[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Menín Pinguín and Racial Standards

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Menín Pinguín and Racial Standards

Mexican President Vicente Fox has gotten in some hot water recently with US politically-correct types (i.e. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton) with his remarks about Mexicans doing work in the U.S. that "not even blacks do". While Fox's use of blacks as a point of comparison may have been a bit inappropriate, it's hard to deny the veracity of his statement. He could have used a broader term to define those of generally lower income, instead of specifying a race or ethnic group, but I believe his statement meant no harm.

Raise your hand if you think we would've seen the same knee-jerk reaction if Fox would have replaced "black" with "Colombian" or "Puerto Rican"? I thought so.

Now Mexico is in trouble again for printing commerorative stamps of 1940's cartoon character Menín Pinguín. You see, Menín was black. The Miami Herald decided to write a short editorial blasting Mexico for these two "faux pas". The editorial points out that the character has "supersized lips and features that are the hallmark of racial stereotyping". Folks, it's a caricature. Would Al Pacino's Scarface character Tony Montana have been more "realistic" had he been of Nordic features?

A web search directed me to a blog called Random Stuff where the writer posts about Menín and the ridiculous backlash it has generated. It's worth a read, and it includes pictures of the Menín stamps. I will admit that I'm not familiar with the character, but my impression is that it's basically a Mexican version of Buckwheat from Little Rascals.

I really hate it when some Americans think it's right to impose their own cultural standards on others, regardless of race, ethnicity, history, etc. I think Mexicans might be similar to other Hispanics when it comes to dealing with other races. Not to say that racism doesn't exist in Hispanic cultures, but I think it's much more subtle and based more on social status than color. In Cuban culture it's rather common to hear people, especially the older generation, call their black friends "mi negrito" (my little black one) or something along those lines. And there's the late Cuban musician Ignacio Villa, better known as Bola de Nieve, which means snowball (as the picture in the link shows, he was black).

It's hypocritical. We stereotype all the time, especially in movies and sitcoms.

Next thing you know, we'll be removing Aunt Jemima's black face from syrup bottles and banning the production and sales of things such as this.


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