It was a bad week for Mexican tourism promotion, and it only got worse when the English-language version of the country’s tourism website appeared with hilarious mis-translations.
Entire states such as Hidalgo and Guerrero apparently got auto-translated as “Noble” and “Warrior.” Worse yet for the VisitMexico.com site, there was systematic and inexplicable reinvention of the names of some fairly well-known tourist towns. The Caribbean resort of Tulum somehow became “Jumpsuit.” The nearby lagoon of Bacalar, on the Caribbean coast, was switched to the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
The snafu happened last Friday, one day after the U.S. State Department cited the high number of COVID-19 cases in Mexico for issuing a “do not travel” advisory for the country, its highest level of warning. Hours earlier, the resort of Acapulco was forced to pull “anything goes” tourism ads that showed people partying without masks and the words “there are no rules.”
The problems at VisitMexico.com drew howls of hilarity but also of anger. The Pacific coast resort of Puerto Escondido became “Hidden Port,” a literal translation, and the northern city of Torreon became “Turret,” which is kind of close.
Some name changes were simply inexplicable and appeared to have as much to do with invention as simple translation. The central Mexican town of Aculco somehow became “I Blame,” and the northern Gulf coast city of Ciudad Madero became “Log.”
“Stop making Mexico look ridiculous!” former President Felipe Calderón wrote in his Twitter account.
Mexico’s Tourism Department issued a statement apologizing for the errors, which were apparently the result of outsourced translation, but then made it sound like something sinister had been involved.
“The Tourism Department expresses its most sincere apologies to the public and users for the effects that have occurred on the website VisitMexico,” the statement said. “Moreover, we make it known that these acts aim to damage the image of the website and the department, and so therefore a criminal complaint has been filed and appropriate legal actions will be taken against those responsible.”
The department did not explain that claim, but local media reported that the dispute might involve a web-services supplier angry about not being paid.
On Thursday, officials took down a pair of Acapulco video ads touting the faded resort’s reputation as a nightclubbing spot — despite the fact that nightclubs are currently closed to enforce social distancing. They said the ads weren’t appropriate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have stopped being a postcard from the past. Today we have changed the rules,” says a narration in one of the videos. But then another voice intones, “In fact, there are no rules,” as people can be seen eating bizarre meals and going out to nightclubs.
“Eat whatever you want, have fun day and night and into the early morning hours … find new friends and new loves,” the ad says.