We are delighted to host this event and to have so many friends of Mexico here with us this evening, to pay tribute to a one of a kind Mexican and an international icon.
I would first like to thank director Sebastian del Amo, producers Vidal Cantu, Adolfo Franco, and Alejandro Barron, as well as Carol, Jose, and Amy from Pantelion Films. I’d also like to thank Oscar Jaenada, the great Spanish actor who successfully took on the monumental challenge of personifying a complex, loved and revered character as Cantinflas. I know that Oscar did all he possibly could to be here today, but personal circumstances beyond his control prevented him from joining us but not from receiving our recognition. So thank you all for bringing us such a wonderful film about the man Charles Chaplin once called the “greatest comedian alive”.
You have just enjoyed a fantastic movie and heard from these fine panelists, and I know that –as Cantinflas would have put it- you are ready now for the “picky nicky” with some Mexican food and drinks, but you have no choice but to listen to me talk first.
Ahí está el detalle! , there’s the catch!.
For both, Mexicans and the rest of the world, Cantinflas is an emblem of Mexican identity, a sort of everyman who embodies many of our best values. He is clever, persistent, a risk taker, and an innovator. He faces adversity with good humor, optimism, and perseverance, all of which are sustained by a deep self-confidence and an unbreakable hope that his persistence will eventually prevail.
Cantinflas reminds us what it means to be Mexican, and he gives the rest of the world a view of who we are. But the appeal of Cantinflas goes beyond Mexico and, of course, deeper than just laughs. The situations in which he finds himself are universal—in the throes of an impossible love, confronting an uncaring bureaucracy, trying to show the world that he is something more than his limited station in society, even facing the eventuality of death. Cantinflas shows us how to meet those challenges with nobility, optimism, and a good sense of humor.
As is often the case with transcendent artists, it is difficult to determine where the fictional character ends and the artist as a person begins. In the case of Cantinflas and Mario Moreno, it goes even further than that. His uncanny ability to embody the national identity and influence that identity makes it impossible to find the point where Cantinflas as fiction ends and real life Mexicans begin.
Here in the United States, the spirit of Cantinflas is most perfectly captured by members of the Mexican immigrant community. They face adversity every day. Society often tries to tell them they cannot rise beyond their limited roles. And time and time again, Mexican immigrants in this country face those challenges with risk taking, hard work, persistence, innovation, and good humor. Their success in overcoming the obstacles placed in front of them is a testament to the Mexican values Cantinflas displays.
Mexico itself continues to face challenges as we move into a new, more international role in the 21st century. Some of those challenges are especially daunting, and some of the changes Mexico is experiencing have required very frank discussions about our future and how to get there. At times those discussions can get quite intense, and there is nothing wrong with that. Here, once again, we can learn from Cantinflas whose concern for social justice often led him to criticize the faults in Mexican government. But he showed us that engaging in such criticisms does not necessarily make us any less Mexican or any less patriotic, if, as he did, we do so with absolute commitment to the Mexican ideal, through a constructive and always peaceful approach.
In Mexico today, like Cantinflas, we continue to face enormous adversity but there are many reasons for optimism and hope. In the coming years, in part because of films like this one, I suspect that the world will come to know Mexicans a little bit better. And like Cantinflas, I have faith that the magic of Mexico and the hard work, persistence, and good humor of Mexicans will win the world over.
So ladies and gentlemen, without further delay, Mr. Director, because I wanted to say… and the producers also…that… this is the moment when I wanted to say, what I really wanted to say but not for the same because there are moments in life when you know what you know, and as you can imagine, because what you know, like in my case… what I know is that… Y ustedes que dijeron? No hay comida? Pues si hay comida chatas y chatos… Let’s eat!