Few television shows are as deep-rooted in our cultural DNA as The Simpson. Since 1989, the animated brainchild of Matt Groening has held up a trenchant mirror to the United States’ cultural peculiarities, and the show never pulls punches when it comes satirizing our absurd and often unjust society. But while all of this should ostensibly make The Simpsons a uniquely American phenomenon, it’s reach actually goes far beyond our borders – and in few regions is America’s longest running sitcom as deeply loved as in Latin America.
Of coure, one could argue there are certain cultural sympathies between the young nations of the Americas, or that US cultural imperialism has heavy-handedly imposed standardized tastes on our neighbords to the south, but in truth much of this is thanks to the stellar cast of voice actors that have dubbed the animated series over 28 seasons. Starting with Humberto Velez‘s iconic interpretation of Homero Simpson over the show’s first 15 seasons, the group of primarily Mexican voices under the direction of Marina Huerta have managed to bring a uniquely Latin American sensibility to Groening’s quintessentially American humor.
Of course, we must stress the difference between the Latin American version and the Spanish version of the show, the latter of which inspires derision and passionate dissent from Latinos all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. So, in recognition of Latin America’s wonderful reimagining of the United States’ animated conscience, here are five times when they did The Simpsons just as well, if not better.
Homer Eats Chili
At a local chili-eating competition, Chief Wiggum tires of Homer’s pretentious attitude and dares him to eat a notorious Guatemalan hot pepper. Admittedly, Homero’s fit of characteristic shrieks and grunts doesn’t quite do the trick in Spanish, but something about watching a chile eating competition in Spanish seems more appropriate. Plus, it’s worth it just to hear “Jefe” Wiggum pronounce Quetzaltenango like a boss.
Hansel and Gretel
Kicking off with a “Hansel and Gretel”-like narrative of extreme parental negligence, this classic “Treehouse of Horrors” episode takes Bart and Lisa through an adventure inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Subtle jokes like “That’s a load bearing candy cane!” may get lost in translation, but just hearing Bart replace his “Wow!” for “¡Órale!” is enough to give this episode a few watches.
Bart seeks vengeance on Homer for some tasteless April Fools jokes. The Español Latino version takes this one if only because yelling “¡Inocente palomita!” is 1000 times better than “April Fools!”
Homer, Mr. Burns, and Smithers in Cuba
After Mr. Burns steals a trillion dollar bill from the US Treasury, he grabs Smithers and Homer and hot foots it to Cuba, where he hopes to buy the island from president Batista. Once their, he finds Fidel Castro in power and on the verge of giving up communism.
You would assume an episode taking place in a Spanish-speaking country would automatically be better in Spanish… until you discover that Fidel Castro has a Colombian accent. ? We’re still on the fence about whether that makes the Spanish-language version qualitatively better. But just maybe it does.
Homer and Bart in the Mob
Homer and Bart start getting deep into mob life as part of Fat Tony’s crew. Admittedly, some of the linguistic subtleties and mafia clichés are lost in translation, but what’s most impressive is how something so culturally specific actually holds up this well in another language.