Thursday, August 31, 2006


El humor politico es ataque, batalla, desahogo!
Political Humor is attack, battle, relief!----Miguel Angel Montoya, award winning Honduran Cartoonist & Bey Avendaño Honduran Cartoonist

Political Cartoons in Honduras

Photographer: Danielle Roper

Above are photos of Miguel Angel Montoya & Bey Avendano as well as Montoya's first cartoon in El Cronista
A political cartoonist is different from other cartoonists who draw for kids, for tv or comic books because the political cartoonist must capture and critique social reality in one image. Hence, a cartoon is often a million words spoken through an image. During my time in Honduras I met with four cartoonists, one of whom is Miguel Angel Montoya. Miguel Angel Montoya is one of Honduras’ first and greatest cartoonists. He started out in the 30s and published cartoons in El Cronista under a fake name when the Military was in control of the country. He was recently recognized and awarded a prize in 2002 for all his work and contribution not only to the art of political humor but also for his revolutionary and radical criticisms of the authoritarian regimes in the mid 20th century. After my conversation with him and two other cartoonists: Bey Avendaño and Napoleon Han, I have come to the following conclusions about the function of political cartoons:
Firstly, political cartoons are the most common and widespread form of political humor in Central America. They appear practically everywhere: in grafitti, on the back of cars, in newspapers, in magazines, posters etc. This has been important for each of the cartoonists with whom I spoke about spreading their messages and mobilizing people. What is so important about cartoonists as against comedians on tv or radio is the fact that anyone can understand a cartoon: a deaf person, a child, an adult etc. Bey Avendaño told me that the only person he feels he is unable to reach with his cartoon is a blind person but with a little help, he says, he will figure out how to do a cartoon in Braille. Also, for people like Montoya, the use of cartoons was important because he could use them to critique the military regimes in power under the pretext that cartoons are not supposed to be taken seriously. Therefore, the advantages of political cartoons are its accessibility and the protection that the art itself can sometimes provide for the cartoonist.

Secondly, political cartoons function as a means of helping literacy in small towns in Central America. For example, both Miguel Angel Montoya and Bey Avendaño grew up in poor communities where most of the people around them could not read. This explains the limited dialogues in the cartoons in Honduras. Even in Nicaragua, which is a poorer country in Central America, you will probably find more dialogue in the cartoons than you can find in Honduran cartoons. Napoleon Han told me that knowing when to use words in your cartoon, and when not to, is the key to becoming a good cartoonists and the key to getting the poorest of the poor on your side. For instance, when Avendaño and Montoya drew a cartoon, they would use one word and the people who couldn’t read would ask “What does that word mean” and they could associate the image in the cartoon with a word and learn to read at least one word that way. For them, this was a way of helping to make people in poor communities literate. This is important because according to both Avendaño and Montoya, critiquing institutions of power is not enough; cartoonists must find a way to be part of the process of solving the problem.
Thirdly, political cartoons are important ways of recording the history of each country. The images that I saw from Montoya’s work tell you what exactly was happening at the time to how times have changed. He also says, that while some of the presidents during the time of conflict are dead, his cartoons live on and by the very least, if you don’t know the president’s policy at that time, you can still laugh at the "pendejo" (assh*le—please see footnote)

One of the major challenges facing political cartoonists today in Honduras is the fact that they are undervalued and earn very little. However, Avendaño says that this has proven advantageous for him because he is able to stay in touch with the people. So he takes the bus, he doesn’t drive, he lives in a relatively poor neighborhood and people have approached him saying “why don’t you do a cartoon about this or that etc?” and he’ll do it and that very person will feel like his voice was actually heard. Essentially, a political cartoonist cannot be out of touch with the people if he is to speak for them.
Consequently, a political cartoonist has a responsibility to the people which is why people like Montoya and Avendano stand so adamantly against the increasing commercialization of political cartoons in Honduras and Central America. In one of Honduras’ presidential elections in the early 1990s, politicians hired young cartoonists to draw and publish images of them to get the vote of poor people. One presidential candidate continuously used the image of “El Guapo” (The Handsome One) with a strong muscular arm reaching for Juana Catracha the damsel in distress. (see footnote). This helped his campaign and he actually won and served as one of Honduras’ most corrupt presidents of all time. For Avendaño and Montoya, this is the most harsh and obvious misuse of the art of political cartoons. The offer of thousands of dollars to cartoonists from these presidential campaigns is a way of keeping cartoonists quiet about the problems in the country. Avendaño says that there is nothing he can actually do about this problem other than to remain true to the people as “un caricaturista combativo.” (combative cartoonist)


*I have spelt the word Assh*le with an asterick because my mommy and daddy read this blog and it is wrong to swear in front of them…but would you like to buy a vowel?

