Xavier López, 'Chabelo'
Xavier López played Chabelo for 57 years and endeared himself to tens of millions. Photo: Hector Vivas/Jam Media/LatinContent via Getty Images

A generational icon lost: Xavier López, ‘Chabelo,’ dies at 88

The Mexican actor and comedian was a household staple across Latin America for his popular morning show, 'En Familia con Chabelo,' which ran for 47 years.


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For almost 50 years, between 1968 and 2015, millions of children and their parents from across Latin America would tune into En Familia con Chabelo every Sunday morning to get their weekly dose of Chabelo — the child character host.

The longevity of the program and the iconic, high-pitched voice of Xavier López’s Chabelo character — which he played for most of his long career on screen — created a combo that will live forever in the annals of TV in Latin America and the world.

For the millions that remember Chabelo fondly for his humor and activities, it was a tough Saturday, March 25, as the world learned of López’s passing at the age of 88.

López was born in Chicago to Mexican parents, but moved to León, Mexico when he was eight years old, where he grew up. When asked later in life about his American birthplace, Chabelo would proclaim that he felt “100% Mexican.”

The actor, who was one of the last living actors from Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema before his death on March 25, played Chabelo for 57 years in total. López first took on the persona of Chabelo when he worked part-time as an assistant at Televisa, and would fill in for actors that were late. He was studying medicine at the time at university in Mexico City.

In one instance, he was asked to read a joke on air about a boy named Chabelo. López read it in his now-iconic child voice and the character of legend was born.

Not long after, Chabelo would be tapped by PepsiCo to one of the faces of the brand in advertisements that aired across North and South America. The growing popularity of his character thanks to the international ad campaign led him to his first national radio show, La media hora del Chabelo.

But as the BBC wrote in its own story about the Mexican legend, Chabelo wouldn’t etch himself into the TV and entertainment history books until the premiere En Familia con Chabelo in December 1968. 

López’s idea for the program was to create a show where children and their parents could participate in a series of activities and enjoy their mornings together. Families would appear together on the program and compete in various challenges to win prizes. Those challenges ranged from climbing greased poles to running in human-sized hamster wheels, and much more. 

The whole time, Chabelo would chime in as the host with high-pitched quips, commentary and his own brand of clumsy humor that made him beloved to audiences.

En Familia con Chabelo would air a new episode every Sunday between that December of 1968 and Dec. 20, 2015, making it one of the longest-running shows in the history of the world. López was 33 when the show began airing and he was 80 when it finally went off the air. In Mexico, where the show was filmed and most popular, it aired on Televisa’s Canal de Estrellas, but would air across Latin America on a number of Univision affiliates.

In year 44 of the show’s run in 2012, it was awarded a Guinness World Record for uninterrupted broadcast.

Throughout Chabelo’s life, he appeared in more than 30 films, recorded more than 30 albums, and was also a producer on a number of other programs.

After the end of En Familia con Chabelo, López would continue voice acting — scoring a minor part in the Spanish-language version of Coco, among other roles. His character of Chabelo would also enter the memesphere as a figure edited into many scenes depicted throughout world history to poke fun at how long the character had been around.

Those, and the memories of millions of Chabelo will live on forever.


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