Guaso and Carburo

Dmitri Prieto

When I was a little boy, I liked the Cuban cartoon “Guaso and Carburo.” It was an animated comic strip produced in the 1970s —I think— and involved two dogs, Guaso and Carburo.

I liked the show because —in my youthful judgment of that time— it developed my intellect.  I was a pretty smart kid and I liked TV programs that were intellectually stimulating.

Guaso and Carburo, like I said, were two dogs. They were problem solvers and worked as scouts or detectives.

However, when I was boy, I didn’t note one important detail about Guaso and Carburo.

A fact came to my attention a few years ago when I was thinking back to my childhood during a conversation on a cool evening with a young woman I used to visit in the Cerro municipality. Both of us are devoted readers of George Orwell, so my friend and I shared bursts of laughter and ironic looks after finding an unmistakable Orwellian “clue” in that classic cartoon of our childhood.

Guaso was an intelligent dog; he wore clothes and even sported a fashionable red tie around his neck. He walked on two legs and could speak.  He would figure out situations and would always give his partner Carburo precise orders and directions on how he should act.

Carburo was a dog…nothing more.  He walked on all fours and wore no clothes.  He was never heard speaking, though it seems he understood Guaso’s orders quite well.  He was a hard-working but silent underling, in every way a better “best friend” than… his superior comrade, the verbalizing (and bossing) biped canine.

“Carburo was a dog’s dog,” my friend told me, and both of us made somewhat cynical snickers.

I was fascinated that such a pair of characters, so different from the habitual Disney model of the hero and his bootlicking pet, had occurred to a Cuban producer.  In fact, there was no pet. The members of the team Guaso-Carburo were of the same species: dogs.  But one was almost human, and the other one…clearly, was only a dog.  Obviously they were equal, but one was “more equal than the other.”

The logic of Orwell’s Animal Farm was taken to its minimum expression: a duo.

And with all these qualities, Guaso possessed everything to win in a competition of dogs – as long as they too were mutants.

I’m no longer a little boy, and I know several true intellectuals.  I continue to be fascinated by the enigmatic role of intellect in society.  Today “Guaso and Carburo” no longer appear to me as an intellectually stimulating cartoon for children, but rather as a metaphor for something cruel in the world of adults (…something which introduced its features surreptitiously into the world of childhood).

What human societies most resemble the duo of Guaso-Carburo?

Is Carburo really less intelligent than Guaso?

Who was the decision maker, who was the adviser and who was the executer?

Is intellect a mutation or the norm?  Is silence a misfortune or a privilege?

Within the framework of the equality of the “species,” who are the ones that monopolize silence?

Must someone play the role of Carburo: to be the… intellectual (…?) of the intellectual?

… After all, the comic figure of Carburo always had a luminous face full of happiness. Clearly, he loved his work.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.