March 29, 2005

Tia Jemima: Stamps from the Land of Day Labor

IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY that the Vincente Fox, the President of the Oligarchy of Mexico was lauding his border-busting constituents for being willing to do jobs in America "not even blacks want." Wait. It was yesterday. Today, however, we see a kinder and gentler face of the Mexican government. A series of postage stamps that illustrates the the immense respect and sensitivity of Mexico to negroes the world over.

Here's some samples of their usually worthless postage stamps which will soon be the most highly collectible items among philatelists of the Klu Klux Klan.
story.stamp2.ap.jpg story.stamp3.ap.jpg

Is it too much to hope that the United States issues a similar tribute using, say, Gordo and Speedy Gonzales?

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Posted by Vanderleun at March 29, 2005 3:47 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

It would serve the Mexicans right--and be a great comeuppance--if we responded with Gordo, given his positive reviews
(e.g. here Gus Arriola's ever-maturing strip
was my first introduction to Mexican culture when I was kid in the L.A. area, and never since have I seen such a gentle,
uplifting stereotype.

Posted by: Mike Anderson at June 29, 2005 7:03 PM

This is what happens when people blindly apply their own local biases to foreign cultures. Say the word negro is, in principle, nothing but a neutral description just like blond, or tall or plump. However given the history of the word *in*the*USA* it is offensive there and best avoided *there*.

About Memin, all cartoons are exaggerated (look at any editorial cartoon of George Bush with ears the size of his head). While a certain jovial disrespect *is* inteded (as with all cartoons) no racism is intended (unless there is some new form of anti-big-ears racist movement I'm unaware of). So the fact that his black characteristics are exaggerated say nothing about what are the values ascribed to them.

And by the way, we Mexicans take no offense to Speedy Gonzales (in fact we like the fellow) so feel free to issue the stamps.

Posted by: Alex at June 30, 2005 8:06 AM

I was sure that I'd heard Speedy was popular in Mexico. I certainly couldn't figure out what was objectionable about him.

Posted by: Half Canadian at June 30, 2005 10:34 AM

Exactamente Alex!

I'm from Ecuador, and grew up reading Memin Pinguin and laughing so hard at the situations this little guy got into. But I never thought (nor do I remember anybody -friends or family- thinking) that this comic is making fun of black people. Why is race such a big deal in this country? Why am I supposed to be offended by a Chihuahua dog with a Hispanic accent?

Memin has a long history in Latin America and even in other countries, like the Philippines, where for a time it was required reading by the Department of Education, and not because it was promoting racism, but rather because of the values and morals it reflected.

And please bring back Speedy! and the Taco Bell dog!

Posted by: JuanPablo at June 30, 2005 12:37 PM

Don't be stupid Venderleun, you are just pandering for that pimp Jesse Jackson. Don't know how the White House fell for it; morons. Memín is a heroe here in México and if any idiot thinks we are going to give him up, he's totally nuts hahahaha. You stupid Americans, better care for your problems. In México we don't buy your politically correct crap. Nooo way we'll abide by this trash. And Speedy Gonzalez is just OK with Mexicans, we have no problem with that or other Mex sterotypes (I'm a mojado, wetback, greaser, spick, you see hahahaha) we have no problem with those because WE DON'T FEEL INFERIOR. People who feel inferior are the ones that get all irked about someone else's national heroe, as Memín is down here. He taught me to love and appreciate black people in a way that a 1000 Jacksons haven't been able to do in the US. Get informed before you rant, you silly American tools of the PC world-view.

Posted by: Miguel at July 1, 2005 1:12 AM

Esto es tan estúpidamente surrealista que ni siquiera resulta divertido: un puñado de gringos y sus acólitos, que sólo hablan mal inglés y que no saben absolutamente nada de México, menos comprenden, intentando imponer por la fuerza a sus vecinos del sur soluciones foráneas que no han conseguido que les funcionen en casa.

Generaciones enteras de mexicanos aprendieron a leer con Memín Penguín a la par que eran cautivadas por su simpatía, su dulzura, su inquieta inteligencia y su conmovedora sinceridad y capacidad de amar. Memín les ayudó a adquirir valores humanos, a respetar la diversidad y a detestar la injusticia. Y ahora nos quieren reinventar la rueda encontrando odio donde siempre hubo aprecio y racismo donde siempre hubo cariño y respeto, en un clarísimo caso de «piensa el ladrón que son todos de su condición».

