Rius was Mexico; Mexico produced rius. He was the grand old man of Mexican political satire. Born in Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico, Eduardo del Rio García, or “rius” (1934-2017), was an artist and social critic. In my opinion, the lower case “r” suggest his humility. He was a modern Diogenes for his times. Rius’s apodo or pen name was developed from his father’s sur-name, del Rio. He chose it primarily to save his saintly, long-suffering mother the pain of knowing her wayward son had renounced his religious training and was drawing “dirty” left-wing pictures. 
Rius was an artist, social critic, author, humorist, amateur sociologist, political activist, even ersatz philosopher. His drawings, words and ideas illuminate his contributions to the literary and political realms. Those creations range from the monitos (cartoon drawings) of Los Supermachos (extra macho or manly characters) to exquisitely drawn, Escher-like symbols and sophisticated, written text. Long overdue is an introduction to his commentary and caricatures, especially for the academic and general audience in the United States. This essay for IberoAtzlan relies on my book-length manuscript. I am hopeful this offering is a step in that direction.
I began the research for this exposition of works by rius in 1964. I was entranced after first reading. I began a series of interviews with him. That relationship, over decades, grew into a close friendship. The daunting task upon which I embarked, reviewing the more than one hundred books rius had to his credit, has been its own reward.
I found rius’s first book, Cuba Para Principiantes (Cuba for Beginners), for sale, literally lying on the street, typical in Mexico, much like ancient Aztec markets. It was strewn among other novelas, comics and historietas (short stories) beloved in Mexico.
What caught my eye was his non-capitalized name and, of course, his drawings–colorful, clever and compelling. He had, by then, a huge following for his comics, especially Los Supermachos and Los Agachados–”The Submissive Ones.” Rius always was drawn to (and had drawn) the underdog, “los de abajo.”
Rius’s body of work was invariably on the side of the poor, Indigenous peoples, and the working class. It was quite cynical about and critical of authoritarian aspects of Mexican government. Rius achieved notoriety despite—or because of—troublesome times in Mexico, corruption in need of exposure and ridicule. Rius filled that need.
Rius was proud of being awarded the Grand Prix de Montreal in 1968. His winning cartoon was aimed at the U.S. and its armed invasion in Southeast Asia. A tiny Viet Cong shot darts at an American soldier who was carrying the entire U.S, society and business culture in his backpack. Such views about U.S. imperialism were based on the history of U.S. invasions of Mexico.
Rius also won the Global 500 prize, awarded by the Organization of American States (OAS) “in defense of the environment.” He became very involved with green activists, such as the Grupo de Cien, still fighting to save the forests and Monarch butterflies of his native Michoacán. The Global was presented to him by the King of Sweden but, alas, without financial remuneration. Even the prestigious Catarina award brought no economic benefit.
Rius’s sociopolitical views–essential for understanding Mexico–developed during his time publishing the internationally famous political comic book series, Los Supermachos. Those pseudo-macho characters became popular figures, copied on posters, even tee-shirts. In writing that classic rius was creating and expressing his inimitable philosophy and style.
Rius worked hard all his life. Before drawing and writing, he proudly admitted his past endeavors as: “de todo un poco” (everything a little bit). He worked in a cantina; an illegal soda bottling factory; as an office boy in a publishing house that handled Disney cartoons (which he hated); even in a funeral home, one of the most famous–Gayosso.
He began to draw “U.S. style” (non-political) cartoons—a novelty in Mexico. Rius credits another cartoonist, a colleague, Abel Quezada, for “changing what editorial cartoons were all about in Mexico.” Rius’s first job as political cartoonist was at Ovaciónes, taking over for Quezada. After two years, due to government pressure, he was fired from Ovaciónes. Later, “me corrieran” (“they ran me out”) of Novedades, Diario de la Tarde, La Prensa, Diário de Mexico, El Universal–“practically all of them.”
