you are an a**hole.”
The goal of the projection was to raise awareness and money for issues that affect American immigrants. That night at a Brooklyn bar, Ilegal Mezcal also hosted a benefit for Planned Parenthood, the national healthcare provider that Trump has vowed to defund.
“We wanted to take this opportunity as a company to make a statement,” Ilegal Mezcal’s founder and American ex-pat, John Rexer, tells Business Insider. “We are people with ideals first, and we don’t check those ideals at the door when we get to work.”
He launched the campaign because his Oaxaca-based company not only depends financially on good trade relations between US and Mexico, but because Ilegal Mezcal also has Mexican employees.
“We work with Mexicans on both sides of the border, so we understand the complexity of immigration issues and see the ongoing injustice,” Rexer says, adding, “We care about the people involved, so this is very important to me.”
He came up with the guerrilla art campaign in 2015, when he visited his hometown of New York City to see family and friends. A month earlier, Donald Trump declared he would run for president, and kicked off his campaign with a speech in which he called undocumented Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.”
While having brunch one day in New York, Rexer started talking to the waiter, who was from Puebla, Mexico, about Trump. After a big sigh, the waiter said, “Donald es un pendejo.”
Rexer scribbled the phrase on a napkin, and the next day, he and his team designed and posted several thousand posters with the Trump silhouette and slightly modified phrase, “Donald eres (you are) un pendejo,” around the city.
“‘Eres’ is much more impactful,” Rexer says. “Saying, ‘Donald, you are an a**hole’ is more directed at him and in his face. It makes more of a statement.”
In 2016, the company continued to put up the posters and spraypaint the image on footpaths around NYC and Los Angeles. The team also staged projections in Philadelphia and Manhattan, including on Rockefeller Center the same night Trump hosted “Saturday Night Live” in November 2015.
“If enough independent groups work consistently in unison to build awareness and to fund things that are underfunded, perhaps collectively we can make a change and shift the tides in a better direction,” he says. “The stakes are very high, and we all need to work to change things.”
Rexer’s not sure if Trump has seen the campaign, but hopes he has.