Fernando Zeledón Guzmán, F. Zele in short, is a prominent Costa Rican cartoonist, best known for his political satire page 'La Semana en Serio' (1974-1991) in the communist magazine Adelante during the 1970s and 1980s. His work was characterized by its sarcastic and biting humor, as well as its use of typical Costa Rican characters.

Early life
Zeledón was born in 1937 as the son of sculptor Néstor Zeledón Varela (1903-2000). His older brother Néstor Zeledón Guzmán (1933) also became a noted sculptor. A self-taught artist with no formal education, Fernando Zeledón had begun drawing as a child together with his father and brothers. It wasn't until the 1980s that he took a course at Institute of Political Sciences in Russia. Associating himself with militant left-wing movements, Zeledón began his career in the late 1960s with the help of the journalist Adolfo Herrera García, who introduced him to the weekly magazine Libertad.

La Semana en Serio
Zele eventually joined the now-defunct communist party weekly Adelante, for which he created the regular feature called 'La Semana en Serio' (1974-1991) during a period of seventeen years. The page's set-up was similar to that by his colleague Hugo Díaz in the weekly Pueblo, although its humor was more biting and sarcatistic in tone. Zele provided his view on the political and social situation in Costa Rica and abroad, and was at his sharpest during the years of US President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The US State Department forced Costa Rica's involvement in the so-called "Dirty War" against the Sandinista National Liberation Front, a revolutionary movement backed by the communists which had overthrown the Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza DeBayle in July 1979. The US feared that Nicaragua would become a second Cuba, and secretly supported the Contras, who operated from the neighboring countries Costa Rica and Honduras. Zele's sharp pen commented heavily on all the turmoil, understandably from a communist point-of-view.

Los Supermaes
When Adelante went out of print in the early 1990s, Fernando Zeledón continued his satirical work in Universidad, a serious and objective national newspaper published by the University of Costa Rica. He named his new page 'Los Supermaes' (1990-1997), referring to the popular Costa Rican slang word "mae", which is comparable to the English "dude". The page strongly attacked neoliberal politics, but eventually had to be cancelled due to lack of budget. Zele then served as editor-in-chief of the newspaper El Heraldo from 1998 to 2004, before joining Pueblo, the paper of the left-wing Broad Front (Frente Amplio) party between 2006 and 2012. During these years, he critically commented on the Free Trade Agreements, corruption and the governments of presidents Arias Sánchez and Chinchilla Miranda. F. Zele furthermore illustrated 'Del amor y algunos entredichos' (1995), a book with humorous poems by T. Joroba, pseudonym of Francisco Zúñiga Díaz.

Besides its political undertone, F. Zele's oeuvre is known for its funny characters, inspired by the typical qualities and quirks of the "Ticos" (Costa Ricans). The mutt Cutacha was the mascot in the header of each 'La Semana en Serio' episode. Recurring characters in the strips were the militant granny Doña Auristela, the streetwise and flamboyant playboy Patasdihule and the deceptive and voluptuous Matráfula with large sums of paper money between her breasts, representing the capitalist press. One of the main characters in 'Los Supermaes' was the philosophical caveman Primitivo Piedra, who held a mirror up to the reader's face with regard to consumerism and environmental issues.

Together with Hugo Díaz, F. Zele is considered one of the innovators of Costa Rica's relativaly small graphic humor tradition, which was initiated only in the 1920s by pioneers such as Paco Hernández and Noé Solano Vargas. In 2001 the Casa del Artista School of the Costa Rican Museum of Art honored him for "his valuable work as a teacher and artist".

Fernando Zele is the father of scientific illustrator and cartoonist José Fernando Zeledón (1968).

Series and books by Fernando Zeledón Guzmán in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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