What saved him was a little work with Siempre and a few other magazines relatively independent of the government. Rius became one of the first to evolve from cartoons to full-length books (sometimes 150-250 pages, although usually less).
rius Confesses his Life
Rius moved to Cuernavaca during the “golden era,” when that “city of eternal springtime” became, as he put it, the “mecca of the third world.” There, along with rius, I met Ivan Illich, renown theologian, author of Deschooling Society. Also, on the hills overlooking the town, teaching at the Centro de Documentación (CIDOC), was Francisco Juliao. He had organized peasant leagues in Brazil but was driven out by the military junta.
Welcoming them all was Bishop Sérgio Méndez Acéo, early Liberation Theology scholar (now in vogue again, thanks to Pope Francis), restorer of the Cathedral to its sixteenth century Indigenous simplicity. Rius knew them all.
From them, rius incorporated ideas; they respected his “street-wise” philosophy. So much of that knowledge—and spirit—is incorporated into his life and work. How do we know? Fortunately, rius did much of the task of description–if not analysis. He published what was, in effect, his autobiography, Mis Confusiónes: Memorias Desmemoriadas (México, Grijalbo, 2014) or, his “confusions.” The biography is a refreshing encounter with a self-taught philosopher and lover of Mexico. It is also about what Mexico could or should be.
The humorous sub-title—“badly remembered memories”—evokes the weighty title of St. Augustine’s Confessions, in which he “tells all” (or almost all?) of his rakish life before Christian conversion, and ascent up the ranks of Catholic Church leadership and on to sainthood.
Rius relies on the history of his own life–that is, support for the underdog–aspiring to reach a just society. He ties together, in a causal way: Capitalism, Slavery, Militarism, Imperialism and Alienation. He brings the chain forward by including Consumerism and Globalization in La Truculenta Historia del Kapitalismo. In this, he was pre-dated by Marx.
Whatever economic theory dominates an era, rius was certain “nadie se libra de la economía”–no one is free from the economy. He illustrated with a clever cartoon (of course): “Even the skinniest fakir must eat from time to time.”
Intellectually, rius had already become in Seminary an atheist and socialist. He announced his beliefs with pride. His philosophy is based on these principles and on a rejection of authoritarianism.
In his auto-biography, the effect of his “dismembered memories” was intentional. His confessions reveal a lot. In addition, to help the reader to understand him, he recommended fans refer to Rius para Principiantes (Rius for Beginners). This was his own book he “liked best” because it has “more monitos”–humorous drawings. Those characters also were street-smart and rius recorded accurately their caló, or slang. I learned a great deal of practical Spanish from his comics.
The cartoonist was also a gifted amateur psychiatrist. But, he never saw a psychiatrist. He attributed this to his innate calm, which I can verify; his stamp collection; and his passion for cross-word puzzles. A simple cartoon says it all: Patient to Doctor: “See a psychiatrist? No, I’m not that crazy.” 
Other early cartoons of his, like so much Mexican humor, were full of doble-sentidos, albures or word plays, the basis of much of Mexican humor. They were often slightly sexual, even, at times, outright sexist.
Rius’s first cartoons (no words) were published in October of 1954 in the magazine Já-Já. He claims the drawings were “horrorosos” (horrible); he frequently apologizes. The reader, however, may see them as straightforward and impactive.
Rius lamented that, when he began working, “I didn’t know anything about politics,” though he read almost everything published. He found out quickly about the connection between the political and publishing worlds.
A magazine could survive with, say, five hundred copies per edition if only it had advertisement; Supermachos, Agachados and others also needed that aspect of capitalism – publicity, ads–to survive. Philosophy and cleverness alone are not enough.
It was partly this surreal world of embudos (funnels) or bribes to publish items favorable to a government official that left rius so cynical. Mexico, he declared, had “no real freedom of the press.”
This was especially true in the 1950s, under stern President Alemán, who asserted full control of the main party, the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI). Later, rius invented the term “PRIAN,” combining PRI with PAN, the even more right wing party Partido de Acción Nacional, both existing today, as minor parties.
