Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Systems of domination are often transmitted and replicated in the most innocent forms: through mass media, for example, by way of film and television, sometimes through musical idioms, occasionally by way of fashion and style, through consumption habits and the iconography of popular culture – in sum, within normative systems embedded in notions of progress and modernity and subsequently insinuate themselves in the vernacular forms by which people transact daily life. More than twenty-five years ago, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelhart chronicled the presence of Donald Duck in Latin America. Donald Duck was identified speaking Spanish and Portuguese, and appeared serialized in the comic strips of scores of newspapers and magazines. The Disney comic book appeared in at least four different Spanish-language editions. In thousands of movie houses and on hundreds of thousands of television screens across the Hemisphere, the accumulated inventory of decades of Disney animated films has played and replayed to the squealing delight of successive generations of unsuspecting Latin American children.
Who was this Latin American incarnation of Donald Duck (“el Pato Donald”)? He was North American, and he embodied North American cultural norms and articulated North American ideological imperatives. In dialogue with his nephews, he talked politics; in conversation with his uncle, he discussed economics. The moral was not obvious, but it was never disguised: the virtues of capitalism, the vices of communism. Donald Duck was an agent of imperialism.