Gus Arriola was a Mexican-American cartoonist, raised by his sisters in a Spanish-speaking family in Arizona, where he learned English by reading the Sunday comics. His widely syndicated strip Gordo ran from 1941 to 1985 and is considered the first comic to introduce Mexican culture to America. Arriola himself did not visit Mexico until the 1960s. As a young cartoonist wanting to draw something new, light, and fun, Arriola initially relied on the visually identifiable stereotypes of Mexicans that were popular in Hollywood at the time.
After the strip had been popular for several years, Arriola realized that Gordo was the only syndicated comic representing Mexican culture to Americans and that his stereotypes could be harmful. He decided to put away his gimmicks and focus instead on accurately portraying Mexican life and folklore. Here we see one of Arriola’s less-enlightened earlier strips from Gordo. Later, when he purged his use of stereotypes, he did away with the broken English that his characters were using as well. He did, however, maintain a heavy usage of Spanish words. As a result, the strip has been credited with popularizing such words and phrases as “hasta la vista,” “amigo,” “muchacho,” “piñata,” “ándale,” and many more. Arriola’s Gordo received wide praise from the Mexican government and was credited with changing racist attitudes towards Mexicans.