Roberto Gomez Bolaños—the beloved Mexican actor, comedian and icon best known as "Chespirito"— has died at the age of 85 due to heart failure, according to Mexican television network Televisa.
Chespirito was Latin America's answer to Jim Henson. While he didn’t use puppets, he created characters that became part of our daily routine and taught us a thing or two about right and wrong. You’d be hard pressed to find a Hispanic person who doesn’t know about “El Chavo del Ocho,” “El Chapulin Colorado,” "Doctor Chapatin,” and all the other cartoonish personalities he created.
Chespirito was a master at using physical comedy, running gags, literal interpretations, and double entendres to teach kids about serious subjects like homelessness. As the main character on “El Chavo del Ocho,” he played an eight-year-old boy with no parents who lived inside a barrel in the middle of a "vecindad," a complex of low-income apartments. He never bludgeoned viewers with that detail, only subtly alluding to El Chavo’s predicament.
Chespirito has been handing out life lessons since 1971, when "El Chavo del Ocho" first premiered on Televisa. Despite the fact that it ceased production decades ago, the program still averages more than 91 million daily viewers across the globe. It's not just the Spanish-speaking world that grew up with his characters either. The show has been translated and aired in places like South Korea and Greece. Chespirito's influence can even be seen on yet another iconic program, "The Simpsons." Matt Groening once said that "Bumblebee Man" was inspired by El Chapulin Colorado.
A tribute to Chespirito will be held this Sunday at Estadio Azteca, the Mexico City stadium with a capacity of more than 100,000 people (it's also home to Club America, the Liga MX soccer team he passionately rooted for).
He may no longer be with us, but the influence of Chespirito’s characters on Hispanic culture will be his lasting legacy.
Reporting by Fidel Martinez and Francisco Alvarado
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.