When A Mexican Influenced an American Election

Last Sunday was the birthday anniversary of the comedian Cantinflas. Charlie Chaplin called the Mexican comedian the “the greatest comedian alive.” On Sunday, Google celebrated Cantinflas with a Google Doodle. But what many don’t know is that Cantinflas helped elect the first Mexican-American to Congress.

On Election Day, November 6, 1961, Lyndon B. Johnson, then the vice-president who would later become president campaigned, along with Cantinflas, for Henry B. González who went on to become a Texas Representative in 1961. Cantinflas and Johnson rode in the same car in San Antonio as they campaigned for González. González served until 1999.

On his official Congressional biography, Henry González credits both Cantinflas and Lyndon B. Johnson for securing his Congressional seat. For his part, Johnson and Cantinflas became close friends.

During a toast delivered by Johnson on October 26, 1967; Lyndon B. Johnson said, that when Cantinflas decides to stop entertaining and “appears on the political scene, as Henry Gonzalez can testify, the effect is simply overwhelming.” [Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, Best Books, 1968, pg: 949]

Clearly, Cantinflas influenced the election of González.

Today, as the Russia interference in the 2016 elections continues to rage on the national debate, it is appropriate that we look back at a time when the relationship between México and the United States was one of respect.

Cantinflas is loved in México and in the United States. His humor transcended borders and language. His contemporaries, like Charlie Chaplin, celebrated him as an equal regardless of his Spanish language and his dark skin.

Those are day worth remembering in today’s politics of hatred.

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