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While Elvis Presley’s popularity in the U.S. was high in May 1959, Mexico was in the midst of a huge anti-Elvis backlash. Tijuana tabloids called him a racist and homosexual after the singer reportedly told gossip columnist Federico de León, “I’d rather kiss three black girls than a Mexican.” A Mexican woman in the same column was quoted as saying, “I’d rather kiss three dogs than one Elvis Presley.”

Radio Exitos, a Mexican radio station, read de León’s column over the air and spearheaded an Elvis boycott, while students staged public record burnings.

In May 1959, when Elvis’s movie King Creole screened at a Mexico City theater, newspapers that had advertised the film under the title Melodía Siniestra (“Sinister Melody”) reported a “riot” occurring.

Mexican reporters suggested Elvis’s hip-wiggling and mannerisms proved he was maricón (homosexual). The movie Los Chiflados del Rock’n Roll, a musical spoof, was promoted with posters showing Elvis in drag, being shot at by rifle-toting men in sombreros, under a banner that translates to “Die Elvis Presley!”

The book Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) claims the Elvis quote was fabricated. According to author Eric Zolov, “Herbe Pompeyo of Polygram Records in Mexico City claims that a high-up Mexican political figure wanted to contract Presley for a private party, for which he sent the performer a blank check to fill in as he wished. Presley, according to the story, returned the blank check, so the politico, extremely offended, invented the story line about Elvis not liking Mexican women.”

– Jay Allen Sanford

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