When I was a kid, my cousins and I used to poke fun at my abuela who used Vicks VapoRub for everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Once time one of my cousins hid her arm inside the sleeve doused the empty sleeve with ketchup, and ran into the house yelling “¡Abuela!  ¡Ayuda,  ayuda!   Mi brazo ha sido cortado!!”  My abuela rushed out of the room and came back with a jar of VapoRub.  To be fair, she also told my sister to call the doctor.  I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard before or since.  Luckily for us my abuela had a good sense of humor, and once she recovered from her shock, she chuckled.  Then there was the time my little sister coming home crying because a boy she liked asked another girl to a dance.  My abuela rubbed VapoRub on her chest over her heart.

Handed down from generation to generation,  Vicks VapoRub holds cultural foothold and continues to be a beloved common denominatior among Latinos.  And so it comes as no surprise that stories, jokes, tweets and memes about VapoRub abound.

VapoRub can be found in practically every kitchen, medicine cabinet, nightstand and vanity of Hispanic homes across the United States, Mexico, and abroad.   Fondly known by Latinos as Bibaporru, Beep, Vaporú, El Bic, El Bix, and Vickisito, it has endless uses.  From congestion relief and stomach aches to cuts and even distemper in horses,  Latino’s slather it on all that ails,    It’s also been used as a soothing calmative and sometimes combined with a little tequila for a digestive.  No matter what, VapoRub always makes you feel better.

Created in 1912, VapoRub was first advertised and marketed to traditional middle-income Anglo-American wives with children living a modern middle class  lifestyle.  It couldn’t have been farther removed from Latinos. However, once it began being sold in Mexico, the little blue jar caught on with dizzying speed.  No  advertising.  No marketing.  And yet, somehow it began flying off the shelves.  Truth is, VapoRub didn’t need to advertise or market itself. Latinos did it for them.

For Latinos,  scent of eucalyptus evoked powerful childhood memories and emotions. 


Thier mother elicited strong  Latinos experienced as children when their mothers soothed and comforted them when they were sick. VapoRub is a scent that’s associated with home.  Hispanics who have moved away from their families tell of times when they would open a jar of Vicks just to smell it and like they were home again with them.had a strong cultural association.


Created by a pharmacist in South Carolina Originally called Vicks Magic Croup Salve, it was VapoRub called  it was created to help people breathe better when they had colds.VapoRub eventually began distribution in Mexico and sold it in pharmacias and mercados.   Mexicans did it all.   That’s because a tightly woven sense of family and community is a hallmark of Hispanic culture.  VapoRub quickly spread from home to home throughout Mexico.

Today, Vicks VapoRub continues to be a top selling brand in Mexico with a market share of 95%. It’s safe to say that the little blue immediately recognizable jar of eucalyptus-scented ointment has come to embody the heart and soul of Hispanics. .  It’s why Vicks VapoRub has dominated the market and it will probably continue to do so for a very long time as Latinos pass the VapoRub along their memories and their stories from one generation to the next.