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Joaquin Camacho  in London, England
Latinos in London  on 2010-08-29

Mexico's Speedy Gonzales, the New face of Virgin Media UK

The “Fastest mouse in all Mexico”, makes his way to the UK for his Virgin Media UK advertising debut. Speedy Gonzales's The Looney Tunes animated creation's major traits are the ability to run extremely fast and speak with an exaggerated Mexican accent. With all stereotypical references set aside, "Speedy" was in fact the first point of contact with Mexico and Mexican culture for most European and North American children throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He usually wears an oversized yellow sombrero, white shirt and trousers, and a red kerchief, similar to that of a reveler in the traditional San Fermin festival. 

To date there have been 46 cartoons made either starring or featuring this character. Speedy debuted in 1953's Cat-Tails for Two, directed by Robert McKimson. This early Speedy was a meaner, skinnier, rattier-looking creation with a sizable gold front tooth. The name derives from a joke about a Mexican man nicknamed "Speedy" either because of his premature ejaculation or quick copulation, though the name of the character was not intended to be derogatory. 

London's Covent Garden welcomed a giant edible cheese billboard to launch the new ad campaign for Virgin Media. The ad stars cartoon Mexican mouse, Speedy Gonzales, as the face of Virgin's superfast broadband. Food artist Prudence Staite created the 5mx4m billboard using ten types of locally sourced cheese and black peppercorns. It took a team of 13 artists, ten days to create in a chilled studio. Arriba! 

The cartoon usually features Sylvester the Cat menacing a group of rats while guarding a cheese factory at the Mexican border. The rats call in the plucky, excessively energetic Speedy to save them, and amid cries of "¡Ándele! ¡Ándele! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!" (Spanish for "Go on! Go on! Up! Up!", although "Ándele arriba" may have been intended as meaning "hurry up") courtesy of Mel Blanc, Sylvester soon gets his comeuppance. The cartoon won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Short Subject. While Speedy's last name was given as Gonzalez in Cat-Tails (on a printed business card shown in the cartoon), it was spelled with an 's' from Speedy Gonzales onward. Today, the earlier spelling is occasionally used by accident.

Censorship and Racism against Mexicans

In 1999, the Cartoon Network ceased to air Speedy Gonzales. In an interview with Fox News on March 28, 2002, Cartoon Network commented, "It hasn't been on the air for years because of its ethnic stereotypes." This is widely believed to refer to Speedy's fellow mice, who are all shown as being very slow and lazy, and sometimes even appear intoxicated.

In Gonzales' Tamales, the town mice instigate a feud between Speedy and Sylvester the Cat because Speedy has been stealing the hearts of all the females. Much of the dialogue between Mexican characters is in English and the small amount of Spanish that peppers the dialogue consists of basic greetings, goodbyes, exclamations, and misplaced references to popular Mexican foods. This criticism prompted Cartoon Network to largely shelve Speedy's films when it gained exclusive rights to broadcast them in 1999. However, fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air and lobbying by the League of United Latin American Citizens saw the shorts return to air from 2002. Despite the controversy in the USA, Speedy Gonzales remains a very popular character in Latin America. In Mexico, the Speedy Gonzales show has been on and off part of the regular programing of Televisa's Canal 5 national channel ever since it was created. In 2010, a Looney Tunes New Year's Day marathon the Cartoon Network showed the episode "Mexican Boarders" having both Speedy and Slowpoke.

On the Looney Tunes Golden Collection the Speedy cartoons are prefaced by a disclaimer that states: The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the WB view of society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim these prejudices never existed.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0. The photograph at the top of this page is attributed to Warner Brother Inc.




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