The newspaper La Tribuna de Albacete and its cartoonist, Javi Salado apologised yesterday for this cartoon published on Sunday 28 November. They did it through a “note from the editorial staff” in these terms:
“In relation to Javi Salado’s cartoon published last Sunday in the Opinion section, this newspaper wishes to clarify that there has been no intention on the part of the cartoonist to link the transmission of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with positions that deviate from the principles of equality and non-discrimination. However, both Javi Salado and “La Tribuna de Albacete” would like to apologise to any readers who may have felt annoyed or offended by the aforementioned publication”.
On the same page they also publish two critical letters from readers. In the letter from Mayte Márquez, “racist overtones” are pointed out, openly ultra-right-wing in the image, which she describes as an insult to the charter of human rights, unfortunate and repugnant. In the Colectivo Sin Fronteras Albacete (Collective Without Borders Albacete) they consider the publication to be nonsense, which they consider “worrying”.
Source capture @luigiaguilar
The cartoon in question was either not published on the newspaper’s website or was withdrawn after the controversy.
The first responses and defences of the cartoon by the author at the accusations of racism did not match what the image depicted and what Salado allegedly claimed it was intended to show.
“Quite the opposite. Immigration is the result of Africa being forgotten for centuries. Now we have done it again by leaving them to their fate with vaccines. That’s where the mud has come from. Those who speak are masters of their intentions; those who hear them are masters of their prejudices”.
The following day, he apologised, blaming the result on the use of stereotypes and delivery times.
“The use of stereotypes in the cartoon was very unfortunate. The haste to send it to publication, without letting it rest to detect other interpretations that could be given, does not make me feel proud of the result. It remains for me to apologise once again.
At least in this I have to agree with the cartoonist, having to publish a cartoon every day (I don’t miss it) can be a torture for the brain and sooner or later you end up touching on subjects very superficially from haste, lack of knowledge or, as in this case, by using the crudest and easiest.
Be that as it may, the cartoon as a supposed “solidarity or vindictive” joke has very little defence. The characters, brown South Africans with curly hair in the shape of viruses on a boat named Omicron with the South African flag sailing towards Europe, leave no graphic clue to understand anything other than what can be seen.
This is something recurrent when we cartoon dilettantes have to give our opinion on some subject or country about which we know little, nothing or simply clichés.
At the beginning of the pandemic, two cartoons that used the Chinese flag to imply that it was a “Chinese virus” created controversy that went beyond anecdote. These were the stories.