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Thursday, 13 February 2020

Historietas y Tebeos - Comics in Mexico

Since the Spanish-speaking world covers everything from Spain itself to the whole of South and Central America that isn't Brazil or French Guyana, I am going to focus on the comics of one country for starters: Mexico.

When looking for the roots of Mexican satirical cartoons one place to begin may someone like the nineteenth century political lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913). Posada's influence was of course not just confined to cartoonists but also extended to the wider culture, perhaps most notably to the muralists that emerged after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 

Figures like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Fernando Leal, not mention the iconic surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, often referenced some of the same cultural iconography that Posada had popularised years earlier, and they certainly shared similar politics. 

One of Posada's iconic characters

A later artist to draw upon the political radicalism of Posada and the muralists was the cartoonist Eduardo del Rio (better known by his pen name Rius) (1934-2017). "Rius" created satirical comic strips in the 1960s like 'Los Agachados' as well as many books that reflected his left-wing sympathies and critique of the Catholic church, of which he was a member for many years. His 1981 book El manual del perfecto ateo (The Handbook for the Perfect Atheist) even got him excommunicated, while his history of the Catholic Church probably didn't help things either. Its called Pope Puree (which I understand is a kind of play on words of the Spanish term for "mashed potatoes"). 
Rius also carries the curious distinction of being the first author outside of the Soviet bloc to be published by Izvestia.

"Drugs: The U.S.A's Big Business"
(a cover for Los Agochados de Rius)

One of his most widely read books is Marx para principiantes (Marx for Beginners) which helped launch the whole "for beginners" genre.
Rius remained active for most of his life, helping launch the magazine El Chamuco in 1996 with other creators like El Fisgon, although sadly this version of the magazine folded in 2000 before its eventual re-launch in 2007. 

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