Plaza Perón in downtown Buenos Aires is adorned with statues of some of Argentina’s most beloved cartoon characters. El Eternauta, the protagonist of Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López’s science fiction epic, stands defiantly in his green space suit; Langostino of Langostino-and-Corina fame smokes his pipe on the high seas; while the down-and-out El Linyera leans against a tree guard and eyes his faithful dog, Diógenes.
Yet on the corner of Avenida Belgrano and Calle Azopardo, visitors to the famed Paseo de la Historieta (Walk of the Comic Strip) will find nothing more than a hole in the sidewalk — a grave of sorts for a grinning cat named Gaturro.
On July 16, less than 48 hours after its reinstallation, city officials carted off a yellow statue covered in personalized messages, black spray paint, and drawings of penises that have earned it the nickname “Pijurro.” Desecrating artist Cristian Dzwonik’s creation has become something of a civic tradition; since the statue’s unveiling a decade ago, Argentine youths and amateur art critics have made a habit of defacing the caustic character’s likeness. In 2019, someone even sawed off one of Gaturro’s paws, which prompted Dzwonik, better known as “Nik,” to decry his creation’s “systematic vandalization” on social media.
Nik has emerged as something of a controversial figure in Argentine popular culture. In 2020, the Italian artist Lucas D’Urbino accused him of plagiarizing his work, and comic lovers have observed close similarities between the strips of Gaturro and the Quino classic, Mafalda. For his part, Nik has suggested that he’s been targeted for being a vocal critic of Kirchernerism — the center-left faction of Peronism led by Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
“The Paseo de las Historietas is very broad,” he recently told Clarín. “I’m the only one who I would consider center-right, and that’s why I think they gang up on me.”
Nowhere is the destruction of Gaturro more carefully chronicled — or celebrated — than on social media, where images of the decimated cat have become the stuff of memes and viral tweets. Following the statue’s removal, creative vandals briefly erected a tombstone that read “RIP Gaturro 15/7/23 — 16/7/23.”
Disdain for the feline figure extends beyond Buenos Aires. Last week, officials in the city of Córdoba inaugurated a Gaturro statue in Plaza de la Intendencia. It lasted less than a day before it was covered in graffiti.
Buenos Aires officials did not immediately return a request for comment as to when — or if — the statue will be returned to Plaza Perón.
First published in 1993, Gaturro chronicles the misadventures of its titular hero. The Buenos Aires city website describes him as a “dreamer and profound thinker still much loved by children.” The same cannot be said for young adults.