Dear Mexican: Why did the Mexican comedian Cantinflas never catch on in Hollywood? I thought he was supposed to usher in the Mexican wave of actors and movies that would help transform Hollywood. —El Curioso
Dear Curious Gabacho: Do people even know who Cantinflas is anymore? For those of you not familiar with the actor, Cantinflas was Mexico’s Charlie Chaplin—wait, do people even know who Charlie Chaplin is anymore? For those of you not familiar with the actor, Charlie Chaplin was the greatest star of the silent-film era—wait, do people even know what silent films are anymore? Your pregunta is so wonderfully anachronistic.Cantinflas (born Mario Moreno) offers a valuable lesson to today’s Mexican thespians. Instead of accepting every stereotypical Mexican role Hollywood offered, Cantinflas signed on for only two: as the butler Passepartout in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, and the titular character in 1960’s Pepe. He drew praise for his acting in the first but bombed in the second, mostly because his verbal humor—a mishmash of double entendres, non sequiturs, and puns so genius it notched its own verb (cantinflear) in the Royal Academy of Spanish dictionary—couldn’t cross a linguistic comedy barrier. Realizing that the nuances of his craft were virtually impossible to translate, Cantinflas decided to focus on Mexican films . The lesson for today’s wabby Oliviers? Maintain your dignity, don’t sell off your talent for a cheap buck, and never offer your services for something called Beverly Hills Chihuahua—wait, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Paul Rodriguez, and George Lopez are starring in this fall flick? Virtually every modern-day Mexican actor that studios respect are willing to voice dogs?! Unless it’s a social satire on the level of The Importance of Being Earnest, this Disney movie seems like the worst Mexican disaster since NAFTA.
Dear Mexican: I’m a California white boy with many Mexican friends. In addition to that, I’ve been running a fantasy-baseball league for nine years. For the first time, we have a large percentage of Mexicans in our league—of the 14 teams, Mexicans run three of them, and one gabacho has a Mexican wife. One of those Mexican-run teams came up with the name “The Fence Hoppers.” As commissioner, I need to make sure other people don’t get bent out of shape over it. Should I be worried, or is it the equivalent of blacks dropping N-bombs on each other? You and Bud Selig are the only two people who can help me. —Dinger Donger
Dear Gabacho: First off, fuck Bud Selig—the man wouldn’t know how to run Major League Baseball if you gave him two balls and a Louisville Slugger. Considering that the sport features the Cleveland Indians, whose mascot is a grinning, red-skinned Injun named Chief Wahoo, and allows a team to ridiculously name itself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, “The Fence Hoppers” is benign—and, if anyone asks, say it refers to horsehides landing in the bleachers.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 20, 2008