No son ni capaces de escribir correctamente el nombre de Memín. Tamaña muestra de cerrazón causaría hilaridad si no provocara antes profundo llanto.

Posted by: Tonto Tinto at July 1, 2005 7:51 AM

To "Tonto Tinto":

Sorry, Tonto, but your insults directed at a "fistfull of gringos and their acolytes" should best be directed at a society in which racism is so endemic that you aren't even capable of recognizing it.

I had to laugh when I watched Televisa's nightly newscast last night with anchor Joaquín López Dóriga. He showed a parade of people declaring that this was not offensive. All of them white. Maybe it would be useful to get the opinion of a black Mexican, don't you think?

We're not talking about el Ratón Miguelito or el Pato Donald here. Nobody is going to get offended by a bunch of cartoon animals, or even about a bunch of cartoon-like humans. But pick up a Memín comic book and ask yourself this: Why two different styles of drawing? Why are all the WHITE humans drawn with normal, realistic features, while the BLACK characters are drawn looking like apes?

As I said, racism is so natural and pervasive in Mexico that nobody is even aware that it exists. It's sometimes hard to see this when you're in the middle of it. Perhaps you should try viewing it from the outside and you'll see what I'm talking about. Mexico claims that it is a "raceless" society because there is no racism and everybody is part of one big common melting pot. Most people deny the very existence of black Mexicans, which is the the worst kind of racism.

And before you accuse me of knowing nothing about Mexico, I'll point out that I am a born and bred Mexican who is proud of my country, but also not so blind that I can't admit when a problem exists. You know as well as I do that the "unified race of mestizos" is a myth. Like most people all over Latin America, Mexicans are extremely aware of even the smallest variation in skin tone, and have plenty of nicknames with which to identify them all.

As much as I value the good lessons and morals that the Memín stories convey, I am offended by the manner in which he is depicted. And if you have any ability to look beyond your own navel, you will recognize this as well. If you are truly unaware of what I'm talking about, try reading this:

Posted by: CB Kiteflyer at July 1, 2005 11:11 AM

I think "America" A great civilization that instead of leading the way, now tries to reach a dangerous "conservatism" fueled by self-righteous people that wants the world to practice what they don't. It's "America" growing old and static?? It's sad because I always had in my mind that "americans" as the "most" advanced civilization on earth, would have their citizens being the paragon of mankind, instead they seems to be reflecting lately everything that's faulty about being human.

Posted by: Ken at July 1, 2005 3:34 PM

It is unfortunate that the Mexicans can make such derogatory images of their ancestors. President Fox must come to the realization that he is a product of an African (who was mostly enslaved) and a European. I cannot understand how else they can justify their coming into being as “Mexicans”.

Posted by: Sekou at July 2, 2005 8:50 AM

I Am an African studying in Canada. Some of my closest friends here are Mexicans and i've heard quite alot of good things about Mexico that made me to have some affection for that country. But my whole perception of that country has changed recently. I never thought Mexico to be a racist country, eventhough i dont consider my friends as such. Depicting characters that stereotypes a race in comics is not uncommon, but what is uncommon is a Government of a country giving its approval for the production and sale of postage stamps that stereotypes a particular race. Alot of racial bigots are giving ridiculos excuses to defend this clear practice of racism. Any sensitive person would see the racist intents in this, especially few weeks after President fox made some deragatory Racial remarks on Black people. Some people have labelled the US of being ignorant of the mexican cartoon characters and cultures, and want to portray it as one of those political scandals between the states and mexico. They said memin ping...or whatever it is called can be compared with the likes of speedy Gonzalez and the likes; i want to know which of those characters have ever been depicted on mexican postage stamps? People around the globe are aware of the political tension between mexico and the states, but this time mexico has overstepped its boundries , because This latest saga has nothing to do with the US or the African-Americans for that matter; it is an insult to the entire black race of this world. If this despicable act by the mexican govt was not meant to stereotype the black race (as they want insensitive people to beleive), then they have ridiculed themselves by portraying how insensitive they are. Mexico has made history by being the first country to approve racial stereotyping in postage stamps. The world would always remember u for that!

Posted by: Teejay at July 2, 2005 6:03 PM

I write this in respect of your comments on mexican comic character called Memin Pinguin.

