Great British Bake Off's maracas and ponchos insensitive, say Mexican viewers

Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas wear sombreros and sarapes in the episode
Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas wear sombreros and sarapes in the episode

Great British Bake Off has been criticised as culturally insensitive over its “Mexican Week”, which features hosts wearing sombreros.

The Channel 4 programme’s last episode featured presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas in sombreros and sarapes (colourful cloaks), making puns about not being able to make even “Juan” joke about Mexico.

Viewers have criticised the British television staple for this portrayal of Mexicans in the episode, which also featured Fielding and Lucas playing the maracas.

Dr Gabriela Ramos, associate Professor of Latin American History at Cambridge, said that while she did not wish to make a scandal out of the show it showed a “problem of education”.

She added it indicated “a lack of interest and poor information in this country about other parts and people of the world”.

Prof Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, a professor of Mexican cultural studies at Washington University in the US, said: “The fundamental issue is that the episode and its campaign follow a script on Mexican culture that us Mexicans, from either side of the US-Mexico border, see very frequently."

Prof Sáncehz Prado, speaking to US outlet NPR, added: “The use of cartoonish sarapes and sombreros as props and disguises, the misidentification of Mexican food with the stuff sold in Taco Bell, the borrowing of beloved dishes like tres leches to make versions that have little recognisability to Mexicans, this is something that we see every Cinco de Mayo and every Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas
Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas

The Bake Off episode in question included a joke in which Fielding states: “I don’t feel like we should make Mexican jokes, because people will get upset.”

Lucas, who joined the show in 2020, responds by saying: “Not even Juan?”

Along with sombreros and maraca playing, the episode featured contestants trying their hand at cooking Mexican staples, including pan dulce and tacos.

The choice of challenge for that week has also sparked criticism, as some viewers feel that the competition has focused too much on cooking, and not enough on baking.

Giuseppe Dell'Anno, last year’s Bake Off champion, speaking to Radio Times, said: “It felt more like a MasterChef challenge rather than a Bake Off challenge. A lot of attention was focusing actually on the filling of the tacos.

“Most of the feedback was about a filling and that felt slightly disappointing in a way. It is a baking show, after all.”

Channel 4 has been approached for comment on the programme.