Although in a way both the Ch and the Ll in Spanish have been demoted as full letters and their words are featured in the dictionary mixed in with the C and L listings respectively, I of course will honor them here.
There was something satisfying about reciting the alphabet with those three extra mouthfuls for me, and it’s a little sad to see that dictionaries are doing away with giving these two letters their own sections.
But anyway– this post is not about letter demotion, but it is about the letter Ch (Tchay for those of you who may be wondering). And specifically, it is about El Chapulín Colorado.
(And El Chavo del Ocho. And Dr. Chapatín. And my original alter ego, La Chilindrina. But they may come back for another post)
There are some things that I wish Herr Meow can get to experience from the Spanish language and culture before he thinks it’s all stinky and boring and cannot be bothered.
And then there is El Chapulín Colorado, chief and paramount amongst them.
If you cannot be bothered to click links (you bad person, you), you should know several things:
- I’m talking about a Mexican TV show,
- Which is about an incredibly clumsy and easily-frightened superhero,
- Whose name means "The Red Grasshopper", kind of a Spanish-language Green Hornet (or possibly, the Green Lantern, whose genesis story is similar to Chapulín’s),
- Whose shield is a heart,
- Who is "more agile than a turtle and stronger than a mouse,"
- Whose "Antenitas de Vinil" (vinyl antennae) detect the enemy’s presence,
- Who saves the day despite his lack of physical strength, wit, etc.,
- And who has delightfully ridiculous secret weapons such as his Chipote Chillon (the " Squeaky Mallet"), his Chicharra Paralizadora (the "Paralyzing Horn") and his "Pastillas de Chiquitolina" ("IttyBittyfication" Pills)
- But whose good heart and true heroism came through in the end, facing the problems head-on and saving the day.
When I was very little, I would go around saying El Chapulín’s main catchphrase, which went like this:
Person in distress: ¡Oh! Y ahora, ¿quién podrá ayudarme?
Chapulín: ¡YO! El Chapulín Colorado!
I’m pretty sure there is even a tape of me repeating it. I wish I knew where it is.
People usually rejoiced when Chapulín first appeared, only to shortly be put off by his milquetoast manner or sheer clumsiness. They would interrupt him and ridicule him and his attempts to assess the situation.
They would clamor for a better superhero. They would roll their eyes. They would put him down some.
But then Chapulín would do something.
And somehow that doing, that action, would get the ball rolling. Chapulín, through perseverance and a little elbow grease –along with one of his secret weapons– would get the job done.
And sometimes he’d even get a kiss from the girl.
I guess part of the reason why Chapulín is such a beloved figure (specifically in Latin America, but in other places as well) is because he is an Everyman. He has to get things done with little more than his valor and his wits –and a few makeshift toys here and there– but he has to put up with failure and rejection in his face, like many of us do.
But in the end, he can always be counted on. In the end, he comes through for even the most obnoxious and insulting victim. And that is life, everyday: having to do what you must even if you’re stuck with a bunch of thankless people who put you down along the way.
And of course, he was funny.
¡Que viva el Chapulín!