Why was Cantinflas, actor Mario Moreno's film persona, the most popular movie star in Mexican history? Was it because every Mexican - rich or poor, Creole or Indian, man or woman, young or old - could identify with him? A fast-talking, nonsensical character, Cantinflas helped Mexicans embrace their rich mestizo identity and cope with the difficulties of modernization. For 30 years he served as a "weapon of the weak", satirizing corrupt officials and pompous elites who victimized Mexico's urban poor. This account probes the life and times of Mario Moreno, Latin America's most famous film star from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Jeffrey M. Pilcher is professor of history at the University of Toronto Scarborough.