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Posted by on Jun 30, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

New Mexican Stamp Blasted As Offensive To Blacks

Mexican President Vicente Fox better get ready for another phone call from the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

First, Fox proved himself not-so-foxy when he stepped in it after making a comment widely labelled as racist about blacks. And now his government has issued a stamp with artwork that looks as if someone copied a program from a minstrel show in America at the turn of the century — the turn of the 20th century.

But, hey, there can’t be anything offensive about it: it’s just from an old Mexican comic strip…

It all seems supremely ironic: the government of Mexico has issued a stamp with a cartoon that suggests racial stereotyping and a total lack of racial sensitivity. And the offense (when you see the cartoon) isn’t overblown PC. So fasten your seatbelts, THIS controversy has yet to reach its peak:

The Mexican government has issued a postage stamp depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox angered U.S. blacks.

The series of five stamps released for general use Wednesday depicts a child character from a comic book started in the 1940s that is still published in Mexico.

The boy, hapless but lovable, is drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book.

Activists said the stamp was offensive, though officials denied it.

“One would hope the Mexican government would be a little more careful and avoid continually opening wounds,” said Sergio Penalosa, an activist in Mexico’s small black community on the southern Pacific coast.

“But we’ve learned to expect anything from this government, just anything,” Penalosa said. In May, Fox riled many by saying that Mexican migrants take jobs in the United States that “not even blacks” want.

Fox expressed regret for any offense the remarks may have caused, but insisted his comments had been misinterpreted.

Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican Postal Service, said the stamps are not offensive, nor were they intended to be.

“This is a traditional character that reflects part of Mexico’s culture,” Caballero said. “His mischievous nature is part of that character.”

Oh, really? TMV as a reporter did several projects dealing with the Latino populations while working on the Wichita Eagle in Kansas and on the San Diego Union here. In each case the issue of cartoon stereotyping of Latinos came up. The typical cartoon of the Mexican covered by a sombrero taking a siesta came up. Hollywood depictions of Hispanics came up. Hollywood depictions of how Mexicans were portrayed in Western and historical movies came up.

Mexican officials at the consulate in San Diego would often talk about the importance of improving the Mexican and Latino images.

And, of course, some years ago there was that monster controversy about how the Warner Brothers cartoon Speedy Gonzales, with the voice made by notably non-Latino voice-over great Mel Blanc, was terribly racist (you don’t see many Speedy Gonzales cartoons on TV anymore). And the Frito Bandito? Fahgettabouddit..

PS: PLEASE, government of Mexico, don’t do a stamp honoring people of my religion. Spare us the cherished cartoon of Pinnochio eating bagel.


American Digest:In a post titled Tia Jemima: Stamps from the Land of Day Labor writes:”Is it too much to hope that the United States issues a similar tribute using, say, Gordo and Speedy Gonzales?”
Angela Winters:”So, from this article photo, which is a new Mexican stamp, I can only assume that Mexico has a rather low opinion of us black folks. Okay that might be an exaggeration, but even removing the deceptive veil of political correctness doesn’t keep this from being offensive. I bet President Fox ordered (it) in bulk.
Michelle Malkin has EXCELLENT links and a roundup and writes:”You’d think there would be more of an uproar about this. President Bush likes to recite his empty platitude that “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande. Neither, apparently, does old-fashioned bigotry.”
John Cole:”Which just goes to show how silly I am- a story about an allegedly racist stamp and all I can think about is how government is the same everywhere.”
La Shawn Barber:

I wasn’t going to blog about this because it nauseates me, then I changed my mind….Whenever I see racist caricatures of blacks from back in the day, I cringe. To think there was a time in the U.S. when whites openly mocked and ridiculed blacks with these exaggerated stereotypes, and blackface comedy was all the rage. Ironically (and sadly), blacks also performed in blackface. To see it in 2005 coming from any country or anyone raises my blood pressure.

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