A Little Bit of Juan Valdez in Every Can
Coffee growers in Colombia are pissed off and are going to sue. The cartoonist in question is Mike Peters for his strip Mother Goose and Grimm, and even though I do not know much about him I have to say I enjoy his drawing style. I also want to say in his defense, before I start to state my opinion that he said “he loves Colombia, his strip is being taken out of context because it is part of a series, and he always means to be humorous and not offend.”
Zapiro, a very famous political cartoonist in South Africa, has been drawing Nelson Mandela for years. He was recently interviewed by the BBC, and one of the things that surprised him is that Mandela actually followed him even when he was very critical of him. Mandela was even upset when he changed newspapers because he could not follow him every day now and called Zapiro. Mandela told Zapiro that he would never be offended because being a counter voice was his job.
Peters used a joke that I have heard before. That was my first thought when I saw the cartoon, that it was a little unoriginal. I am not saying I have heard every Colombian joke, but I have heard plenty. As an Immigrant I have always wanted to hear those kinds of jokes because I think they make me informed and give me an opportunity to tell the truth about a stereotype of a misconception.
Peters also is not a political cartoonist, and in that context bringing up violence in Colombia would probably have worked as satire. For a country that is working very hard to change its image, has the fastest growing economy of Latin America and its doing everything it can to stabilize itself a cartoon like this can be damaging. Unless it opens up the doors to conversation.
I think the coffee growers of Colombia are taking this opportunity to create a little publicity. I don’t think Peters meant any harm, and I hope that at the end of the day everyone that comes across the story can at least say they know a little more about this beautiful country where I was born.