>>From KHOU staff reports
HOUSTON– Shawnedria McGinty was not sure what to think when she saw the comic book series Memin Pinguin on shelves at her local Wal-Mart. After flipping through the popular Mexican comic book, one word came to mind –racist.
OK, is it a monkey or a boy? … So, I opened the book up,” she said. “This is, you know, rude.”
Historically, Memin Pinguin has been hugely popular on newsstands in Mexico and Latin America and has sales in the millions. Originally published in the 1960s, it was recently re-issued and available in Wal-Marts north of the border.
“They are calling him names. They call him an animal in one section. His mom is spanking his butt and it looks like they are drowning him,” said McGinty, who went so far as to buy a Spanish dictionary to better understand the comic books.
She found one passage particularly offensive. In the frame, Memin Pinguin is being kicked by a light-skinned man and called “a black troublemaker.”
Activist Quanell X said the problem with the book is more than just words.
“This is poking fun at the physical features of an entire people. Making them look buffoonish (and) portraying the young (black) kid as stupid,” said Quanell. “Whenever they are beating him, they are referring to him as Negro. Even here when he is being punched, slapped (he is called) Negro.
“This is a disgrace.”
Calls to Wal-Mart’s corporate offices were not returned.
This is not the first time Memin Pinguin has stirred up controversy. The character spurred debate in 2005 when the Mexican government issued a stamp commemorating Memin.
At the time, many U.S. activists and political figures called the character racist. The Mexican government said Americans did not understand Memin’s cultural significance in Mexico.
That debate spurred the publisher to re-issue the old comics in a collector’s series available for purchase in the United States as well as Mexico