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Mexican comic character called racist in Texas

The Mexican comic book character Memin Pinguin has been around for more than 60 years, but when his book, Memin for President, appeared in a Houston Texas Wal-Mart, at least one patron thought the drawings of the little Cuban boy were a racist caricature and complained to the store. She also enlisted the help of an area community activist Quannel X to rid the character from the store.

Quoted from CNN, she said:

“I was like, OK, is that a monkey or a boy?” McGinty said. “To me it was an insult.”

She’d never heard of “Memin Pinguin.” She bought a Spanish-English dictionary and tried translating but still didn’t like what she saw.

“So I asked my boyfriend, does that look like a monkey to you?” she said. “And we went back and forth and he was like, no, that’s a black woman,” referring to the character’s Aunt Jemima-like mother.

Mexican readers and commentators are perplexed by the reaction.

“They will bring a smile to their face because we’re so fond of that character,” said Javier Salas, a Spanish-language talk show host on Chicago radio station WRTO. “We respect him, we love him. And that’s why it’s so absurd for us to hear complaints from people who don’t know, don’t understand Memin.”

Wal-Mart has since pulled the books from their stores.

Community Comments

#1 Lar deSouza
July/10/2008
@ 11:43 am

So… they are saying it wouldn’t be racist if the character looked as generic as any other caucasian but with coloured skin in the comic? ….sigh…. People need to find better things to do with their time than entertain knee-jerk reactions.

#2 Chris Evans
July/10/2008
@ 12:33 pm

In this age of globalization, there will always be some stereotypes that do not translate between different cultures. I think this is what is happening, in this case. They have their history, we have our history — in our historical and cultural perspective this kind of characterization is taboo.

#3 Eric Burke
July/10/2008
@ 3:36 pm

So…Mexican people enjoy this character and see no offense, but a white(presumably) Irish woman sees offense and the books get pulled? Methinks she has a problem with Mexicans, not the artist of Memin Pinguin.

She sounds like a bored houswife looking for a purpose in life, most often, either bull**** like reiki, or in this absurd case, protesting something inconsiquential.

And who is this “Quannel X”? Sounds like a religious group. I’m going to have to google them.

What a sad sack this lady is, though. Get a life, woman…

#4 Eric Burke
July/10/2008
@ 3:48 pm

I didn’t read the full story before posting but the wikipedia entry for Memin says the shopper was black, so my bad.
In 2008, after complaints from an African-American shopper regarding what one news organization found to be Memin’s simian appearance and “Aunt Jemima-like mother,”, Memín books were pulled from Wal-Mart stores in Texas.[7] This came after the latest issue “Memin para presidente (Memin for President) was being sold in Wal-mart stores with a large hispanic base and potentially referring to the campaign by senator Obama.

#5 Eric Burke
July/10/2008
@ 4:06 pm

Man, I gotta read before I post. I get all fired up and can’t edit. Here’s the wiki info on Quannell X.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quanell_X

Is he the new Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton?

#6 Pab Sungenis
July/11/2008
@ 1:21 pm

In Mexico, Memin is loved almost as much as Calvin or Dennis the Menace is in the U.S. Readers have looked at him and Eufrosina (his “Aunt-Jemima” type mother) for ages and don’t see them as racist. They’re heroes, and aren’t written as racist, either.

This is what happens when one culture imposes its own opinions and values on a very different one.

#7 Mike Peterson
July/14/2008
@ 2:50 am

“This is what happens when one culture imposes its own opinions and values on a very different one.”

Well, yes, and there’s a lot of manga which is perfectly acceptable in Japan but that wouldn’t play at Wal-Mart, either, but that’s not necessarily a case of international culture clash so much as our own internal culture clash.

There are American movies and rock albums they don’t sell, too. Wal-Mart has a specific niche and it’s pretty G-rated and Disneyfied. Good place to get your Miley Cyrus gear and camo t-shirts, but, man, if everything you want is available at Wal-Mart, you’ve got some plain vanilla needs.

The comic isn’t banned in Texas. It just got kicked out of Wal-Mart, the store for bitter Americans.

#8 J.G. Moore
July/15/2008
@ 2:04 pm

Dude, Memin and Eufrosina ARE NOT heroes. Mexicans who say this are w-r-o-n-g. Mexicans must be really different than everyone esle on earth. Most human beings don’t present their heroes as minstrels.

Think about it, if you as a cartoonist were going to create a “hero” would you design your “hero” to look like Memin or Eufrosina? No.

Cartoons and intellectual property in general are not easy things to create. Every shape, line, color, and feature is deliberate.

D-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e.

Memin and Eufrosina look the way they do for a “deliberate” reason. Not to see or admit that is deliberately foolish and mean.

Mexicans often point to Speedy Gonzalez and say “look at Speedy, we don’t find him offensive.” I guess not, Speedy Gonzalez does not look like a damn fool! Speedy Gonzalez looks like the “cute” crafty, speedy trickster that he is.

Memin and Eufrosina look like animals.

Mexicans have a terrible racial history (Like the U.S.) that most people don’t know about. White Mexicans, and “wannabee” White Mexican’s are like many U.S. citizens in that they don’t want to even “think” about past transgressions, i.e. the way they mistreated Blacks and Native Peoples in the Americas.

Mexicans had/have a “downlow” caste system that in many ways is like South African apartheid.

http://k12west.mrdonn.org/ColonialMexico.html#CASTE

http://lawinmexico.sitespace.wvu.edu/home/2008/5/29/race-and-equality-in-mexico

I can’t “diss” the Mexicans “too” hard because THEY had a Black President:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicente_Guerrero

Bro. Guerrero even has a Mexican state named after him! Go Mexico! I hope the U.S. is next. Gobama.

So when Mexicans say ” we love and respect Memin and Eufrosina, they are kidding themselves.

We Americans have a part in all of this “Memin and Eufrosina” mess. Ebony White was a big influence in Memin’s creation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memin_Pinguin

It’s simple; no one likes to be disrespected. Memin is disrespectful to many people. It’s not that Americans who oppose Memin want to “trash” Mexican culture. We just need Mexicans to “step-up” and put Memin and Eufrosina in the “trash” where they belong.

#9 F. Galindo
August/19/2008
@ 8:47 pm

Memin Pinguin translates as Lil’ William the Menace. Memin is a diminutive of Memo, short for Guillermo. Pinguin is a diminutive of “Pingo” or little devil). These characters were created by the Cuban writer Yolanda Vargas Dulche. In Cuba and the Caribbean there is a large black population. That’s where the characters come from, from stereotypes in the Cuban culture of the 40’s and 50’s, similar to the ones in the US.
Since Mexico doesn’t have much black population, they were seen as something rare or abstract. People who identified with these characters were from a poor working class background. Originally the covers were in color and the interior comics in sepia tones. Only recently they were “colorized”. They were a kind of a weekly comic-telenovela, with a story to be continued every week. That way they hook the reader. In Mexico the Aunt Jemima stereotypes are seen as alien to the population, who suffers a distinct kind of racism (white, mestizo, indian, volumes have been written and will be about this without getting nowhere). A black character was therefore seen as something “cute”. They called them “negritos”.

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