US Cartoon of Mexican Flag Draws Ire

Lauren Frayer, AOL News, Sept. 4, 2010

An American cartoonist’s rendition of the Mexican flag is causing controversy south of the border, where Mexicans say it’s offensive to taint their national symbol with images of drug violence.

Political cartoonist Daryl Cagle’s drawing, which ran on the front page of several Mexican newspapers this week, shows what’s normally a regal-looking eagle at the center of Mexico’s flag riddled with bullets and bleeding. It’s a reference to the drug wars that have riled Mexico and left more than 28,000 people dead there in less than four years.

“Editorial cartoonists look for readily recognizable metaphors and that’s an obvious one for Mexico,” Cagle told CNN.

But some Mexicans say they’re offended by the cartoon. Like the American flag, Mexico’s banner is a national symbol under which many soldiers and civilians have given their lives. They say Cagle overstepped his creative license in this case.

“It is a shame that a patriotic symbol like our flag, which is so beautiful to me, can be mocked by a stupid cartoonist,” one angry reader complained to the Mexican newspaper El Universal. “I think there are many other ways to graphically protest what’s happening in our country.”

The Mexican Embassy in Washington weighed in on the issue, with a spokesman Ricardo Alday saying Thursday that Mexico “respects and defends freedom of speech and freedom of expression” but “differs” with Cagle “on the use he makes of the Mexican flag and the message it conveys.”

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On his blog, Cagle acknowledged that many people consider his cartoon “scandalous” and that it “struck a nerve with Mexican readers.” He said he’s received some “interesting, outraged emails” from readers.

“I think your idea of bringing the violence in Mexico to light is excellent. Too bad you butchered it along with the Mexican Flag,” Ramon De Leon wrote on Cagle’s blog comments section. “Laws in Mexico with regards to the use and depiction of the flag are in place to prevent this sort of stuff. Please consider taking it down and issuing an apology to the Mexican American community.”

Cagle has not yet issued any apology, and newspapers continue to reprint his cartoon despite the controversy. The cartoonist also sought to defend his choice of material as a freedom that comes with his profession.

“National flags are common fodder for editorial cartoonists around the world, so the reaction to this cartoon was surprising to me,” Cagle wrote.

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