Whether emplotted as epic or as tragedy, the tales told about a nation’s revolutionary past do not tend to elicit laughter as much as awe and solemnity. This is the case with Cuba’s national epic, the story of its nineteenth-century wars for independence (1868–98)—the story of Cuba Libre. This essay analyzes how the animated cartoon shorts and film series Elpidio Valdés (1974–2003) comically inflects the story of Cuba Libre with ridiculing laughter and choteo (folk humor). The series puts forth both a hero more akin to a populist trickster than a Spartan and a revolutionary war more akin to carnivalesque drama than to the Homeric epic. In so doing, it subtly critiques the didactic and panegyric rhetoric that has shrouded the national (as well as the socialist) epic and, in its stead, offers a jocular and fallible revolutionary subject in a more participatory and less austere epic.

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