Condorito (Spanish for little condor) is a Chilean comic-book and comic-strip character created by cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger, also known as Pepo. Condorito was born when Pepo watched the Disney’s 1942 animated motion picture Saludos Amigos and felt displeased with the way Chile was represented in the movie: a small airplane called Pedrito (supposedly named after Chilean president Pedro Aguirre Cerda) that attempts to fly over the Andes to pick up mail in neighboring Mendoza, Argentina.

Condorito was born in 1949 as a single-page comic strip in the magazine Okey, published by Editorial Zigzag. By 1955, when the first compilation of Condorito comic strips was published, the character had attained its final form, that of a slender, wingless humanized condor. Unlike the Disney universe, its defining feature from the very start has been the fact that its main character is the only anthropomorphic animal in most strips—with the single exception of his nephew, Coné (a young condor). The comic strip habitually takes place in the fictional town of Pelotillehue, where Condorito lives in the occasional company of his girlfriend, an attractive woman called Yayita, and Coné, as well as a number of friends, like Don Chuma, a tall, kind man; Garganta de Lata (literally, “tin throat”), a redheaded alcoholic; Ungenio González, a rather slow-witted friend (the name is a play on “a genius” instead of “Eugene”); Huevoduro (hard egg), a pale, egg-headed buddy; Chuleta (“sideburn,” in Chilean slang), a happy man with a mustache, sideburns, and huge teeth; and Comegato (cat-eater), a friend with feline features, usually attired with a turtle-neck and a beret. Condorito’s recurrent nemesis is Pepe Cortisona, customarily referred to as “el pesado,” i.e., “the arrogant one.” When he competes with Condorito for Yayita’s affection, Cortisona habitually relies on looks, money, or physical strength, in sheer contrast of values to the main character, which despite his poverty and poor physical shape prioritizes wit and humor. Two other staples of the strip are the local newspaper, called El Hocicón (The Big Snout) and street graffiti, usually claiming “Muera el Roto Quezada” (Death to the hick Quezada), an inside joke related to a military officer who once mistreated Pepo’s wife.

As character, Condorito is laidback and easygoing. However, when he faces challenges in life, resolution usually comes in the form of wit and not through effort or hard work, thus giving way to a joke. In this sense, he is the quintessential antihero, never taking himself or others very seriously. Jokes usually end with the character that serves as butt of the joke falling backwards, always accompanied by the onomatopoeic sound “¡Plop!” Thematically speaking, Condorito reflects conservative mores. Many of the strip’s jokes rely on sexism or are deeply chauvinistic, with women recurrently represented as hysterical beings. Racial representations are equally problematic, with individuals of African descent portrayed as cannibals. In terms of coloring, the strip is limited to red, brown, pink, black, white, and grey, with very sporadic use of green.

Condorito is published as a strip and comic book in many countries of the world, at an alleged daily publication rate of 4 million copies. It has been exported since 1979, when its first international edition was published in Argentina. Televisa, the Mexican media conglomerate, holds its rights since 2009, with around 14 million issues in sale per year.

Further Reading

  • Fernández L’Hoeste, Héctor and Juan Poblete, eds. Redrawing The Nation: National Identity in Latin/o American Comics. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • http://www.condorito.cl/
  • Lent, John A. Cartooning in Latin America. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005.