The perfect Spanish gift – Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool

The perfect Spanish gift – Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool

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Whether you're planning your Chrismas shopping or just looking for the perfect Spanish gift for friends abroad, Zach Frohlich has a suggestion.

Around the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, I'm always asked about it by visitors and exchange students. I'm starting a new series of posts on Spanish products that make great gifts, and that aren't the usualcheesy fare that one finds at all those tacky tourist stands.

For my first suggestion, I think the cat's out of the bag. Kukuxumusu (pronounced like 'cuckoo-chew-moo-sue') is hardly a secret, and has become a must-buy for guiris passing through Spain because the brand provides a hip, edgy take on not only Spanish culture, but increasingly global cultural trends.

The name for the shop/brand comes from the Basque ('Euskera') for 'kiss of the flea' (kuku xu musu). The company began in 1989 in Pamplona, when a group of friends came up with the idea of selling paraphernalia (especially T-shirts) with cartoonish spoofs of the typical July fiestas of San Fermín, playing with imagery of the (in)famous running of the bulls. In 1996 Kukuxumusu opened its first shop and quickly spread to other major cities in Spain, and even most small towns that are common tourist destinations.

Today Kukuxumusu is both a brand image and paraphernalia shop, its creators describing it as a 'fábrica de dibujos' (factory of cartoons). Increasingly you can see its cartoons throughout Spain being incorporated into government public campaigns, local businesses and cultural movements.
Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool   Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool

The company's classic theme: Fiestas de San Fermín. / A surfing twist on the San Fermín theme.

Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool

The company has branched out to
a broader Spanish tourism
Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
Including Valencia's Fallas.
What makes Kukuxumusu a marketing success? It's a mixture of things. For one, the artists always draw anatomically correct animals, something which visiting Americans, accustomed to cartoon prudishness at home, can't seem to get enough of. The brand's popular male bull protagonist, 'Mr. Testis', for example, is always drawn pelotas and all, just as featured female cows have utters.
 
Kukuxumusu cartoons also often have an element of social or political commentary, taking a subject and depicting it in a way that pushes our comfort zone.
 
And then sometimes they are just adorable twists on classic visual iconography. In doing so, it caters to a growing adult population in love with cartoons and toys clearly targeted to mature audiences.

Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
Unorthodox humor / Make love, not war
 
Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
Not so innocent humour
Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
Cute turned tough
Today Kukuxumusu has moved way beyond T-shirts. You can purchase pencils, backpacks, keychains, children's clothing, postcards, and so forth. So skip the silly tourist stand and the very tired bull-shirt, and instead hunt for one of these stores.
 
With Kukuxumusu, you can take home a more original, contemporary take on Spain.

Not Hemingway's Spain: That perfect gift - Kukuxumusu, cartoon cool
I personally like their cartoon commentary on scientific concerns
 

Reprinted with permission of Not Hemingway's Spain.

Zach FrohlichOriginally from Austin, Texas, Zach Frohlich has been traveling between Spain and the U.S. for over a decade, and has been living in Valencia for the last few years. He is a historian by training and is married to a Spaniard. He shares cultural insights on Spain at Not Hemingway's Spain. Published 2012; updated 2015.




Photo credits: © Kukuxumusu.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Rebekah Scott posted:

    on 21st November 2012, 21:49:32 - Reply

    I LOVE this brand, but you have to be extemely careful when shopping for kids back home in America. My nephews enjoyed their bull-run T-shirts hugely, but were sent home shame-faced from school because the animals in the pictures have "genitalia." Not a problem in Spain, where everyone acknowledges everybody´s got ém. But the school officials in the Land of the Free just don´t get it.