It was Alemán who founded Televisa. There was overt government censorship but also, more frequently, internal, self-censorship by the publishers, who were more timid than the cartoonists. Fortunately, not so timid was Diego Rivera, who touched rius’s soul and helped shape his development—both his art and his personality.
Rius’s first recollection of Diego Rivera was of the artist painting murals in the Palacio Nacional. He, of “cara y cuerpo de sapo”—face and body of a toad–stuck out his tongue at young Eduardo when he caught him gawking. Later, they met formally at the Taller (workshop) de Gráfica Popular. When reminded, Diego laughed about the incident and greeted Eduardo as a fellow communist.
Whatever his ideology, rius earned respect from other analysts of Mexico for his intrepid reporting on and love of Mexico and its people, especially the masses. After the Tlatelólco massacre during the 1968 Olympics, rius was stalked and targeted. Among fellow writers, he knew the identity of government spies; they were “the only ones who got paid on time.”
But he doggedly continued writing books and publishing the magazine, La Garrapata (sub-title, El Azote de los Bueyes, or “The Whip for the Oxen”). He joined cartoonists Hélio Flores and Naranjo. They recruited and mentored younger writers, often finishing an entire issue in one night in a café.
In the 1970s, President Luis Echeverría, who, previously, had a hand in the Tlatelólco massacre, announced his new policy of a “democratic opening”. Thus began, a new golden age of Mexican movies–a brief explosion of experimental, internationally acclaimed films. There came “Canoa” by Felipe Cazals. Rodolfo Lanoa, brother of the president, became a leader of the new cinematography. Up-and-coming director and former actor, Alfonso Arau, proposed a film based on rius’s famous “Supermachos” comic series. It was to be set in his fictional San Garapata–another lovely twist on words, meaning “Holy Tick”.
Arau showed the proposal to the president, who ”liked it”–a “bad sign” according to rius. He began work with Juan de la Cubada, a “good writer, a Communist”, who had done the script for “El Brazo Fuerte (The Strong Arm).” Rius’s own creation, though very Mexican, very original, was based on inspiration from Gogol (“The Inspector”).
Rius’s work was creative and laborious, but he parted company with Arau, for “artistic differences.” In truth it was more than this. Arau cut the film mercilessly. He wanted to avoid censorship. Gobernación, the most powerful cabinet agency, had decreed the film should be set in the distant past.
Many, even leftists, ironically, loved the film. San Garapata, rius’s fictional pueblito, like a tick, sucked money and character out of its citizens and visitors. Many “Supermacho” ironies and double-meanings remained. But Arau kept Cantínflas (famous comedian) at his side, as advisor. He turned a rural setting into an urban one, among his many sins. The greatest, more unforgivable sin–rius received no credit, no recompense. His name was taken off credits.
At twenty-five years of age rius was one of most important caricaturists of Mexico. After the 1959 Premio Nacional de Periodísmo, the U.S. Embassy called rius “cartoonist of the year.” But he never wavered from his leftist views. Later, he was denied a visa, adding to his distaste for the U.S.
His cartoon town of San Garabato became an international sensation, with its plethora of typical characters well known in Mexico–the cacique, the bureaucrat, the policeman, the gossipy matron and the beret-wearing, Spanish shop-owner. The anti-hero, Juan Calzonzín (literally, “Little Under-pants”) was everyone’s “everyman.” Then, came the film.
The film was a hit. Fans of “Supermachos” saw what they wanted to see–the humor, the satire, the contemporary application. Many didn’t agree with rius’s belief that it “spoiled” his creation. The Inspector received, as in rius’s comics, mordidas (little bites) or small bribes in his hand when he stretched it to shake. Calzonzín received offers of their daughters, even wives, from those seeking favors. The rich and powerful were skewered, as were lower rung dignitaries.
After legal and political difficulties with Los Supermachos, rius began another series, equally adept and influential, Los Agachados. It received the “Premio de Congreso Mundial de Editores de Cómicas de Milan” and accolades from the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) for “bringing communities together.”
