Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mexico's black minority demands apology for "monkey-like" comic stamps

Mexico's tiny black community demanded Monday that President Vicente Fox apologize for a set of stamps featuring a black comic book figure that U.S. civil rights groups have slammed as racist.

The Asociacion Mexico Negro, which represents some 50,000 blacks living on the Pacific coast, said in a letter to Fox that Memin Pinguin, a 1940s comic book character drawn with thick lips and a flat nose, was stereotypical and racist.

"Memin Pinguin rewards, celebrates, typifies and cements the distorted, mocking, stereotypical and limited vision of black people in general," said the letter signed by leaders of the association.

The letter marks the first official complaint from a Mexican group over the stamps, which went on sale last week and provoked a storm of controversy in the United States. U.S. civil rights groups said they should be withdrawn.

Fox has said the stamps are not racist and ignored calls to pull them from circulation. His Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said the affair was exaggerated by "specific groups in the United States who make a living from this kind of scandal."

"They look more ridiculous than we do," he said in a radio interview.

Political correctness is barely existent in Mexico, where there are few black immigrants, Caucasians are commonly addressed as "Guero" ("Whitey") and dark-skinned locals are nicknamed "Morenito" or "Negro" without causing offense.

Generations of Mexicans grew up reading the cartoon strip escapades of Memin Pinguin, a mischievous black boy whose looks and monkey-like antics are endearing but embody outdated ideas about blacks, like many comic books of the time.

Story here.

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