The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
When the Mexican Consulate’s Vice Counsel asked me if I wanted to meet a famous Mexican cartoonist who was coming to town, I jumped at the chance. For me, Latin America’s cartoonists consistently create the most striking work this side of Goya’s inkwell. Angel Boligan, Helioflores and Quino are my favorites.
And Trino, our guest? He is just wonderfully funny.
First, lunch with Mr. Vice Counsul. I arrived at the Consulate, an impressive modern multi-storied edifice, and was escorted upstairs. “Vice Counsel Enrique A. Gómez Montiel?”
“Call me Enrique.”
I’m calling you educated, suave and stylish. I liked the John Travolta “Pulp Fiction” ponytail. “Would you like to tour the consulate?”
The floor above us surprised me. “So many people! Looks like a call center.”
“We have more than 50 operators. They answer over 1,500 calls a day, from all over the United States. Everything from questions about SB 1070 … to help finding a loved one.”
A map of our border, sliced into sectors, spanned the length of the wall.
We took the stairs up. “Meet Jerónimo García-Ceballos, Departamento de Protección. Legal Affairs Department.” The patient man stood behind his desk, which was covered with file folders and a curious shoebox-sized white box. “Con much gusto. I identify remains found in the desert and return them to their familias.”
I glanced below at an open folder and saw the license of a nice looking man, paper-clipped to a horrifying photograph of a desiccated skeleton. The pleasant man in the license was a world away from his grisly end. Jerónimo handed me the white box. “The cremains of a young woman.” It was heavy, carrying all the weight of needless loss, dithering, cruelty and scapegoating. On the wall a lone battered rosary hung from a pushpin.
Over lunch, Enrique and I concluded our world is reeling from globalization, which political forces are exploiting, in a divisive, and destructive attempt to reverse the irreversible. We also concluded gyros are delicious, Enrique’s love of playing rugby is insane and our kids rock.
Thursday morning I met José Trinidad Camacho Orozco, “Trino,” for coffee. He had more pens than names. (My family teases me for carrying too many pens. A good cartoonist never travels unarmed.)
In his suit, Enrique, looked like a cartoonist’s bodyguard. Trino’s handsome, a 50-something dimpled Don Quixote. Did you and I sit next to each other in the 3rd grade and get into trouble for drawing the same teacher? Trino’s famous for his irreverence. His best known character, “El Santo”, is anything but a saint. “Fábulas de Policías y Ladrones”, fables of cops and thieves, is an irreverent take on law and order. Our conversation bounces. “I live in Chapala,” he chuckles, “People move there and forget to die.” Sun City did not come to mind. I swear.
“My dad was a dentist. He worried about me.”
“The master sergeant suggested I’d have better luck carving gargoyles, at all the cathedrals you don’t see ‘anywhere-around-here-anyplace-ever’.”
We are twins living parallel lives. Trino does TV. Trino does radio. Trino does standup. I do radio. I do TV. I do standup. Trino is discerning. Trino is delightful. And he draws fast. And, like Trino, I draw fast.
At this point we inexplicably think we’re both hilarious.
We do not impress our kids. We feel compelled to draw. And we are proud to be cheerfully childlike. Trino had three wives. Fourth time’s a charm for me. Trino smiles. “My wife is a child psychologist.” Perfect. She has to be.
“Visit again, mi amigo, for fun. Stay in touch. We can scheme on hosting a trans-national humor festival.” Enrique, his bodyguard, liked the idea.
On Thursday Trino did a “Brown bag and Coffee” lecture at the university. On Friday, at the Center for Creative Photography he discussed his animated movie, “El Santos versus la Tetona Mendoza”. “Tetona” means “Busty.” So juvenile. So childish. So kindred. The subtitles tickled my ribs.
“Do your characters say things you would never dare to say aloud yourself?” Absolutely. Trino is kind, gentle and intelligent. His characters are unkind, rude and witless. They possess one saving grace. Like Trino, they’re always funny. “I had 10 aunts and uncles growing up in Guadalajara. They were all funny.“
On Thursday night I returned to the consulate to hear my long lost younger brother speak. As I sat among the guests I thought of the picture in the file folder on the desk of García-Ceballos, upstairs, a ghost above our warm fellowship and laughter. The man looked so familiar. With a joke and laugh Trino brought me back to the present. And the recognition we are all next of kin.