Rius’s international reception—indeed, his life—led me to a major realization: rius may well be the new “Posada.” Typically, ever humble, rius, when informed of my thesis, rejected the comparison. “I cannot draw”, he incessantly protested. However, a look at but one tiny, Mondrian-like cameo of a village would allay that claim. It is simple but effective, brilliantly clear, even sweet, like much of traditional Mexican miniature art.
Rius, verbally, and in his drawings, acknowledged José Guadalupe Posada’s influence. The famous lithographer and chronicler was creator of the elegant, internationally famous, female-skeleton, “Catarína,” dressed in finery. His own work took inspiration from folk art of Dia de los Muertos, now quite well known in the art world across the globe.
Indeed, rius can be credited with keeping the works and memory of Posada alive for years. First, he published a great deal of work with Editorial Posada. More importantly, he typically inserted drawings by Posada–as he did with the art, poetry and analysis of other powerful writers and artists–into his books of cartoons.
Rius portrayed frequently the historical importance of Posada. Diego Rivera was probably the first to make the case for the quality and influence of Posada. Then, rius acknowledged both. Later, art historians re-discovered Posada, as we may be on the verge of rediscovering rius.
That discovery shows rius as a Renaissance Man. He wrote and drew cartoons dealing with artists, but also was an artist himself; he painted well. He was, in many ways, poetic (“free verse”) in his own writing. He wrote lovingly of the many poets of Central and South America, praising, not exclusively, Pablo Neruda, of Chile, and Father Ernesto Cardenál, of Nicaragua, as one might expect.
His admiration for Cardenál, a cleric and member of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Cabinet, showed rius’s ability to separate the individual from an institutional context. Individuals were considered on their merit, while the Church was fair game for exposure and barbs.
rius Gets Religion
If quantity alone were to determine rius’s strong suit, religion would win. Cuba is strong, with five books. But the fourteen books on religion outnumber other topics. It might seem, even for an avowed atheist, this is a bit much.
If rius does not eviscerate traditional Christian theology, he, at least, “does not let it rest in peace.” Happily, despite his disgust with sins of the Catholic Church (and with extremes of other religions), rius seldom is mean spirited. His humor nicely balances the sharp pen and stinging commentary.
In one searing cartoon, we see “Jesús Clavado en la Cruz.” Rius places a well-dressed, bourgeois couple, out for a Monet-like stroll, passing by the Crucifixion, haughty and oblivious to death or to the crowd.
Rius saved his harshest satire for the Catholic Church; “la iglesia es la mejor fábrica de atéos”—the Church is the best factory for atheists. His invective is repeated in “500 Años, Fregada, pero todavia Cristianos.” The dictionary meaning of “fregada” is “scoured,” but, since this is Mexico, with its naughty doble sentidos, the term is commonly used as “screwed.”
That book–and others dealing with related Church myths —e.g., the Virgin of Guadalupe–stands out as one of the most daring. Its cover: an Aztec sacrifice nailed to a bloody cross. In place of INRI above the crucified, an ominous plaque reading “1492,” the year, of course, of the Conquista–the arrival of the Spanish–later, the conquest of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan!
A fat priest and a Conquistador, with his bag of gold bullion, gaze in worship at their accomplishment. The interior of the book is an amazingly detailed exegesis of the period, thoroughly illustrated by cartoons and reprints of classic portraits of Aztec royalty, common folk, and Spanish troops.
500 Years commemorates the Indigenous people’s rebellious refusal to celebrate their five hundred years of slavery. They rejected new monuments. They organized politically and were able to cancel the millions of government pesos insensitively planned for the Fifth Centennial, not only in Mexico but all over the Latin American continent.
The cover of the original El Mito, a priest riding atop a campesino, with a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a stick, is both humorous and shocking. The second version, fifteen years later, features a more sophisticated collage of the traditional Basilica portrait of the Virgin in her blue robe studded with stars. She is a metamorphose of the Queen of the Moon, or the Aztec Goddess, Tonantzín. But she is mounted on–indeed, engulfed by–an even more shocking giant frog, by famous artist Franciso Toledo.