I have read both points of view (against, and in favor of), and must say I don't agree with you, but understand why you are offended. I guess those "exaggerated" facial features you mention are things American white population (the racist part of them) use to make fun of black people in a racist manner. I guess you think Mexicans have the same customs and way of thinking (social structure, status, etc) than the US, but it isn't.

First of all, Memin is a cartoon, whose looks where intended to be funny, and as the main character of the strip, he was meant to contrast with the other characters in the exageration of his facial features in a funny (but not offensive )way. You may think "yeah, right, how do you know he wasn't meant to be offensive?". I can tell that recalling the way he was conceived by Guillermo de la Parra and his wife. He was inspired in a cuban boy (yes, not every black skinned person looks like Beyonce or Will Smith) that happened to have thick lips. If he has wide opened eyes, I tell he has the average cartoon eyes.

Second, it wouldn't make sense that Guillermo de la Parra's wife called a character meant to be an offense, like her husband (Memín is a diminutive for Guillermo). Pinguin is how her husband was called when he was a young boy!

Third, it is obvious that you don't have an idea of the character's story in the strip. Basically, he (Memin) is a poor boy living in a neighborhood in Mexico. There he relates with boys of different situations (with every color of skin you can imagine). Some of his friends are poor, others are medium class or rich. Most of the time he basically does three things: 1. Innocent mischief 2. Help his beloved mother (Who ,by the way, only compares to Aunt Jemina with the handkerchief she uses on the head) 3. Help his friends (all of them) solve their problems with his good hearted nature and intelligence (which he didn't lacked of).

I won't say racism doesn't exist here in Mexico. But I should say that racists are the minority here (most of us are mestizos, this is, with mixed heritage). Heck, I guess most mexicans have arabian, chinese, african, spanish, french, native american blood in different proportions. Here true discrimination leans on wealth status, and is a big problem, but race isn't a matter of hate or discrimination. Here we don't have race "ghettos", white communities, chinese communities, black communities, etc. Theses things we know only through your movies and TV series. We can't help but laugh at many of your sitcoms "adressed" to the black community (Sister-Sister, Kenan and Kel, and a bunch more). We always ask "why is only black people in the surroundings?". Here in Mexico, you can find skin diversity in a single four member family (like mine). So you can't compare our ways of thinking with the ones in your country.

Onto the stamps: let me think what the hell can be offensive with these particular drawings: Memin doing a honorable job as newspaper boy? Memin holding his school notebook under his arm? Memin dressing elegant (oh, my mistake, for sure he was depicted as a PIMP)?

The last nail in the coffin for your opinion should be this: In the caribbean, where most people have black skin, Memin was a must read for children, and governments from these countries praised the comic book (shit, he was even introduced in the educative system due to his high moral content). No one besides the US has thought Memin was racist (I say was, because actual editions of his adventures are reprints of the old ones). Remember that black people aren't exclusive to the US!

PS: Yes, our President is a shame (mostly like Bush: a fool, racist, clasist, etc. human being. But Memin doesn't deserve this.

Jorge Juárez

Posted by: Jorge Juárez Ramírez at July 2, 2005 9:53 PM

I will just say briefly that I do get sick of non-Americans trying to tell Americans (insisting, in fact) how it is American racism that is the problem while denying any substantial racism in their own land.

Jorge Juárez Ramírez, you take that Caribbean crap and shove it my friend. They are as color-struck in the Caribbean as Mexico clearly is. And just as much in denial about the fact as Mexico. This is true with Jamaicans, Dominicans, Bajans, Trinidadians, Cubans -- wherever and whomever.

How sad. The obtuseness of the Mexicans on this issue is deeply disappointing. But not surprising.

Posted by: RattlerGator at July 3, 2005 8:17 AM

Hey rattlergator, who the hell are you to say who is and who isn't American? Just because a person is not on the "patriotic side" doesn't necessarily make that person non-American as you are trying to do so? And if you are thinking that because most Mexicans aren't White, are you saying then that only Whites can be American? Obviously that is what you are preaching? You see, you aren't right either. Please stick to the topic.

Secondly, before you even say anything else, no person is trying to say that racism doesn't exist in Mexico. Racism exists everywhere. Unless we rewire the way our brain works, we will never escape the claws of racism. It will never end. Shove your "deeply disappointing. But not suprising" crap you know where. You're probably a KKK member with that screen name, Rattlegator, please don't come with that Southern crap.

