Paddington Bear: An undocumented immigrant from Peru?
The beloved teddy bear Paddington is, in fact, an immigrant that arrived in London from the "Darkest Peru."
Latino readers are probably familiar with Paddington Bear, that beloved teddy bear wearing a blue raincoat and a red hat who has become one of the most endearing characters in children's literature. However, not everyone remembers that Paddington Bear was actually a "Latino" in London.
Created 60 years ago by the British writer Michael Bond, who died last year, Paddington Bear books tell the adventures of a bear that arrives in London from Peru after his aunt sends him to England to work as a stowaway. When he arrives in London, the bear gets into all sorts of trouble, but always tries to do things well.
Since his first appearance in 1958, his books have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Now, Paddington Bear will be the protagonist of two new coins issued by the Royal Mint, the UK money factory. This action, announced on Thursday by the organization, is part of a campaign to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his birth.
Paddington Bear does not just have coins in his honor. In London, the Peruvian bear also has a life-size bronze statue at Paddington Station, under the clock on Platform 1, and he is depicted asking for help.
In his hometown, Lima, the capital of Peru, the bear also has a statue. "Take care of this bear, please", can be read at Paddington's feet on the Miraflores promenade, next to the Pacific Ocean and a playground. The bear was a gift that the British embassy made to the city in 2015 to commemorate the good relations between the United Kingdom and Peru. It was designed by British comedian Stephen Fry.
The British have used Paddington Bear for politics many times. The sculpture of the bear in Lima, dressed in a gabardine with the colors of the British flag, is one of 50 bears designed by famous artists, actors and politicians that spread throughout London (the so-called "Paddington Trail"). Among Paddington Bear designers are Nicole Kidman and Rihanna, footballer David Beckham and supermodel Kate Moss.
In the case of the coins, they were designed by Dave Knapton, coin designer of the Royal Mint. "I loved reading Paddington books when I was a child, and I felt a true nostalgia when designing these coins. Paddington is part of my childhood, but now it is being discovered by a new generation. "
The two coins show Paddington in two of the most emblematic places where his adventures take place: Paddington Station and Buckingham Palace.
Beyond coins and statues, perhaps it's a good time to read again "A Bear named Paddington" and try to understand the feelings of our beloved teddy bear when he arrived as an immigrant to a strange country. Immediately in the first pages, Paddington Bear is presented as a polite immigrant from the "darkest and most remote Peru" ("Darkest Peru"). He was found by the Brown family in the London station of Paddington, hence his name, because the bear says that no one can understand his Peruvian name.
In fact, the challenges faced by immigrants were present in the imagination of Paddington's creator, Michael Bond, until the very last moment. In his most recent collection of stories, published in 200, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Paddington, Bond deliberately included a meeting between Paddington and a policeman, whose initially benign attempts to interact—“It’s Be Polite to Foreigners Week,” he tells Paddington—turn darker as communication turns into miscommunication, as Rebecca Mead recalled in the New Yorker last year after Bond's death.
"When Paddington tells the officer that he usually only drives on the sidewalk, having never earned his driver’s license, 'the policeman gave him a long, hard look. He seemed to have grown older in the short time Paddington had been there'—a precise and chilling metaphor for the implacable force of authority," Mead wrote in the New Yorker.
"Paddington's books address the subject of immigration in a very subtle way," said Angela Smith, a professor of cultural studies at the University of Sunderland (United Kingdom) and author of a study titled "Paddington Bear: a Case Study on Immigration and Otherness."
According to Smith, Bold wrote the book in 1958, a time of widespread racism and growing multiculturalism, into which a small bear from "Darkest Peru" arrives with a unique perspective on British life.