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The Smurfs Archives -

The Smurfs Archives -

Estelle Gonzales Walgreen


2011/07/29 at 12:00am

Smurfs vs. Los Pitufos – Have We Gone too Far with the Spanish Translations?

07.29.2011 | By |

Depending on what part of town you are from or what language your TV is talking to you in, you’ve heard the name ‘Los Pitufos’.  Confused?  Well think of one of the most popular brands in kid’s entertainment and think of 500 million chotchkies sold world wide with the Pitufos image that includes blue bottled water.  Yes it’s none other than The Smurfs whose long awaited movie opens today.

Thanks to the youngsters in mi familia and their screeches about Pitufos did I realize the Smurfs I grew up with and their Pitufos were one in the same.  How did we come to praise these mushroom dwelling blue cuties with two different monikers and where the hell did that translation come from?

After some digging I found the culprit. Spanish magazine editor, Alfons Moline, who some thirty years ago couldn’t translate the word smurf into Spanish (why he didn’t leave well enough alone I’ll never know) named the characters after a famous folktale hero known as ‘Patufet’.  Now, all of Spain, Mexico and Latin American uses the term Los Pitufos, pronounced ‘pee-two-foes’ when talking about The Smurfs.  That still doesn’t explain how mi familia and many other U.S. Hispanics are pitufo crazy but smurf ignorant.

The answer there, didn’t take much digging it was corporate America trying to sell more crap to Latinos without giving it much thought.  Someone in the advertising department must of read the dated study that all Hispanics prefer to be sold everything and anything in Spanish even their American pop culture.  Isn’t that a condumrum or “adivinanza” – see somethings are just better left untranslated.  Therefore most Smurf advertising in Spanish-language media and in ads where there are high concentration of Latinos only use the Pitufo name.  Bad idea I say.

First, it’s generally appreciated if a translation for marketing purposes is at least in the same English sounding neighborhood you know like Nueva York or Los Doyers (which incidently the team trademarked).  Don’t sell me Alvin y Las Ardillas when everyone else is talking about Alvin & the Chipmunks.  And don’t promote Harry Potter y Los Reliquias de la Muerte which doesn’t sound as British and regal as Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows.

When I was growing up no one acknowledged the Latino consumer base or thought it necessary to create separate and not necessarily equal marketing campaigns – so I shouldn’t complain too much about the progress made.  However, pop and cultural icons like the Smurfs, Mickey Mouse (El Raton de Disney) and Corona (Crown beer for those of you south of the Mason-Dixon line that refuse to utter a Spanish sound) are better left represented in the language they have evolved from.

The movie was definitely Hispanicized enough if that is what marketers were worried about.  The movie has George Lopez’ East L.A. barrio accent and Sofia Vergara’s Colombian nasal lilt – all part of the Smurf’s village.  By the way, isn’t Vergara a prime example that the bigger your bust size the better your accent sounds?  And please familia don’t confuse me by referring to George’s character as the Pitufo Gruñon when it’s really Grouchy Smurf.

Enjoy the movie and if anyone asks what did you think of ‘Los Pitufos’ simply retort “Do you mean Los Smurfs?” or “I don’t hablo Spanish just Spanglish.”

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