The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, July 04, 2005
 

The other face of imperialismo yanquí


Since long before PNAC was an idea in the mind of Kristol, the US has been messing with Mexico: stealing its land, sending armies over on mini-breaks, customising its government.

And now Uncle Sam is editing Mexican postage-stamps!

Memín Pinguín is a favourite comic-book character south of the border who has just been commemorated in a set of stamps.

The problem: he's a time-warped image of a Negro from around 1930 [1], and just a tad on caricatural side.

By some chance, a hoo-ha has been got up in Gringoland.

The usual grievance foghorns - Sharpton and Jackson, the Old Firm - are antiphonising. (No shakedown in view from Vicente Fox, surely: this is pure Schiavo Circus-style exciting the base.)

But they're not alone: Scott McClellan took time out to poke erstwhile Bush buddy Fox in the eye:
[He] said Thursday that the stamp flap "is an internal issue for Mexico."

"But with that said, racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what the origin," he said. "The Mexican government needs to take this into account. Images such as this have no place in today's world."


The Mexicans are standing their ground - the embassy guy referred to Speedy Gonzales! - but have not, I sense, quite wound themselves up to poking Uncle Sam back.

Perhaps they're having problems with drool.

Fox is an even lamer duck than Bush, his attempt to nobble lefty 06 candidate López Obrador failed ignominiously, the Zapatistas have been rumbling: and now Bush serves him up some quality Wag the Dog action on a plate!

There's the infringement of sovereignty of course - always good for a demo.

But the real juice comes with the hypocrisy angle. Those stand-bys of Yankee capitalism Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, for instance.

And what about tomahawk-chopping with all those sports teams' Indian caricatures?

That's just off the top of the head.

I'm not aware that Mexico has done much for freedom of speech in its two hundred years of independence. But now it has a chance to make up a little for lost time with a succinct message from Fox to Bush:

¡Chinga tu madre!

And, given the personnel involved, that is quite a thought...

  1. The character, created by Yolanda Vargas Dulche, first appeared in 1945, apparently.

MORE

On Memín Pinguín, this has info and reproduces images of four stamps.

A piece on long-time Memín artist Sixto Valencia Burgos.

According to this, Memín has been published as a weekly magazine since 1983.

A Mexican psychologist shrinks the national head on the attraction of the stories:
La revista tiene éxito porque es cursi, sentimentaloide, y porque satisface todos los complejos de gente inmadura. Es tan dominante el tema de la fijación materna, que ésta aparece aún en los nuevos personajes.

I can't find a tick-tock anywhere. Experience suggests that these stories are usually being managed by some PR operation or other. Popular outrage is astroturfed, breaking news is spoon-fed, Kelly Ryan is involved...

Jornada at least put us right on the origin of the name of the young rascal:
El nombre de Memín Pinguín viene del diminutivo del en aquel entonces novio de Vargas Dulché: Guillermo de la Parra, quien a la postre fue su esposo, y el apellido proviene de pingo, mote cariñoso con el que las mamás mexicanas suelen recriminar a los niños traviesos...

The lefty rag quotes a trio of cartoonists as blaming the current affair on Fox's comments a couple of months ago on the willingness of Mexican immigrants to the US to do jobs blacks refused to do (May 16).

Another Jornada piece quotes writer Elena Poniatowska taking the Aunt Jemima high ground:
¿Por qué en Estados Unidos no se han sentido ofendidos, por ejemplo, con la negrita que aparece en algunas cajas de harina para hot cakes?

And, for good measure,
En México, a diferencia de lo que sucede en Estados Unidos, nuestro trato hacia los negros ha sido más cariñoso.

The standard in Latin America is to adopt some kind of graduated caste scale, rather than the dichotomous standard (or one drop rule) latterly in favour in the US. I'd be surprised if, historically, Negroes in Mexico had not come in fairly low down in that scale - but that's mere hypothesis.

Another has the normally dour (it reads dour to me!) rag in playful mood [1]:
La Jornada intentó buscar a otros que podrían entender mejor este asunto y solicitó entrevistas con el Pato Lucas, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, el Mister McGoo y el Coyote, pero hasta el cierre de edición aún no había respuesta.

And - lo and behold! - it seems that the philatelic material issued by the Mexican post office points out that
la historieta Memín Pinguín tuvo también presencia internacional y que era ya conocida en Estados Unidos desde hace dos décadas. Esta historieta, se apunta, ''fue editada y publicada en Irán, Estados Unidos y Japón, en 1985...".

Where has Mr Shakedown been all these years?

And another spirited repost, this time from
Víctor A. Sienra Alba, presidente de la Sociedad Filatélica de México
- who knew stamp collectors had cojones of steel? -
...no pedirle al gobierno estadunidense que deje de imprimir timbres con sus héroes nacionales, cuando la invasión a México en 1847.

¡Viva Alba¡

One Memín story concerned a trip to Dallas to play football (soccer?) in which he was Jim Crowed in a restaurant!

My suggestion (gratis) to Fox and friends: take a gander at Chief Wahoo, the mascot of the Cleveland Indians. Back in the day, those cigar-store statues at least had some dignity. In Westerns, the Indians, good and bad, are generally presented as serious creatures.

Chief Wahoo, on the other hand, recalls the worst excesses of the coon-song sheet music cover.

If Yankees are so damned sensititve, they can can Wahoo first, and then let's talk Pinguín!

  1. Pato Lucas, I seek and find, is Daffy Duck, would you believe


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