A Cuban superhero is born!
Is it a man? Is it a bird? No! It’s Elpidio Valdez!
Chances are you have no idea what or who Elpidio Valdez is, but every single Cuban living in Cuba today does! He is the e one and only Cuban super hero!! He may not wear his underpants over tights or fly to rescue the city from destruction, but he is superhuman in many ways!
In the days of Batista, Cuba was an exotic play ground for North Americans. The island was swamped with consumer goods from the US mainland including consumer Television and Hollywood Movies. Cuba, the island, might as well have been Cuba the satellite state.For Cuban children this meant an imaginary world filled with Coca Cola, Chiclets, Disney adventures, Hollywood superstars and weekly comics telling the stories of Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Robin, plus a whole host of other colourful superheroes! The good guys always won over the evil and restored balance and normality to the lives of the people!
After 1959 the successful revolutionaries declared American the enemy and all things American were evil and banned, cast out, obliterated, or taken over and converted into a better Cuban version. The Coca Cola factory was taken over but the recipe disappeared along with the workers who fled and the resulting “tu cola” took some trial and error to achieved consumable standards. There were many gaps to be filled with Cuban equivalents!
A window of opportunity opened for the creation of a truly Cuban superhero and “Elpidio Valdez” was created by Juan Padron through a project instigated by the ministry of culture.
Short animations were created at first, lasting one or two minutes in black and white, and were shown on Cuba Television. Like most things created after the revolution, education was a key factor in the stories created around Elpidio. Our hero comes from the time of Marti and the fight for liberation from the Spanish, and the idea was to educate and promote the glory of historic struggles on the island. These revolutionaries went by the name of “Mambises” or Mambi, they came predominantly from the eastern (oriental) regions of Cuba and are identified by their turned up hats and “oriental” accents. The stories have given children a sense of the importance of the struggle for independence from Spain and remain hugely popular today.
Based on true events mixed with fiction, the character of Elpidio is the epitome of a typical Mambi from the countryside. He fights astride his faithful horse, “Palmiche” (named after the seeds from a palm tree that are his favourite food) the two gives flight to hordes of Spanish soldiers armed to the teeth with rifles and bayonets. Single handed with his machete in hand and exaggerated oriental accent Elpidio outwits and outsmarts his arch enemy “General Resoples” who returns again and again with Spanish forces to put down the rebellion. General Resoples (based on a real Spanish general) is portrayed as stupid and incompetent but never actually dies in battle, he returns to fight another day with fresh troops from Spain, but is always outwitted by Elpidio!!! Elpidio and Palmiche triumph against ridiculous odds and the victories are nothing other than supernatural!!
The short animation grew over the years into full length films that could be seen at the cinema or at home on TV. These days Elpideo maintains his popularity and his creator Juan Padron is a famous man as is his son Ian Padron who has followed in his father footsteps producing episodes of the famous superhero!
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