Finally, a person's social status is way more important than some stupid concept of race. Biologically, race doesn't even exist. It's a known fact that all humans came from ancestors who were born in Africa. So face it, we're all "black." Yes, White people, face it, you're black too, so stop whining.


Posted by: Erick at July 3, 2005 8:41 PM

Read the cartoon first; then you can judge. Don't try to bring your racism to my country.

Posted by: Raul at July 10, 2005 12:05 PM

This stamp is hideously vulgar. It dehumanizes blacks. When will you whites stop brutalizing blacks in every single way. These stereotypes are so destructive. Have any of you read "No Sanctuary"? You have killed the black people in such huge numbers, you have stultified their growth in every way possible. Why not leave us in peace? Let us rebuild our destroyed culture for God's sake. Such vultures, as I have never seen. HalfCanadian wrote that he could not see the problem. Well, he must be blind. For the same reason that we no longer progagate images of red skinned indians brandishing hatchets, for the same reason that we do not progpagate images of Chinese people as yellow skinned and bucked teeth, you should stop promoting these ugly images of blacks as slaves and mammies with ill formed jaws and mouths. This images are not more or less than visual racial slurs.

Posted by: Vani at August 3, 2005 8:08 AM

Why are my comments not beng posted?

Posted by: Vani at August 3, 2005 9:25 AM

You are so full of it. I am a brownskinned descendant of a Mexican and they are really racist. (Not my father) But the majority of the culture is quite hostile to dark skinned people and they are worshipful of light skinned people. As far as Mexicans are concerned black and brown skinned people are worthless. It's definitely one of the most racist countries in the world. They HAD lots of blacks there, but they killed them all off by brutalizing them, making them fight on the front lines handle the explosives and corpses and take terribl ehealth risks. They have destroyed all black pride in teh African descendants hwo reside there. They are ashamed to be black because they are ridiculed and brutalized for nothign more than being black. Now they want to talk about how WHITES are discriminaitng against THEM. In Mexico, Mexcians wish to be known as white, when they get to American suddenly they want to beknown as Latinos. Brown and black skinned people are ejected from their community and not cared for at all. I tried to get citizenship to my father's country and it was REJECTED. The only reason is that I am a black girl.

Posted by: Vani at August 3, 2005 9:42 AM

It's funny and amazing at the same time how United Statians try to
give lessons about racism when I've seen how white policemen in your
country arresting a 7 or 8 years old child because he was not using
a helmet while he was skating, a black child of course. And lots of
cases of abuse against black people and creators of the KKK. Yours is the
last country in this world which could call racist to anybody else.

Posted by: Jalm at January 13, 2006 4:23 PM

What has this world come to. We all poke fun at every little thing that is different between us and them. Us being one race/country/religion/opinion and them being the other point of view. It will never change. We as humans or as is in our human nature are compelled to ask why, criticize and judge to our best acknowledgment. And there is where we set ourselves up for failure "our best". People hate Mexicans/Latinos/African-Americans/Imbeciles/Americans/and may the list continue... So Be It. One day a kid born to a Pro-racist family will realize and look above and beyond what their family/peers taught them. One day out of a low classman will blossom a freaking genius. It's sad but, it's all about one huge virtue called patience. I have Mexican in me and guess what I hate every bit of it. some people say it's shameful that I dislike it. But, I don't hate mexicans, I just dilike certain customs and I will not abide by them as I slowly unglue myself from the last mexican I keep in touch with in my family(daddy). What people don't understand is about Philanthropy. You adapt to the area and you do what's best for your surroundings as well as, make sure your taking your share and that's a safe community. In a community you put aside your racial background and focus on needs, when your at home it's your choice on your lifestyle, who you communicate with and who makes it across your own border. Disney offends people. Cartoons offend people. People offend people. It's just how it is. And unless you keep your eyes/mouths/ears shut you will encounter this humiliation against your own self a few times in life. If you don't like what you read then don't pick it up again. A person who tries to mold their surroundings to their behalf is pretty selfish. Just because you stop all the dirty publicity does not mean it's not happening. If we had a divided world WHERE would the flavor be!!! Then again I like my stuff bland. Come on kids clean up the cobwebs already.

Posted by: Acolmiztli at March 11, 2006 12:04 AM
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