Much of the remainder of the book deals with a variety of ways in which rius repeats “Jesus had nothing to do with the Church”; in effect, Jesus was not a Christian. This aspect of Jesus—as a man, a sabio, or wise man, believing in “amor universal,” rejecting exploitation—is the basis of both the personal religion and the philosophy of rius.
Those highest ideals, the result of centuries of earnest, honest thinking, were suspended, rius contends, if not destroyed by the Church and scholasticism. They rejected reason and injected rote belief, demanding repetition and blind obedience. They punished any deviation. Whether they agree or disagree among themselves, however, most of the eminent thinkers he cited opposed fanaticism, especially religious extremism, as did rius.
Rius contended he was “always the rebel.” He resented the fact young acolytes in seminary were not allowed to read the Bible, only altered highlights and the “lives of Saints.” But, he did not come away with the more vengeful, anti-cleric memories, which often stay with others.
In Seminary, some boys were molested but not rius–“por feo”—because I was too ugly. Nevertheless, the fact is, he still believed “the Church gave me my education.” He thanked the Salesians for instilling his discipline and his strong work ethic.
However, he was expelled from the Seminary in 1951, and it was back to a “vida real”–actual life, which consists, for all, he maintained, of working to “ganarse la vida, casarse, reproducirse, aburrirse, y morir”—to earn one’s bread, marry, reproduce, become bored and to die.
The confused boy became a man, but less confused. Early on, he was taught by the Church hatred of leader of Independence and President, Benito Juárez, and 1930s nationalistic leader, President Lázaro Cárdenas. He resisted; others sang “fascist chants” and were taught to love Mussolini and Hitler. The Brothers actually offered masses in their memory. Rius often pondered why the super-religious must gravitate toward extremely authoritarian political authorities.
In other ways, the religious experience helped. At least Eduardo was taught the machinery (literally) if not the music of the organ which accompanied the choir, the workings of its technology. That was his job because he “couldn’t sing a note.” This helped him later with lithography and his life’s work.
Rius saw, first hand, the violation of laws (smuggling Spanish priests into the country) and, in effect, extortion by the Church of the newcomers, who paid dearly; he regretted becoming an accomplice. More practically, he found and mastered the old presses at the Colegio de Santa Julia, places forbidden and hidden from the Government. His increasing disbelief led to a freedom to explore his own religion—that is, diet and the environment.
rius’s Shares His Diet
Rius’s “favorite book” was La Panza es Primero (The Stomach Comes First). Food–one could say Mexican “soul food”–was part of his personal religion. That book was dedicated to “Diós” and christened with an exquisite prologue by his good friend, Carlos Monsivaís (Requiem em Pace). “Monsi’s” opening likens rius to Quixote, traveling from the provinces to the farthest reaches of the planet, as he searches for true “food from heaven.”
The current dominant diet of Mexico–the insistence on meat over plants–in a sense rejecting the native heritage of herbs and seeds, was partly to blame. Still, fine dinners, in private homes or restaurants, featured numerous side dishes of romeritos, chayote, jicama, and of course peppers, or other native vegetables. Even the black fungus that grows on corn, Huitlacoche, is considered an haute cuisine delicacy by culinary gourmets, as are maguey worms (toasted, perhaps in an antipasto guacamole) or chapulines–grasshoppers.
Rius gave advice for use of Mexico’s plethora of herbs in his Verde que te Como Verde. Rius himself was a vegetarian; one is not surprised. He claimed he and other artists, musicians or poets think and compose better with such a diet.
In Verde he included health benefits and recipes for the vast number of plants growing in Mexico. What other writer of philosophy and theology is so helpful? In Las Vacas Locas  he encouraged the availability, development and use of plants.
My own eyes (and taste buds) were opened as our family joined him for lunch in a charming restaurant in Tepotzlán; the piéce de résistance, tacos made with the colorful, red flower, Colorín.
