In the guise of a quick-witted scrapper from Mexico City’s starving class, a comic actor named Mario Moreno, known as Cantinflas, enjoyed great success throughout the Spanish-speaking world from the 1930s through the 1960s. Although Charlie Chaplin once called him “the greatest comedian in the world,” his films were practically unknown apart from Latin America and Spain. This is because of much of his humor is based on elaborate plays on words, as well an ability to speak at great length without actually saying anything. (His style of speech is so common among Mexican politicians that an adjective was coined for their discourse: cantinflesco.)
Outside of the Hospital Obregón in the Colonia Roma, there is a revolving statue of the comedian, a few yards from the emergency-room entryway. Why it has been placed there remains a mystery. Did hospital administrators think that he might cause a chuckle among the unfortunates who are about to go inside for treatment? Or that when a doctor gives a patient the bad news, it won’t seem so awful if he thinks of Cantinflas?