The Three Caballeros

The Three Caballeros is how a sector of the press and the fandom have dubbed the attacking trident made up by Argentinean Leo Messi, Brazilian Neymar and Uruguayan Luis Suarez, key players for the Catalan Futbol Club Barcelona, one of the world’s top soccer teams. The Three Caballeros first appeared in a competitive soccer game in October 2014, and readily emerged as a well-oiled goal-scoring machine: 122 in the 2014-15 season; 131 in the 2015-16 season. In each case, they broke the record for most goals attained by an offensive trio in the Spanish soccer statistical tables. The latter season included historical blowouts such as 4-0 against Real Madrid, 6-0 against Sporting de Gijon, 7-0 against Valencia and 8-0 against Deportivo La Coruña.

But before the Argentinean-Brazilian-Uruguayan The Three Caballeros, there was The Three Caballeros Version 1.0: American Donald Duck; Brazilian Jose Carioca, a parrot, and; Mexican Panchito Pistoles, a cock, all of whom star in the animated Walt Disney movie of the same name, whose main theme is Donald opening three  birthday presents from his friends: a film projector, a book and a piñata.

Besides the original trio of caballeros, three other characters in the picture are the Brazilian Aracuan, a tropical bird known as the speckled chachalaca; and the Argentineans Pablo, a penguin, and Burrito, a donkey.

“The Three Caballeros” is better understood taken as part of a package with the previous Disney movie, “Saludos Amigos,” which also features Donald Duck and Jose Carioca, along with the dog Goofy, but not the rooster Panchito Pistoles. Whereas “Saludos Amigos” takes place in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, “The Three Caballeros” omits Peru and Chile, and adds Mexico instead, while keeping Argentina and Brazil on the list.

The ’40s were a busy period for Walt Disney. Public record documents show how – even before Dec. 11, 1941, when Germany declared war against the United States – the Walt Disney Productions company became integrated into the propaganda apparatus run by the administration of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Films “Der Fuehrer’s Face” (also known as “Donald Duck in Nutzi Land”), released on Jan. 1, 1943, and “Victory Through Air Power,” released on July 17, 1943, are some examples of this. And, the rollout of “Saludos Amigos” and “The Three Caballeros” occurred every year between 1942 and 1945. Indeed, the world’s premiere of “Saludos Amigos” was on Aug. 24, 1942, in Rio de Janeiro; its U.S. premiere was on Feb. 6, 1943, in Boston; the world’s premiere of “The Three Caballeros” was on Dec. 21, 1944, in Mexico City, and; its U.S. premiere was on Feb. 3, 1945, in New York City.

The ideology of “The Three Caballeros” could be summed up by its theme song, which has the following lines: “We’re three caballeros. / Three gay [joyful] caballeros. / They say we are birds of a feather. / We’re happy amigos. / No matter where he goes the one, / two and three goes. / We’re always together. / … / Through fair and stormy weather / we stand close together / like books on a shelf.

It remains to be seen whether Messi, Neymar and Suarez have lived up to the claims of being always together, even between games, but, more importantly from a geopolitical perspective, these lines could be taken to represent that the United States, Brazil and Mexico will always stick together. To understand more thoroughly this purported message, it would be helpful to describe briefly the movie background.

On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt launched the Good Neighbor Policy, a form of public diplomacy, to replace the previous U.S. policy, commonly referred to as gunboat diplomacy, which, as its name suggests, was based on raw violence. In the lead-up to the U.S. entry into World War II, the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Aid, led by a Roosevelt appointee, Nelson Rockefeller, sent Walt Disney and a team of approximately 20 of his collaborators to tour Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru in order to collect material for producing propaganda films, aimed at Latin American audiences, which turned out to be “Somos Amigos” and “The Three Caballeros.” To this effect, “Somos Amigos” even received loan guarantees from the federal government. This is not to say that both flicks don’t have artistic merits in and of themselves.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

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