*Juana Catracha and Juan Catracho are the characters cartoonists use to represent the Honduran people. Catracho is the popular/slang word in Central America for Honduran.
© Danielle Roper

Fav Quote of the week in Honduras

Fav Quote of the week: Hay algunos caricaturistas hondureños que dibujan los políticos como animales. A mi no me gusta dibujar los políticos con caras de animales, no me gusta hacer una crítica tan fuerte. Yo prefiero hacer una crítica más sutil… para no ofender a los animalistas...claro.
There are some Honduran Cartoonists that draw politicians as animals. I don’t like to draw politicians as animals (in my cartoons) because I don’t like to make such a harsh criticism. I prefer more subtle criticisms… so as not to offend the animal rights activists, of course!---Napoleon Han, Honduran cartoonist

Clarification of "the Beginning

In my very first post entitled, “The Beginning” I encouraged everyone to read up about the middle east. I said that if you do read about the region you will be surprised that Chicken Soup for the Terrorist Soul does not appear on your reading list. Since the publication of that post, a number of you have contacted me asking if this book actually exists. I would just like to clarify that (fortunately) this book does NOT actually exist. However, if you are interested in learning about the day to day life of a terrorist, please check out (scroll down)
Just to avoid any more confusion: is not a real website


Political Humor definition:
El humor politico es la crítica al sistema de forma chistosa.
Political humor is a criticism of the system done in a funny way
---Luis Enrique Calderon, El gran Imitador y humorista Nicaraguense (The great Nicaraguan Imitator/comedian)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nicaragua take 1: Lights, Camera Action!!

Nicaragua take 1: lights camera action!
Political humour must represent social reality in order for its critique of institutions of power to be legitimate. Case in point:
There is a muppet show featured on local television entitled Los Hulosos written and produced by one of Nicaragua’s cartoonist Manuel Guillén.. In one episode he had the muppet character President Bolaños responding to critics at a muppet press conference declaring that we ought not to worry about the national debt and the state of the country. As soon as he says this, there is a power cut and total darkness in the scene. The president comes back with a candle and continues talking about how things are going so well in the country and commends the increasing affordability of candles. So I think…haha pretty funny.
Two days after I see this episode I go to the local club Chamán with two friends. It’s a Saturday night, the music is pretty good, its loud, everybody’s dancing, drinking and having a good time. Everybody is singing along to the song “Rompe, Rompe, Rompe” and then all of a sudden the lights go out and the music stops…I kid you not, there was a power cut at the club. I am sitting there like a typical foreigner shocked out of mind but then I saw the workers light the candles at every corner of the club and continue serving beer. Not only were they prepared for this but also everybody just continued talking and chilling like nothing happened. Twenty minutes later the lights come back on and the party continues. I guess Manuel Guillén was on point. Say it with me: W-O-W!

If you speak Spanish the link to Los Hulosos is:
The shows’ episodes is on the right side of the page
In the mean time, Nicaragua take one: Lights..ahh lights??…ahh LIGHTS?!!

My fav quote

In case you don’t already know, Nicaragua’s general elections will take place on November 5 so there is no shortage of political humor in Managua at this time. Every politician has a new promise and a catchy campaign slogan. My favourite slogan which has won the competition for my favourite quote of the week is the MRS presidential candidate El Mundo Jarquín’s campaign slogan: “Soy feo pero no ladrón”---I may be ugly but I’m not a thief…” "Vota por el Feo que quiere una Nicaragua linda---Vote for the ugly dude who wants a pretty nicaragua"
And yes, he is ugly. I guess its the kinda ugliness we just had to talk about. My interview with the head of his campaign management team headed by a Costa Rican comedian is forthcoming….