Chavo del 8

El Chavo (TV series)

El Chavo (El Chavo del Ocho in spanish) is a Mexican television show that has gained a great amount of popularity in Latin America as well as in Spain and other countries. It focuses around the adventures and tribulations of the title character, an orphan, played by the series' creator, Roberto Gómez Bolaños, and other inhabitants of a fictional apartments building, or as called in Mexico, vecindad.

The shows traces back to June 20, 1971, where it appeared as a sketch in the "Chespirito" show, broadcast on Mexico's channel 8. In 1973, El Chavo moved to Televisa and became a weekly half-hour series. The show was cancelled in 1980, but shorts were still produced in Chespirito from that year until 1992. At its peak of popularity during the mid-1970s, El Chavo, having 350 million viewers worldwide, was the most-watched show in Mexican television. The frequent occurrence of Mexican idiomatic expressions makes El Chavo very hard to translate into other languages. An exception is the Portuguese language which is very similar to Spanish. Thus the Portuguese-spoken version of El Chavo is still very popular in Brazil, where the series is known as Chaves and is still broadcast by SBT.



By 1971, Chespirito was already well-known in Mexico for his self-titled sketch comedy show, which aired on Televisión Independiente de México. He had already introduced El Chapulín Colorado and other famous characters.

Chespirito was the show's main creator and star. He called Florinda Meza to act in the show first; Chespirito and Meza later married. Edgar Vivar was the second actor chosen for the show. Chespirito recruited Ramón Valdés because he had known Valdés for years; Valdés, brother of Tin-Tan and El Loco Valdés uncle and father of Cristian Castro respectively, had made multiple movies Chespirito had seen. Then, Rubén Aguirre was cast in the show as the character of "Profesor Jirafales". Aguirre and Chespirito had been working on scripts together for years, and Aguirre had already been playing the character of Profesor Jirafales on another Chespirito show, Supergénios de la Mesa Cuadrada', which spoofed current events panel discussion. Carlos Villagrán just happened to be a friend of Aguirre who was a newspaper reporter, and he went to a party hosted by Aguirre. Villagrán did a comedy step where he blew his cheeks out of proportion, and Aguirre told Chespirito about his friend's hidden talent. Villagrán was promptly hired for the show. María Antonieta de las Nieves was a voice-over only actress who used to go to Televisa to do announcements. Upon hearing her voice, Chespirito thought she was perfect for the show. The last ones to be added to the show were Angelines Fernández, a former telenovela actress and Horacio Gómez Bolaños, Chespirito'' 's brother and who had never considered acting before; he was originally to oversee the show's marketing.

The first El Chavo short appeared on June 20, 1971 and featured El Chavo, Chilindrina and Don Ramón. Several "Chavo" sketches produced before the start of the half-hour series were grouped into half-hour segments and are shown before the "official" half-hour episodes in syndication. Many of these were also re-written and re-shot as half-hour long shows later in the show's life.

Broadcast History

In early 1973, Telesistema Mexicano and TIM merged to become Televisa. After the merger, El Chavo del Ocho became a weekly half-hour TV series.

Until about 1975, many of the early episodes were shorter than 30 minutes and had a sketch at the beginning, featuring Dr. Chapatin, El Chómpiras, or one of Chespirito's other characters. In these episodes, María Antonieta de las Nieves generally played the female leads and was the first actor credited after Chespirito. After she left Chespirito's shows in 1973, Florinda Meza took over the female roles, and De las Nieves was given "distinctive" last billing when she returned in 1975. After Valdés and Villagrán left, she was moved to top billing after Chespirito again, by that time all episodes lasted the full 30 minutes. On the hour-long "Chespirito", De las Nieves was often given third billing behind Chespirito and Florinda Meza if playing another character besides Chilindrina, otherwise she always got the special final credit.

When Carlos Villagrán left the show, it was explained that Quico had gone to live with his godmother. "He couldn't stand the riffraff anymore", Doña Florinda explained. Not long after, Ramón Valdés also left the series, but no explanation was given as to where Don Ramón had gone. The weekly series El Chavo was cancelled by Televisa in 1980.

