Category Archives: Mexico

Chupacabras: Into the belly of the beast

Bicycling recently had an interesting article by Lou Mazzante about a crazy bike race held in Ciudad Juárez every October called Chupacabras. The 100-km-long mountain bike race draws as many as 3,600 riders and 45,000 spectators for one of the longest single-day bike competitions in the world. The course itself runs through both the city and surrounding desert and features some pretty harsh terrain—both urban and mountainous. But hey, it’s only $30 to participate, and the event is a source of pride for the city.

One of the coolest things about the race is that the riders themselves include everyone from professionals like Tinker Juarez to total amateurs. Here’s Mazzante’s description of a participant named Domingo Brito.

I met the short, wide-eyed man yesterday at registration. Huge bar-ends protruded from his handlebar and pegs the size of beer cans extended from this rear axle. His chrome bike cost maybe $100 new, and new was a long time ago. Even more improbable than his bike was Brito’s right shoe, which had a protrusion of its own: 3-inch-thick orthotic sole, the result of a broke femur 22 years ago that left one leg shorter than the other.

I’m not a mountain biker myself, but it was nice to read something about Cd. Juárez that wasn’t about kids getting killed at a high school party by a drug cartel or the discovery of a mass grave in the desert filled with missing female factory workers.

Nuestro superhéroe…¡El Dorado!

I could pay my mortgage with the money I’d make if got $1 for every cheap attempt at diversity made in television. One of my favorite blatant attempts at courting a specific demographic is from my childhood when the Hanna-Barbera television program Super Friends added the Latino character El Dorado to the show.

Super Friends was basically an all-star team of superheroes from DC Comics banded together to fight crime, evil scientists, etc. It included Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman at its core, and some version of the show ran on Saturday morning television between 1973-1986 (the title changed a few times along the way, and the superhero line up varied as well).

In order to spice up (ha! ha!) the formula the geniuses at Hanna-Barbera decided to add a character of their own making in 1981 that had never appeared in any DC Comics publications—the mysterious El Dorado. Now there are several wonderfully awful things about this character:

1. He spoke a heavily accented form of English and punctuated most of his lines with “sí,” “amigo,” rápido,” or “muy bien.” Similarly, I have a habit of injecting words like “yes” and “friend” into sentences when I’m speaking Spanish with someone. It’s only natural.

2. He seemed to appear only when the Super Friends needed help in a Latin American country or they were dealing with some piece of Latin American culture…say a stolen Mayan artifact from Metropolis’ anthropology museum. However, El Dorado himself seemed fairly ignorant of Latin American culture and history. Often he would say something like, “this is a mysterious artifact of my people,” when explaining to the rest of the gang what something was.

3. His powers were ambiguous and never clearly defined. And the ones that were apparent sucked. His most used skill was transporting himself through space, along with anything else wrapped inside of his cape. We knew he was teleporting because little speckles of light appeared where his body once was. He also had some sort of ability to create illusions. I mean, I’d love to be able to create illusions myself, but when you compare that with Superman’s strength and X-ray vision, it’s pretty weak.

4. His name. El Dorado? Give me a break.

Here’s his first appearance on the show. You’ll quickly see what I mean about the lack of cultural understanding—keep an ear out for the phrase “these are the mysterious ruins of my people.”

Despite the shallow character development (or perhaps because of it), El Dorado has become a bit of a cult favorite, even though he has never appeared in any DC Comics. Later this year, Mattel is releasing an El Dorado figure in its DC Universe Classics line of toys. And like the original animated character, he has NO nipples! ¡Muy bien, amigo!