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Wed, 06.29.2005

Memín Pinguín stamps issued in Mexico

On this date in 2005, the Mexican government issued postage stamps of Memín Pinguín.

Memín Pinguín was created by the late Yolanda Vargas Dulchéis.  Memin Pinguín is a Black comic personality whose cartoons have been published throughout Mexico and other Latin countries since 1943 in various publications.  Stories feature him as a very poor Afro Mexican boy who is often taunted and laughed at. The original character, known as Memín Pingo by some Mexicans, was changed to Pingüín when they found that the word was slang for "penis" in some countries.

Memín was first featured in the 1940s in a comic book and was later given his own magazine.  The character originally was created by Alberto Cabrera in 1943, and later was drawn by Sixto Valencia Burgos.  Burgos exaggerated the character via the instruction of Dulché.  He also cites Ebony White as an influence. The original series had 372 chapters printed in sepia, and it was republished in 1952 and 1961. In 1988, it was re-edited, colorized, and in 2004 was re-edited again. Burgos still works on the comic, updating the drawings for the renditions.

The stories include comedy and soap opera elements.  In one issue, Memín, having read that Cleopatra took milk baths to lighten her skin, tries the same treatment.  His mother cried because her son wanted to change his skin color.  A repentant Memín decides to be proud of his race and color to honor his good mother.  In another, Memín decides not to take communion after a cruel boy tells him Blacks aren't allowed in Heaven, pointing to the lack of Black angels in religious paintings as proof.  Memín reasons that, since he's going to Hell anyway, he can do any mischief he wants.  This prompted some Roman Catholic priests to boycott the magazine.

After sales plummeted, the authors and illustrators published an issue in which Memín takes communion and dreams of becoming an angel.

In addition to Mexico, Memín remains a popular magazine in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Colombia, the Philippines, and other countries. At its peak, it had a weekly circulation of one and a half million issues in Mexico; as of mid-2005 it sold over 100,000 issues a week.

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