The Chespirito Show

Starting in 1980, the "Chespirito" show began to air again, featuring El Chavo, El Chapulín and other sketches. The debut of El Chavo in this new program was auspicious, with a wealth of new episodes being produced. Moreover, in 1981, Valdés returned to the cast, after starring in some unsuccessful shows alongside Villagrán. However, he left again at the end of the year.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of new episodes began to decline, once again, many early episodes were remade. In addition, as Chespirito grew older, he no longer considered adequate to play the role of an 8-year-old kid. As a result, production of El Chavo was stopped in 1992, three years before the cancellation of the "Chespirito" show.

Animated series

After several years of successful reruns, Televisa launched simultaneously in all Latin America an animated version of the program made by Ánima Estudios on October 21, 2006. As a background, a 3D computer model was used, though for the characters, 2D drawings were used, created with Flash technology. A huge program was made to launch it in on a scenario made to imitate the computerized background. Some things about the original program were reminescenced and they showed how the animated series was made.

The cartoon also allowed depicting the children to the right scale. Previously, since the children were played by adults in the live action version, the feel was given to the character through their way of dressing, speaking, and mainly through giving them oversized toys. However, this was not the first attempt to animate it. Previously, during the credits, claymation sequences could be watched.

In this animated series, La Chilindrina doesn't appear due to on-going disputes between María Antonieta de las Nieves and Roberto Gómez Bolaños on rights of "La Chilindrina". De las Nieves feels she should be entitled to monetary compensation if "La Chilindrina", the character she brought to life in the television series, appears in the animated series. Roberto Gómez Bolaños claims that since he created the character, only he owns the rights to such character. This dispute still hasn't been resolved.

Characters and cast

  • El Chavo del ocho (Roberto Gómez Bolaños): an eight-year-old orphan, is the main character of the series. "Chavo" is a Mexican Spanish slang for "kid"; Chavo's real name is not known, but in some episodes he calls himself Chente, short for Vicente, after a friend who died in the orphan home in which he was abandoned. Generally Chavo is enthusiastic, creative and good-natured, but on the other hand he is also rather naïve and very gullible. He is not particularly bright (which Roberto Gómez Bolaños insinuated on the launch of the animated series may be consequence of poor nutrition) and is remarkably clumsy, often hitting Quico, Don Ramón and Señor Barriga with balls, shoes, hammers, bricks, chairs and other objects. Chavo arrived at the neighborhood at the age of four and apparently lives in apartment #8 with an elderly woman (who is never seen, but mentioned in the novel El diario de El Chavo del 8). After her death, Chavo spends most of his time inside an abandoned barrel that he calls his "secret hideout". He has a craving for ham tortas, a popular kind of sandwich in Mexico.
  • Quico (Carlos Villagrán): is a spoiled, overprotected 9-year-old boy, son of Doña Florinda and a late naval captain (also named Federico) who reportedly died when his vessel was swallowed by a whale.
    Arrogant, manipulatory and envious, Quico always wants to draw everyone's attention to himself, either by screaming loudly or by showing off his newest toy. Partially due to his mother's influence (and former wealth and status as the wife of a naval officer), he believes that he and his mother are superior to everyone else in the neighborhood. However, he still finds time to play with the, as he and his mother call them, chusma ("riffraff"), namely Chavo, Chilindrina and Don Ramón. Quico is also noticeable for his black sailor "dress blue" top (probably a memento from his father), his rainbow patterned beanie cap, his enormous cheeks, and his minuscule intelligence, often responding to the Spanish words for idiot, stupid, dummy, etc.. In 1978, Quico went off to live with his godmother, reportedly unable to stand the riffraff anymore. Villagran's character, Kiko, starred in a rather short-lived spin-off series, Ay, Que Kiko! in the late 1980s which attempted to revive the series using a "Hip-hop" twist and gave Villagran's character a slight wardrobe make-over.
  • Don Ramón (Ramón Valdés): is an unemployed widower. His greatest aspiration seems to be living an uncomplicated life, but in the vecindad this seems impossible. He is constantly hounded for the rent which he has neglected to pay for fourteen months (a figure that seems to be static since Señor Barriga forgives several months off of his rent in several episodes). His daughter (Chilindrina) is a perennial headache and his neighbor Doña Florinda's response to any imposition on her lifestyle is a loud slap on his face. Although rather high-strung and quick-tempered, Don Ramón manages to keep a fairly upbeat attitude and to (just barely) make a living doing odd jobs. He's also a fan of all sports and pretends to be knowledgeable in them (having demonstrated boxing, bowling, American football and even bullfighting [with a dummy bull] to the kids), but due to the kids' own shortcomings, he always comes up short. Chavo often mispronounces his name as Ron Damón, which he is implying that he is a drunkard (ron means "rum" in Spanish). One quote popularized by himself is "There is no terrible work, the terrible is to have to work". He is a fan of Club Necaxa, which in the day was generally know as a perennial mid-table also-ran, per Don Ramón's quote "Yo le voy al Necaxa", meaning that he neither wished glory nor suffering.

