Chillico: The Undisputed Inquisitor of Laughter

Chillico: el inquisidor inapelable de la risa © Hernán Hurtado Trujillo. September, 2019. Abancay, Apurímac, Perú.

Chillico: The Undisputed Inquisitor of Laughter © Translation by Lorrie Jayne

César Aguilar Peña, popularly known as Chillico, is one of the most important graphic humorists in Peru. He is the director of the Magazine of Humor, Art and Cartoons Ch’illico, the only graphic humor magazine that has been in force, confronting dictatorships and abuse of power at the national level, for more than 25 years. Chillico burst forth from his native Abancay with his own style: his superior technical mastery of drawing, where color and written text complement one another, render his work bright and sharp.

Laughter is an essential quality in human beings, or in the words of Henri Bergson: “Man is the only animal that laughs.” Without  a sense of humor, life would have a mournful atmosphere; we would live in a world of automatons, without emotion, without blood, without the bugs that sting and tickle us. Chillico, through graphic humor posed seriously (the most difficult mixed form to achieve) frees us from our country’s social and political chaos; he drags us out of our sadness, out of tension, fear, apathy and bitterness with a loud unexpected guffaw. Colliding with the common view, against the status quo, social fears, and the “what would they say?” mentality, he demystifies the devotion to snobbery, to mediocrity, and  social-climbing. He manages to reveal the hidden, the malevolent, the perverse, and the cynical that disguises itself as deceitful morality. His caricatures help us to see reality, to seek coherence within the chaos. Nothing escapes his paintbrush, not even the Divine; spirit is made flesh, even the sublime reveals the ideological background of power, represented by his wolf-shepherd and his herd of alienated lambs. We ask, what motivates the shepherd to feed and care for his herd? The response reveals to us the false love of the shepherd who keeps, controls, and guides the herd, only to eat them.

Chillico’s artistic sense captures the essential in life, universalizing local and national themes. He caricatures power, bringing irony to the incoherent and daily nonsense of politics. He does this in the cartoon “Tolero,” in which an indignant and disgusted llama hawks a gob of spit at the ex-president—who, during his election campaign, had identified as “cholo” or “authentic indian”, but when he was elected president he supported corruption and alienated himself to foreign tastes and interests. Similarly, Chillico caricatures the current presidents of Brazil and the United States through “Bolsonerón” and “Tramp”, with characters depicted beneath a swastika, “worried” about the state of democracy in Latin America.

His vast production builds a court of humor in which the readers become the judges who will proclaim the final sentence. His is a humor that is neither trivial nor vulgar, it is grown-up humor, humor for serious laughter; it is the humor of the liberator, the emancipator, who helps us to find our own identity and a worthy life. Not only does he liberate us from tensions and emotional disturbance; he also helps us to build a more humane and just world where we can laugh fully at no price and be happy with the permission of no one.

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