Satirical sites in Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Spain join in cross-border initiative to tackle pandemic

It all started in Medellín, Colombia, at the Gabo Festival. In 2018, journalists from the magazines Mongolia from Spain, El Chamuco from Mexico and Barcelona from Argentina, sitting at the same table, spoke with laughter and then more seriously, about starting an Satirical International alliance. The opportunity came later with the pandemic and the wave of false news surrounding the new coronavirus.

 Cover page of “Kit de supervivencia: Mascarillas para todos y todas” from Internacional Satírica. (Screenshot.)

Cover page of “Kit de supervivencia: Mascarillas para todos y todas” from Internacional Satírica. (Screenshot.)

"We believe that the coronavirus is the great subject of our era and that it should be addressed with all the existing journalistic genres, including satire," Pere Rusiñol, partner and cofounder of Mongolia, told the Knight Center.

In late April, Satirical International launched its first joint publication, "Kit de supervivencia: Mascarillas para todos y todas” (Survival Kit: Masks for Everyone), including the Chilean satirical magazine The Clinic in the group.

"In this case we think that if we, who make fun of everything, continue doing it, but taking seriously how the masks can help, some who are naturally irreverent and distrustful of all that emanates from power (including ourselves) will also take it seriously,” Rusiñol said.

The initiative to produce a special with texts and graphics about the use of masks during the pandemic was proposed by the Argentine graphic humorist Javier Rodríguez, known as El Niño Rodríguez, according to Rusiñol.

“El Niño Rodríguez, who is a graphic humorist who collaborates with both Mongolia and Barcelona, suggested that we do something to take the masks seriously and it occurred to us that it was a first tangible thing to share, since El Niño is already collaborating with two of the magazines. And we also proposed it to the Clinic because for us it has always been a reference," Rusiñol said.

Rodríguez told the Knight Center that he proposed the issue of the use of face masks on the streets during the pandemic because he found many contradictions between what the World Health Organization (WHO) said and several studies that did recommend it.

"The governments were already asking for this 'lockdown', ... and I understood that the mask was a means of stopping the contagion and it was also a means of stopping the quarantine," Rodríguez said. "The masks just allowed us to take care of lives and continue the economy. ... And it seemed necessary to me to put the idea out there, "he added.

The special on masks explains, with graphic, written and humorous information, why they are necessary to wear at this time, whether surgical or homemade, which countries quickly mandated their use and what positive effects this had on the mitigation of contagion of the virus in those countries and in the deconfinement of their citizens.

The report was published simultaneously on the websites of Mongolia, El Chamuco, The Clinic and Barcelona at 6 P.M., Spanish time, on April 29. Mongolia’s Art Director Fernando Rapa Carballo did the design and layout, and Rusiñol edited the texts from El Niño Rodríguez, who also illustrated the special.

"We have a captive audience, collectors of the magazine, but the magazine doesn’t go beyond 4,000, 5,000 copies sold, for sure, in all of Mexico, but we were able to give a stir [to the publication] on our strongest social networks," Rafael Pineda, editor of El Chamuco, told the Knight Center.

"It is essential at this time to use the best tools to communicate during this 'infodemic' that we are experiencing," Pineda said.

According to Pineda, society is the object of this dynamic of spreading false news and, in Mexico, the main people affected by this ‘infodemic’ of the COVID-19 pandemic are health and health service personnel. "Particularly in Mexico it is happening in a regrettable and grotesque way, and of course we have to point it out."



 What satire brings "is an alternative view to understand the news," Fernando Sánchez, editor of Barcelona, told the Knight Center.

“At Barcelona, our working material is the news; in fact, we are journalists, not humorists. We satirize the discourse of the media that set the agenda and that constitute or represent real power beyond those who are circumstantially in government. In this sense, if we stand on the sidewalk from across the street and through the absurd and the caricature, we give our point of view. That it turns out to be funny is a consequence, but not necessarily a deliberate search,” he said.

For Pineda, it is "very proven" that satire reaches people more effectively. “It is an excellent way to break the ice between people, humor always opens doors. We are clear on that, it is a job that we try to develop and use to inform, to explain, to enunciate, to point out, political caricature, political satire is dedicated to all of this.”

For example, satire makes it possible to make fun of fake news, of the politicians who spread that fake news, Pineada added, "like Trump and Bolsonaro, or all those who have enormous social, political and economic responsibility, and I think we have to use satire, then, to show them."

In order for the media to survive the economic crisis that has been dragging on for years with the drop in advertising, and which has worsened exponentially due to the current pandemic, new formats, associations and supports must be tried, according to Fernando Sánchez, editor of Barcelona. "The graphic press is in crisis, the media that were born on paper must reconfigure ourselves if we want to survive," Sánchez said.

“Joining efforts in this regard seems crucial to us: sharing experiences, ideas, projects to maintain ourselves. In times of social networks in which there is a lot of free ‘humorous’ content and in many cases amateur content, we must see how to make our work count with sustainable and attractive proposals,” Sánchez said.

The Satirical International does not yet have a date for a second joint publication, but they hope that soon more initiatives will emerge that will continue to unite them.