As Doña Cleotilde, Don Ramon's source of income has never been revealed. The only choices are quite few small jobs that he has done in the series (yoyo player, boxer, singer, painter, fixing shoes, selling used home items, milkman, barber, guitar player, , etc.) But other than that "jobs" is unknown whether he does other stuff for living.

  • Doña Florinda (Florinda Meza): mother of Quico and love interest of Profesor Jirafales. She is a widow; her late husband, after which Quico was named, was a naval officer who died at sea and is often said by Quico that he descansa en pez (a pun on "rest in peace", literally meaning "rests in fish", indicating that he was swallowed by a shark). Her full name is Florinda Corcuera y Villalpando, viuda de (widow of) Matalascallando, but in other occasions, someone said that her dead husband's last name was La Regeira. Doña Florinda has deluded herself into believing she's socially, morally and economically superior to her neighbors (and it is suggested that at one time she was well-off). She is so fiercely protective of Quico that whenever he is upset, she'll beat up Don Ramón without seeking explanation. She likes the cleanliness and order and also likes to cook and for that reason she become famous among her neighbours and one time she accepted a partnership selling churros (a tipe of pastry in Mexico) with Don Ramón, she watches in TV: "La cocina de Chepina Peralta" (Chepina Peralta's kitchen) She is easily recognized by the fact that she always keeps her hair in curlers (except in some early episodes), even at work or on vacation in Acapulco. In later episodes, she opens a restaurant called "Restaurante Doña Florinda". Derisively, the kids call her "Vieja Chancluda" ("vieja" being "old lady", and "chancluda" as someone who uses "chanclas", sandals).
  • Profesor Jirafales (Rubén Aguirre): the school teacher. Highly educated but naïve, although single he carries on a ludicrously innocent relationship with Doña Florinda and patiently teaches way above the heads of his 8-year-old students. He is a teacher with lots of patience and professionally ethical. When angered, he shouts "Ta-ta-ta-taaaaa-TAH!!!". His last name is a reference to his height ("jirafa" is Spanish for giraffe; the closest English equivalent would be Giraffald). The children (and sometimes adults, most notably Don Ramón) refer to him as "Maestro Longaniza" (being "maestro" an alternative for "professor", both meaning "teacher", and "longaniza" a long kind of sausage).
  • Doña Cleotilde (Angelines Fernández): an ugly but love-needed woman that also lives in the "vecindad", in the apartment 71. Because she is somewhat eccentric, the kids think she is a witch, and refer to her as "The Witch of the 71". Some adults also refer her like that, often by mistake, due to the kids frequently calling her "witch". She refers herself as señorita0 (miss) because she has never been married, which also she gets upset when anyone call her señora(Mrs.), meaning that she is a married woman. She is a single woman, thirsty for love, and frequently seeks it with Don Ramón, who is a widower. Because she never wants people to know her accurate age, she is always saying the number of candles she had to use in her "last" birthday's cake. (She never says more than 49) Even with that people never believe her, mostly because she also acts like a senior woman. She has always been in love with Don Ramón, her neighbor. But he is not interested in her, so Doña Clotilde wants him and does everything she can to conquer him like bringing him food from the store, buying him medicine when he can't sleep, baking cakes for him, or lending him luggage. In fact, all the times that Don Ramón is "interested" in her is when she faints in the middle of the yard and was going to bring him something from the store or just when being polite with her is his only choice. She is always dressed with a blue or pink hat (50s style) with "leaves", blue gown, and black shoes. In the beginning of the series she had also a black sweater.

