Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cartoon Delights Mexicans, Offends African-Americans

MEXICO CITY -- Just weeks after President Vicente Fox made an offhand remark that angered many African-Americans, the Mexican government has taken another action that shows the gulf in racial sensibilities between the countries: It put cartoon caricatures of a black boy on a series of stamps.

Mexican postal officials on Tuesday unveiled the series of five stamps, a total of 750,000 stamps, depicting a character known as Memin Pinguin, a broadly drawn comic figure with thick lips, big eyes and protruding ears.

Created in 1943, the comic-book character was inspired by a Cuban child, its creators said. He is well intentioned but hapless, and his mannerisms and speech reinforce 1940s stereotypes of blacks as lazy, mischievous and uneducated, anthropologists and civil rights advocates say.

The new stamps immediately drew sharp criticism from civil rights leaders in the United States, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who said they demeaned black people around the world and called on Fox to withdraw them.

Later on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Mexican ambassador to the United States suggested that U.S. civil rights leaders were overreacting.

"Memin Pinguin is a character like Speedy Gonzalez, created in the 1940s," the spokesman, Rafael Laveaga, said in a statement. "Just as Speedy Gonzalez has never been interpreted in a racial manner by the people in Mexico, because he is a cartoon character, I am certain that this commemorative postage stamp is not intended to be interpreted on a racial basis in Mexico or anywhere else."

The release of the stamps comes only a month after Fox drew fire from African-American leaders in the United States, including Jackson, for suggesting that Mexican migrants are willing to take jobs that "not even blacks" want.