Ex Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Mexican immigrants.

Yesterday Trujillo claimed that many Australians have approached him to apologise for Prime Minister Rudd over his use of the word “adios” when responding to the news that he was leaving Telstra.

As reported on AM this morning, in San Diego, the BBC’s Steve Evans referred to the portrayal of Trujillo in the Australian media:

STEVE EVANS: Because I noticed reading the papers there, that when you were referred to they would always point out that you were, had a Hispanic background, or whatever.

In other words in Britain and in America it would have been neither here nor there; in Australia it was invariably pointed out.

And the Prime Minister, when asked what his parting words to you would be, said “Adios”.

Was that racism?

Trujillo responded:

I think by definition — there were even columnists who wrote stories that said it was.

But you know, my point is that that does exist and it’s got to change because the world is full of a lot of people and most economies have to take advantage — including Australia — of a diverse set of people.

And if there is a belief that only a certain people are acceptable versus others, that is a sad state.

Crikey tested the theory by taking a snapshot of some of the headlines over the last month…

Was Sol Trujillo worth it? Si, senor“. In just four years Down Under Sol Trujillo became our highest profile CEO – perhaps even our first celebrity CEO, leader of the “Three Amigos”. — Terry McCrann. The Herald Sun, February 27

High noon for telcos“. Oh we had fun though, certainly there was entertainment value. All those Mexican and Wild West headlines and allusions, the Three Amigos, the whole concept of riding into town and shooting up the government, unleashing the odd feral PR operative, the constant excitement of the World Tour that never ended, just Phil Burgess on any given spray was worth the price of a Saturday matinee ticket. — Michael Pascoe, Sydney Morning Herald, February 26 2009.

Adios, amigo, to the man who enfeebled Telstra“. Sol Trujillo slunk out of town in the dead of night more than a week ago, his pockets stuffed with cash. I’ve been trying to organise a $3 million failure incentive for years, but to no avail. Clearly, the magnitude of my shortcomings were never likely to come close to the recently departed head of our biggest company and, the pay performance ratio being what it is, Sol always was going to come out a winner. — Ian Verrender Sydney Morning Herald May 23 2009.

Trujillo knows his mananas“. Andrew Bolt blog, Herald Sun, May 21 2009.

And here are a few visual aides:

OK this is just funny. And perhaps racist towards potatoes:

Potato and moustache“. Adios, amigo. No corporate leader has provided as much fodder for CBD, the Herald’s weekday business gossip column, as Sol Trujillo … “I’ll miss Sol,” said the Herald artist John Shakespeare. “He was so easy to draw; anyone could do him. Just draw a moustache on a potato and you’ve got him.” — Michael Evans, Sydney Morning Herald, Business Day, February 28 2009

Meanwhile, Crikey‘s marketing expert Stephen Downes was jumping up and down about this back in February:

Trujillo and Mexicans: a few words on racial stereotyping: By all means show Trujillo as a “fat cat” or a scoundrel, boarding a flight back to America with his pockets stuffed full of Aussie dollars — that’s satire. But don’t show him wearing a sombrero and riding a donkey when the guy isn’t even Mexican! Maybe if Trujillo shows the US Internal Revenue Service his Australian press clippings he’ll be able to convince them that he really IS Mexican and avoid US taxes on his massive payout. Now that would be funny.

But if you won’t hear it locally, then be prepared to hear it from international observers. Eric Ellis wrote in Fortune magazine in 2006 that Trujillo “has become the foreigner Australians most delight in mocking. Cartoonists depict him in a sombrero astride a donkey, while shock jocks mimic an imagined Mexican accent, even though the Wyoming native’s family came to the U.S. 200 years ago.”– Dr Stephen Downes. —  Crikey, March 3 2009.

Trujillo latest victim of News Corp’s racist toons Regardless of what you think of the job Trujillo has done at Telstra or of his bonuses and golden parachute arrangements, the use of racist imagery to depict anyone should be just as unacceptable in Australia as it is in the US.

As I wrote in 2006, portraying Trujillo in terms of Mexican racial stereotypes — either as some kind of poncho-wearing, siesta-taking buffoon or as a moustachioed, pistol-toting “bandido” —  is intentionally demeaning and not even based on fact. Trujillo was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a US citizen, was educated in the US, and has never lived or worked in Mexico.

Why should we consider these images of Trujillo as any less racist than depicting an African-American as an ape? — Crikey, 27 February 2009.

Mind you, Crikey can’t point the finger without a bit of self examination:

Dr Evil references are in the clear:

— as is this inexplicable image.

We can’t seem to find any Crikey reference to somberos, amigos, or donkeys, but we suspect that’s the fault of our search engine. If you happen to find a picture of Sol playing maraccas, eating nachos, or taking a siesta under a cactus care of Crikey, please feel free to point the finger.

We’re sure we must be guilty of it somewhere … the visual temptation is just too great.