'El Pueblo', 1974

Hugo Díaz Jiménez was one of Costa Rica's most prominent cartoonists, whose career spanned from the 1970s through the 1990s. His weekly humor page in El Pueblo offered a critical view on Costa Rican society, most notably its everyday life. He has worked under the pen names Diaz (in Semanario Universidad), Lalo (in La República), Pancho (in El Pueblo) and Tuto (8días), and also provided artwork to political and educational campaigns.

Early life
Hugo Díaz was born in the capital San José in 1930 and initially worked as a cartography artist. During the 1950s he and his colleague Emilio Willie were responsible for drawing national census maps, and he later worked for the National Geographic Institute of Costa Rica. Even though he had no official ties to a political party, he began active collaborations with revolutionary and anti-imperialist groups from 1962 onwards. He gradually shifted to cartoons and caricatures, contributing his early work to the university magazine Semanario Universidad in 1970.

El Pueblo
Costa Rica had a relatively late tradition of graphic humor. Only in the 1920s, local cartoonists like Paco Hernández and Noé Solano began expressing their political commentary through cartoons and caricatures. It took until the 1970s before Hugo Díaz and his contemporary Fernando Zeledón gave the profession a new boost. Amidst the overkill of Mexican and American import, Díaz used his skills to provide social commentary from a Costa Rican point-of-view. Even though he had no formal art training, Díaz created a weekly page for the newspaper El Pueblo from 1972 to 1979 (and from 1975 in the supplement Campolibre), in which he mixed cartoon art, caricature and a comics narrative. He based his work on everyday situations from the lives of the "Ticos" (Costa Ricans), showing both their good virtues as well as their defects. His simple but warm humor was aimed at both national as well as  international politics, and the social denunciation of the popular classes.

'Las Fisgonas de Paso Ancho'Las Fisgonas de Paso Ancho

Other comics and cartoon work
He later also published cartoons in La República (under the pen name Lalo), Inter-American Marketing, 8días and Voz de ANDE. Selections of his work were compiled by Editorial Costa Rica in the books 'El Mundo de Hugo Díaz' (1978) and 'Díaz todos los días' (1995). For the magazine Gentes y Paisajes he made the full-color comics page 'Baldomero y Emeterio' (1976-1978) with writer Miguel Salguero, as well as the section 'Da gusto vivir en mi tierra' ("It's nice to live in my country"). In the mid 1980s he worked with playwright Samuel Rowinski (sometimes spelled 'Samuel Rovinski') on three issues of a comic book based on Rowinski's stage play and subsequent TV series 'Las Fisgonas de Paso Ancho'. It can be considered Costa Rica's first national comic book.


Comic strip from 8días.

Commercial work and illustrations
Díaz also made comic strips and cartoons for educational and political campaigns. He, for instance, produced a comic strip about the Costa Rican Socialist Party for the electoral campaign of 1974, and worked on a 1988 biographical comic about the Panamanian general Omar Torrijos. The latter was the only non-humor comic in Diaz' oeuvre, but the project was cancelled after the 1989 invasion of Panama by the U.S Army. Other educational works were about development planning for the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (1989) and the abolition of the Costa Rican army by the Centro de Amigos para la Paz (1996), while he also made folkloric prints about Costa Rican customs and cultural traditions. He furthermore illustrated several Costa Rican literary works, such as 'Cuentos de mi tía Panchita' by Carmen Lyra, 'Cocorí' by Joaquín Gutiérrez, 'Una Burbuja en el Limbo' by Fabián Dobles, 'Memorias de Alegría' by Carlos Luis Sáenz and 'Pantalones Cortos' by Lara Ríos. He was additionally active as a watercolor painter.

Expositions and awards
One of Díaz' favorite targets was former president José (Pepe) Figueres Ferrer, who was in office from 1948 to 1949, 1953 to 1958 and 1970 to 1978. He has drawn the man so often, that an exposition called 'José Figueres en la pluma de Hugo Díaz' ("José Figueres from the pen of Hugo Díaz") was held in the Galería de Arte José Figueres in 1991. It was only one of many expositions which showcased the work of Hugo Diaz Jiménez, both in and outside of his home country. Throughout his career the artist received many awards and distinctions. Already in 1970 he won the first prize in the Noé Solano Annual Cartoon Salon. He entered second in the category editorial cartoon at the 1972 International Salon of Cartoons in Montreal, Canada. The Costa Rican Human Rights Commission (of which he was a founding member), Amnesty International and the National Institute of Insurance sponsored the exhibition 'Los Derechos Humanos en las Caricaturas de Hugo Díaz' ("Human rights in the cartoons of Hugo Díaz") in 1994.

Legacy
Hugo Díaz became known as the "father of the national cartoon". He served as a tutor for new generations, supporting, promoting and defending local cartoonists through groups like La Pluma Sonriente (1980s), El Taller del Comic (1994) and La Zarigüeya. The artist passed away in 2001 at the age of 70, from the results of bone marrow cancer.

Series and books by Hugo Díaz Jiménez in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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