About her incomes, no one knows where does she get money to buy food, pay her rent, and giving presents to Don Ramón all the time. As she pretends to make people believe that she comes from a higher class background, somebody could suggest that she gets her money from an inheritance. And as her real age is never revealed, if she really is a senior woman, perhaps she has a pension. But other that choices, no one can say the truth about her real source of income.

  • Señor Barriga (Edgar Vivar): the vecindads landlord. Rarely succeeds in collecting rent from Don Ramón and is greeted upon his every arrival by being (accidentally) kicked, tripped, beaten, or hit by a flying object thrown by El Chavo. His last name is a reference to his obesity ("barriga" is Spanish and Portuguese for "belly", but the surname actually exists). In the episode where Doña Florinda first sets up a restaurant, his full name is revealed to be "Zenón Barriga y Pesado" (literally "Zenón Belly and Heavy", Pesado is a real surname too), being "Zenón" a pun on "Cenón" ("dining man" or "big dinner"). He is also well known because of his patience with Don Ramón and his unpunctual rent payments and all the kids'(mostly Chavo's) misbehavior like punching him or nicknaming him (always making fun of his body).
  • La Chilindrina (María Antonieta de las Nieves): daughter of Don Ramón. "Precocious" is probably the best way to describe Don Ramón's intelligent and mischievous daughter, who likes to take advantage of her slow-witted friends to play pranks on them and take their toys or snacks. She wears thick-framed glasses, after a few years her wardrobe consisted of a short green-pattern dress and a red sweater that was always twisted on the back. She has freckles and two ponytails that are always uneven, one significantly higher than the other one, just like her socks. "Chilindrina" is the name of a typical Mexican bun, with chocolate sparkles on top, reminiscent of the character's freckles. In early episodes, La Chilindrina has longer ponytails which are cut by El Chavo.

Production and setting

El Chavo del Ocho follows El Chavo and the other inhabitants of the vecindad, as they go about in their everyday lives.

The show explores, in a comic manner, the problems that many homeless children face on a daily basis, such as hunger, sadness and not having someone responsible to watch over them. One episode, for example, had Chavo sitting on the steps of the vecindad at night, dreaming of all the toys he wished he could have and how he'd play with them. It ended with him returning to the present, sighing wistfully, then pulling out a balero (the only toy he'd ever had on a regular basis) made of a stick, a tin can, and a piece of string. He begins to play with it as the camera slowly fades out. Some episodes also have educational endings, teaching for example that it's good take a shower and to not judge a book for its cover.

The main patio, or front yard, is where El Chavo's barrel is located and where the main action takes place. The alleyway on the right leads into another yard ("el otro patio"), which has a fountain in the middle. Objects thrown from this yard go over Don Ramón's apartment and into the main yard. On the outside, often the sidewalk is the main stage shown, where El Chavo sometimes sells fruit juices. In the later seasons, sometimes an unnamed park was shown. Also, several episodes take place at a school classroom, where Profesor Jirafales teaches. All child characters in the show are in the same classroom. Two episodes of the series were set on Acapulco. All the cast traveled there for a vacation.

Humor style

The show relies heavily upon physical comedy and running gags in order to amuse the audience. Perhaps the best-known examples are:

Señor Barriga and El Chavo: Whenever Señor Barriga entered the vecindad, El Chavo would hit him one way or another. Señor Barriga even congratulated El Chavo when he didn't hit him, to which El Chavo would say "You hear that, Quico? This is the first time that I didn't hit Señor Barriga..." and then would turn around, or drop whatever he was holding, ironically hitting Señor Barriga.

Mysteries surrounding Chavo: Characters occasionally ask what Chavo's real name is, where he lives, and who he lives with. Every time he is about to answer, there is an interruption and the subject is never brought up again. However, he once mentioned he lived in the apartment No. 8 of the neighborhood and being called "del Ocho" ("from the eight") for that same reason.

Crying: Almost all the characters have specific and strange ways of crying.

El Chavo getting scared: Whenever something spooks El Chavo out instead of running or screaming or fainting like the others from the vencidad, he performs a type of stance with his knees bended, back slouched, left arm dropping down & right arm hanging out with only his hand dropping downward.

Quotes and famous phrases

Chespirito created several words and phrases that nowadays are widely used as part of the Spanish language, at least in Mexico City and country:

¡Ta ta ta taaaaa TA!: It is the angry expression shouted by Profesor Jirafales when he loses his temper.

