It’s difficult trying to describe the nostalgic bliss that comes whenever I hear the “El Chavo’s” theme song on TV. The appropriately titled song, “The Elephant Never Forgets” by Jean Jacques Perrey, can take whoever grew up with the series back to their childhood. Forty years after El Chavo Del Ocho’s inception, it continues to warm the hearts of Spanish-speakers. Following the recent death of Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the creator of El Chavo Del Ocho, we decided to review the different aspects that make this show so magical.
The History of the Show:
El Chavo Del Ocho was a Televisa-produced thirty minute sitcom that aired from 1973-1980. The show featured the antics of the orphan El Chavo and company in their fictional home of the “vecendida,” which was a low-income housing unit. El Chavo was an eight-year-old boy that liked to hang out inside a barrel. Around him, the characters would have their storylines. The composition of the El Chavo Del Ocho differed from other family-oriented shows because the children were impersonated by adults. Regardless of acting choices, the actors were wonderfully over the top. The kids would throw throw tantrums, act out, act envious, etc.. The adults would fall in love, teach the children a lesson, or annoy the children.
The character “El Chavo” was first introduced in 1971 on The Chespirito Show. The series and character was created by Roberto Gómez Bolaños (A.K.A. “Chespirito”). Even though the other characters that Chespirito had created were popular, the first sketch that featured El Chavo, La Chilindrina, and Don Ramón was revolutionary. The sketch used a low-income fictional housing unit, the vecendidad, as its stage. This scene resonated more with underprivileged families than the popular soap-operas of the day did because soap operas were often portrayed Anglo-Saxon actors whose struggles were solely exclusive to the upper class.
When Bolaños was offered the chance to introduce “El Chavo” as a thirty-minute television show to the public in 1973, he ended his variety show. El Chavo Del Ocho was then made into the well-known sitcom. From there Chespirito (as El Chavo) produced the show’s content alongside Florinda Diaz (Doña Florinda), Ramón Valdés (Don Ramón), Carlos Villagrán (Quico), María Antonieta de las Nieves (La Chilindrina), Rubén Aguirre (Señor Jirafeles), Édgar Viva (El Señor Barrage), and Angelines Fernández (Doña Clotilde).
Over the course of seven years, eight seasons, and two hundred and ninety episodes El Chavo Del Ocho ended it’s television run. However it to continued to exist within Latino popular culture by syndication, that means it was put on reruns. The show has been syndicated since 1992 and according to Forbes Magazine the show has earned an estimated $1.7 Billion in syndication fees as of 2012.
Animated for a New Generation:
El Chavo Del Ocho’s magic was also brought into the new millennial by it’s animated spin-off, El Chavo Animado. The show started in 2006 and has produced seven seasons and 139 episodes. It featured all the characters animated, with the exception of la Chilindrina. The reason for this is that María Antonieta de las Nieves, the actress who portrayed the character, believed that she had a legal claim to the character. Since this dispute couldn’t be settled, Chespirito replaced her with Popis, Quico’s cousin who is portrayed by Florida Díaz.
There are many fans of El Chavo Del Ocho throughout the world. It was a large hit within the Spanish-speaking countries from Latin America, South America, Mexico, Spain, and some parts of the United States with predominately Hispanic roots.
Growing Up with El Chavo:
Even though I haven’t taken the time to watch an episode of El Chavo Del Ocho recently, I can bust out the lyrics to “Que. Bonita Vecindad” on cue. This show has had a large effect on me while growing up. I used to try to imitate Quico’s or the Chilindrina’s brattiness just for fun. That is what happens when you’re raised in a Mexican-American household in the 1990s. My first language was Spanish. I watched dubbed versions of cartoons in Spanish. El Chavo Del Ocho was one of the few shows that I watched that was made for the language that I was used to. It was also the first show that made me interested in satire.
It’s crazy that even though I was born in 1995, fifteen years after the show had ended, reruns of the show caused me to have a similar connection that my parents had with the show. I asked my mom to comment on the show’s effect on her life and she said this.
“I was raised with this show as it was going on. There have been people in my life whom I’ve related to Don Ramón, or Quico. When I was ten, I dressed up as la Chilindrina, and won the best costume award. This show is loved in Mexico. It might be called the Mexican-version of The Brady Bunch except that it is still applicable to other Spanish-speaking generations.”
El Chavo Del Ocho is one of the most wonderful shows of all time. Regardless of generational gaps, Spanish-speakers continue to love this show by it’s running gags, quirky characters, and emotional stories. It’s a shame that Roberto Gómez Bolaños passed away on November 28, 2014, at the age of 85. His art as a comedian influenced many generations of Spanish-speaking individuals. When it was first shown, this show practically raised my parents. Through syndication, people like me got to experience the magic for themselves. And, through creation of the animated version of the show these characters will continue to amuse more generations of Latinos. El Chavo Del Ocho will always be able to can make us feel like kids again.