One final book (with a very clever title) sums up rius’s environmental concerns and warnings: La Poca Lipsis que nos Viene; if one catches the doble sentido Mexicans are famous for, the meaning is clear before you open the book. The dark humor is also so typical of rius.
But all was not right in rius’s own religion. Panza was probably the first book in Mexico to lay bare notable faults of Mexican cuisine. Flavor and appeal were not questioned but nutritional deficiencies were alarming; e.g., animal grease is of special concern. In the book, average “José” Mexicano of 35 years, whose proud stomach and chubby cheeks (both sets) boast of his better-than-average economic means, is replete with warning signs of diabetes and a smoker’s cough.
Food–or the right food–was for rius, if not his religion, the most urgent cause he championed. He became the “Patriarch of Vegetarianism” early-on, through his first wife, Rosita Dobleu. It was for him, at that time, an easy issue to advocate. That is, the Indigenous peoples all around him in Michoacán and elsewhere generally kept their pre-Colombian diet (corn, beans, amaranto and vegetables). They “kept their teeth and avoided cancer.” And rius had his readers and followers beyond Mexico, wherever there were thoughtful people and revolutionary stirrings.
rius Confounded by Cuba
Rius’s first book in 1964 – Cuba Para Principiantes—still arguably remains his most important. It brought attention to him and to Mexico. It was a brave, original contribution to politics, art and caricature. It is a strong statement of support for the oppressed over the oppressor.
Rius began, not with any hero-worship of Fidel, but with a classic caricature of the “everyman” guerrilla, smoking a puro, sporting a rifle while balancing a taza de café in the other hand. Under his foot, a smashed “Tio Sam’s” top hat.
The book is “dedicated to the people of Cuba.” The fact he later retracted his praise for the Castro government does not detract from his deep admiration for the people who “are constructing their own happiness, at the cost of great sacrifice”.
Details are presented vividly through rius’s swift pen and inserts of images from magazines–of Fidel; of U.S. war planes over the Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs); of ships during the Missile Crisis. One of his key cartoons was a giant Tio Sam being flayed around his feet by a worker’s machete as he stands amid a Cuban sugar cane harvest.
Well before the famous film, “Motorcycle Diaries” with Gael Gárcia Bernál, rius retraced Ché’s steps, physically and mentally, from Argentina to Bolívia to Mexico and to Cuba. I did too, on a more limited basis. It was mind-opening. We swapped stories–both of us had seen Indigenous peoples protesting with signs: “Coca, Sí, Cocaína, No!”
It was quite understandable rius, the humanist, the democrat, the libertarian writer and artist, would and did repudiate the harsher aspects of the Cuban government (not the Revolution itself). Yet, the back cover of his retraction featured a photograph of a smiling, young rius on the landing spot of Fidel’s famous ship from Mexico, the “Granma.”
For all his displeasure with the Cuban metamorphosis (mostly negative) of the Revolution, rius ended his biography with more praise for Cuba and Fidel. “The Cuban Revolution changed my life,” he confessed. Both Cuba and rius changed but he insisted “I don’t regret any militancy” nor writing the first paean, Cuba for Beginners. It seemed “so right.” Rius fought for the Cuban Revolution in the same spirit he did for the Mexican Revolution.
rius, Conflicted by Mexico and U.S.
Rius admitted and admired the strength of the Mexican character and culture. He believed if a firmer national identity could emerge (“a Mestizo identity, not Spanish or Indian”), it would resemble that of a “raza cósmica” (cosmic race) culture. But reality intervened – the 1968 Olympics and protests by students and others, tired of corruption and suppression.
Rius confronted the authoritarianism of President Díaz Ordáz (term: 1964-70) with his satire. The government struck back, not only rounding up student leaders, but major writers such as rius himself. He was not cowed. Out of that dark period arose Los Supermachos.
Another major step was a call for a moratorium on Mexico’s debts to capitalism, that is, to the U.S. Rius was one of the first to propose and publicize that new idea, in his book, La Deuda (y Como No Pagarla). But, in Mexico, as in the U.S., the center-right continued to hold sway. Rius continued to march against the tide.
