Mexican Mid-Century Style


illustration 1950s housewife in sombrero

“Reach for Your Sombrero…and go to your grocers pronto for this gay and colorful treat “Manana just isn’t soon enough. Surprise your family with this corn with the Latin touch tonight.” Vintage Green Giant Mexicorn Ad 1952

Toss on your suburban sombrero, gather your mariachis and lets celebrate Cinco De Mayo mid-century style.

Tequila, salsa, tamales, mole, No importa! For a real south of the border taste treat you couldn’t beat a can of Green Giant Mexicorn.

Ho Ho Ho!

With festive red and green peppers tossed in with the familiar Jolly Green Giant sunshine yellow niblets, it was easy to imagine yourself down Mexico way.

Senor Pancho

In our 1960’s East Coast neighborhood the closest we got to anything authentically Mexican was the cement lawn ornament we had on our front lawn. (The same lawn that ironically would be expertly mowed by Mexican landscapers some 40 years later)

No black lawn jockey for my liberal suburban family, por favor! No sireee, this was the era of the burgeoning civil rights movement, and we had our ear to the ground.

For our ranch style hacienda we tastefully installed a decorative stone statue of a Mexican hombre complete with a sombrero and a colorful sarape whom we affectionately called Senor Pancho.

Ay Carambe !

We didn’t need Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Mexican culture, because frankly the holiday was never even discussed in any of our classrooms. Nibbling on some Fritos or popping on a sombrero and chowing down on some Mexicorn was all a good suburban family would need to add a little bit of Mexican spice to their lives.

No Comprende


vintage illustration Green Giant dressed in Mexican outfit

This is a much gay day for corn –the day when your grocer unveils the new pack of Niblets Brand Mexicorn. Never were the golden kernels so tender. Reach for the cans that show him wearing his Mexican hat.” Vintage Green Giant Niblets Mexicorn ad 1951

As with most mid-century suburban adventures into foreign cooking any relation to the country of origin was no importa!

Just as adding a few slices of Dole pineapple to a dish made it Polynesian, or a dash of soy sauce turned a humdrum recipe into something oriental so the with the help of the Jolly Green Giant and his Mexicorn, even a ho-hum meatloaf transformed into a Mexican fiesta.

Mexicorn was as authentically a Mexican dish as Chicken chow mein was Chinese food, Americans were content to eat have their ethnicity watered down, suited to their tastes. The great American melting pot had yet to be fully stirred.




Vintage Jolly Green Giant dressed in Mexican oufit vintage ad 1950s

“If your grocer has his Mexican hat on today don’t be surprised. It’s a big fiesta day when the new pack of Niblets Brand Mexicorn hits towns. Straight from the hacienda of the jolly Green Giant – tender Niblets Brand corn mixed with sweet red and green pepper. Gay surprise eating tonight!” Vintage Green Giant Mexicorn Ad 1951


Crossing the border of good taste,  in the 1950’s, Green Giant ran a series of  corny ads featuring all American icon the Jolly Green Giant decked out in a traditional sombrero hawking Niblets Mexicorn.


Green Giant illustration as bullfighter vintage ad 1950s

“El Cameon-The Champ” Vintage Green Giant Niblets Mexicorn Ad 1952

Women appeared in national costumes this 1952 ad that had the Jolly Green Giant posed as a bullfighter –El Cameon ( The Champ)  while three  adoring women in traditional dresses looking on.

“Don’t let the bullfighter get-up fool you,” the company assured the women.  “It’s your old friend the Jolly Green Giant reminding you that for a gay surprise in fine eating nothing can match this Niblets Brand Mexicorn. Everybody loves this so will you. Muy Mucho.”

In the Valley of the  Green Giant

Vintage Green Giant illustration holding corn

Green Giant was the king of corn. In 1929 they invented a new process for canning vacuum packed corn. Called Niblets this brand would become the best-selling canned corn in the country.

The Minnesota Valley Canning Company developed the Giant as a product trademark in 1928. This American icon became so popular that the company eventually changed its name to Green Giant in 1950.

The original giant wasn’t green or jolly and they quickly changed his skin color from white to green adding foliage to the outfit. In 1935 ad executive Leo Burnett decided to rename him the Jolly Green Giant.

The Green Giant would soon become as beloved and trusted as Betty Crocker.

vintage green giant mexicorn ad 1947

“A fiesta dish for every day a colorful new version of your fine friend Niblets Brand kernel corn” Vintage Niblets Mexicorn Ad 1947

In 1947 the Green Giant Company still called the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was one of the first companies to advertise nationally with a Mexican theme.

Introducing middle Americans to Niblets Mexicorn its ads featured the familiar Green Giant strumming his guitar, singing a Spanish song and wearing a sombrero and a colorful serape over his shoulders.

The trusty green giant pictured on the label assured Mrs. America that the product remained good and trustworthy, and that just like the Giant, the all American corn had just been dressed up for the occasion for variety.


illustration Green Giant dressed as farmer 1953

Vintage Green Giant ad 1953

And not to worry, not only was there  nary a hint of exotic cilantro or chile peppers in this  colorful fiesta of sweet red and green peppers nestled with those famous golden kernels  that might give it a whiff of authenticity, the corn came straight from the hacienda of the Jolly Green Giant.

Packed at the fleeting moment of perfect flavor,  American homemakers could rest assured no Mexican migrant hands touched the product grown in the safety of sanitary Minnesota.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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  1. Ramon

    It just never ceases to amaze me how the American Dream was somehow associated with a trip to Mexico. Even Lucille Ball made an episode about going south the border to Tijuana -where I’m writing from- back in the days when even here in Mexico, the American Dream was part of our culture. Check it out.


  2. Enrique

    The Andy Griffith Show also featured a trip to Mexico.


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