Fue sin querer queriendo (I meant to, but didn't mean to do it): is usually used by El Chavo when he does something wrong.

¡Tenía que ser el Chavo del Ocho! (It had to be El Chavo del Ocho again!): is used by all the victims of El Chavo jokes, mistakes or misunderstandings.

Fíjate, fíjate, fíjate, fíjate (Really really really really): is a phrase that Chilindrina uses every time she's gossiping.

Es que no me tienen paciencia (They don't have patience with me): Used by El Chavo when he has to explain misconduct.

¡No me simpatizas! (I don't like you!): Used by Quico when he is angry or hurt.

Eso, eso, eso (That's it, that's it, that's it):is often used by El Chavo as a way of saying "Yes".

Bueno, pero no se enoje (Okay, but don't get mad): El Chavo says it in a pleading tone when someone is mad at him.

Se me chispoteó (I just screwed it): El Chavo says it in a surprising tone when he says something insulting to anyone who is an adult present when he is in a group argument.

Míralo, míralo (Look at him, look at him) El Chavo and other kids will say it when they catch someone else in the patio misbehaving or doing something wrong or to deflect the blame to someone else.

¡Ay, cállate, cállate, cállate, que me desesperas! (Ah, shut up, shut up, shut up, you upset me!): Used by Quico when Chavo or other characters start to talk to him and interrupt repeatedly whatever activity they are doing. Sometimes he shouts when there is a loud discussion between other characters at the moment.

¿Que paso, Que paso, Vamos ahí?? (What's happening, what's happening, what's going on?): is a phrase used by Don Ramón whenever he wants to know the reason of a confusion happening in the moment.


Chavo's creators, producers and Televisa have been critized for presenting horrible social situations as funny, and for exploiting the most negative aspects of human behavior. The most frequent target of all these negative traits is an 8 year old homeless boy, who does not eat a regular meal, and whose only friends are precisely the individuals who torment him on a daily basis.

The gags are always followed by laughter cues, perhaps because at least initially the producers needed to point to the audience the moments that otherwise might not be recognized as funny. With time though, this was not necessary, since the gags were always the same. Notably, at the beginning of each episode, a voice informs us that this program does not have recorded laughter, which was evidently not true, since the laughter always sounded the same way. Frequently, the laughter cue came after a child started crying. There are many anectodal reports of adults who state that they coudn't wait to get to school the next day to act out all the negative behavior seen in the show the previous evening.

Recently, the NGO Participación Ciudadana released a survey of parents in Ecuador, which found "El Chavo" as the most violent program in Ecuadorian television amongst the 109 considered, beating even Walker, Texas Ranger and The Sopranos. The quality of the show has also been criticized. The gags are repetitive, and there are few new situations. Viewers are able to predict outcomes and lines by various characters.

Impact and Reception

The show is the most translated Latin-American show in history, after being shown in several countries. It is the most popular sitcom in the history of Mexican television and lasted for 1,300 episodes. It has been rerun on several TV stations since the 1970s. Surprisingly, El Chavo del Ocho is also quite popular in Brazil (the only Portuguese-speaking country of the Americas), broadcasted by SBT since the beginning of the 1980s. In the United States, the show is still shown, on Galavisión. The show in the United States is consistently the No. 1-rated Spanish-language cable program.

The show was so popular in other parts of Latin America and among the Spanish speaking community of the United States that in Peru and Uruguay, other shows involving the main actors of El Chavo del Ocho began to be televised, in Argentina. Rubén Aguirre has been able to enjoy some success playing his character at a circus, and in Puerto Rico and Colombia, many of the phrases El Chavo and his friends used have become normal part of their every day dialogue. Chespirito has established legal battles with former El Chavo del Ocho actors out of a desire to prevent them from using the show's characters in Mexico without his permission. Aguirre moved to Argentina in order to use his character's name on his shows (Chespirito is not copyrighted in Argentina).

There have also being internet fads regarding the show, editing images and replacing them with the character's heads, in particular the Chavo Matrix which tried to modify the story of The Matrix using them. The character that has most images edited this way is Don Ramón featuring many different instances.


External links

In Spanish

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