Rius, in sadness, excoriated not the Mexican Revolution itself but the naive belief its goals were ever fully achieved, or that it still remains. In La Revolucioncita Mexicana, he told the story of that event. It was one of the so-called “great” revolutions in world history (along with France, Russia, China and Cuba). But, rius believed it had been betrayed.
Rius claimed pre-revolutionary conditions were returning rapidly, in the hands of a new generation of técnicos, rich capitalist elites, who have sold out to the North Americans via globalization. In part, reaction to those elites helped Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) win the 2018 presidential race. Elections on June 6, 2021 mark the half-way point of AMLO’s presidential sexenio (six years of his single term of office). We will see what develops in the next few years;
But, the past is prologue. Rius encapsulated the dominant PRI-party history with a two-page list of “50 years of repression” of student, campesino or worker uprisings or protests. The sad news goes on: after rius’s observations came more student massacres; assassinations of critical journalists and professional photographers; and now, violence from drug cartels. He, too, suffered during those troubled times.
In the aftermath of Olympic protests, rius had been forced off the street, into a military car, kept for twenty-four hours without food, with only one soda. (He didn’t say if it had been Coca-Cola, which he hated.) He was intimidated constantly while being driven in and out of the city. The “officers” threatened to injure members of his family. Yet, ironically, the police asked for his autograph and one even requested a recommendation for publishing a novel he had written! They knew who he was. He was saved through intervention by his hero, son of President Lázaro Cárdenas, Ing. Cuahutémoc Cárdenas, still a towering figure.
Later, with the Group of 100, rius opposed oppression and demanded solutions to pending environmental disasters. Their protests helped to goad the dominant party of President Salinas de Gortari into action, declaring a refuge for the forests of Michoacán, where timber cutting endangered nesting Monarch butterflies.
Rius noted some multi-nationals still violated both spirit and law of the refuge. Enforcement monies and staffs were not large enough to do the job. Cutting still continues; the multinational glue firm, Resistól, is one of the leading culprits. However, some satisfaction comes from knowing rather stiff laws are “on the books,” at least, and the government has committed itself to this cause, publicly and internationally.
Rius repeatedly detailed a long litany of those he defended. He stressed: “I don’t forget the international stage and the victims of imperialism”. He noted, also, if imperialism or colonialism (or the government of Mexico) really changed, “caricaturists would be out of work.” He targeted, chiefly, the center of capitalism, the U.S; he saw Mexico and the U.S. inextricably intertwined.
An inescapable part of rius’s work involved his castigation of U.S. attitudes and actions. Rius resented the US arrogating the word “America” for only itself when all the countries of these two continents are the “Americas”. Other sins include: “fabricating” thirty wars since World War II; destroying legitimate, democratic governments; reviving or supporting fascism in Latin America.
Rius saved most of his invective for a later book (2003), entitled with a doble sentido (almost anagram), Osama/Tio Sam. He opened with an avant-guard collage of Ronald Reagan, guns for eyes, bombs for teeth, a Nazi Iron Cross on his throat. Rius admitted there is no unique “gringa” culture (as even jazz and rock come from African roots), but only a “culture of terrorism.” Despite kind words regarding Obama’s intentions, rius had no high hopes for real change in the U.S. He never wrote of Trump; perhaps one can only imagine rius saying “I told you so.”
I must end here. Unfortunately, there is no more rius. Yet, Mexico and the world will always benefit from his art, humor and righteous anger. In a recent homage by many of his fellow artists, rius was nominated as their “Secretary of Education” for his contributions to their broader political understanding.
Rius was praised as the “Picasso de los moneros,”, amid other accolades, cherished for his simplicity and originality. All agreed he had offered to them and to Mexico the revelation of caricature as the “art of thinking.”
We join those outstanding writers and artists who knew him so well. We praise rius for his contributions. We thank him for being such an invaluable advocate for a more enlightened, more egalitarian and a more democratic Mexico. With him, through him, we can see and learn more of Mexico.