Wal-Mart has jerked from its shelves a popular Mexican comic book that features Memin Pinguin after receiving a complaint from a Houston customer that it was racially biased. The latest issue of the comic, “Memin para presidente” (Memin for President), was being sold in select Wal-Mart stores that have a large Hispanic customer base, perhaps including in the Springdale and Rogers stores.
“We understand that Memin is a popular figure in Mexico,” the Bentonville-based Wal-Mart said in a statement last week. “However, given the sensitivity to the negative image Memin can portray to some, we felt that it was best to no longer carry the item in our stores. We apologize to those customers who may have been offended by the book’s images.”
Sixto Valencia Burgos, the artist who draws the strip, did not understand the fuss. He says he always made Memin “the good guy,” and that he even used the comic to protest American “racism.” In one episode from the 1960s, Memin and his friends travel to Texas, where a waitress tells him, “Here we don’t serve Negroes, Mexicans, or animals.” Memin’s friends stand by him and fight for him in the scuffle that follows.
This reminds me of the flap in 2005, when President George Bush and Jesse Jackson complained that Mexico had issued a series of commemorative stamps featuring Memin. The White House spokesman demanding political correctness complained that “Images like these have no place in today’s world.” Memin has been published since 1945, and only recently seemed to be a problem for Americans. Mexican President Vincente Fox said the cartoon was universally loved in Mexico, and that he himself was fond of it. He refused to consider having the stamp withdrawn. The first printing of 750,000 sold out in two days, and the price of a set of five reached 45 times face value on Ebay.
Has anyone ever seen a copy? If so, were you offended by a comic book? Was it because Memin had the audacity to run for President? Is that why it was deemed offensive and removed from Wal-Mart?