VOA's Spanish Service recently reported the exclusive story of Mexican editorial cartoonist Mario Robles Patiño, winner of the 2009 Award in Courage for Editorial Cartoons. The award honors cartoonists who have encountered political oppression from their governments yet have continued their work. It was awarded July 3 in Seattle, Washington.
"[The Award in Courage] is given to cartoonists who have shown real tenacity. [They] have not given in to political, social, or even terrorist pressure," said Robert 'Bro' Russell, Director of the Cartoonists Rights Network International. "Cartoonists can be considered canaries in a coal mine. They are the first to be pressured by the governments when they make fun of the facts. Tyrants can tolerate rebellion but cannot tolerate being made fun of."
Robles Patiño, from Oaxaca, Mexico, won for his cartoon criticizing the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, for his harsh and bloody suppression of demonstrators in 2005. The demonstrators, members of an opposition group and teachers protesting for salary increases, suffered nearly twenty fatalities when government forces cracked down. Robles Patiño’s cartoon compared the governor's suppression of the demonstration to the well-remembered, violent quashing of a political revolt on October 2, 1948.
As a result of his critical pictorial commentary, he encountered harsh retribution from the government. According to Robles Patiño, members of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) physically attacked him in April of this year. However, despite oppression and threats, he continues his craft.
Robles Patiño spoke with VOA’s Rosalba Ruiz, telling her of his experiences, his work, and his inspiration.
"I feel very proud," says the cartoonist, who considers himself "born to draw." "It is satisfying but also motivating to continue doing my work well." His career as a cartoonist has spanned nearly 30 years, having drawn for publications such as Informador de Oaxaca and Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca. He cannot imagine leaving journalism.
"We are the ones responsible for educating, guiding the readers, television viewers, and radio listeners," he says regarding journalists.
VOA broadcasts 1.5 hours on television and 3.5 hours via radio daily in Spanish. The latest updates are available online at www.VOANews.com/spanish/news/, where you can also find Rosabla Ruiz’s complete report about Mario Robles Patiño.
Cartoonists Rights Network International provides a variety of services to cartoonists and their families, including writing letters to heads of state, obtaining exile status for cartoonists, and providing speakers for college and university events. Learn more about them at their website, www.cartoonistrights.com/.
by Caitlin Daw