Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes was a Mexican comedian and stage and film actor, known professionally as Cantinflas. He often portrayed impoverished campesinos or a peasant of pelado origin. The character came to be associated with the national identity of Mexico, and allowed "Cantinflas" to establish a long, successful film career that included a foray into Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin once called him "the greatest comedian in the world", and Moreno has been referred to as the "Charlie Chaplin of Mexico". To audiences in the United States, he is best remembered as costarring with David Niven in Around the World in 80 Days. As a pioneer of the cinema of Mexico, Moreno helped usher in its golden era. In addition to being a business leader, he also became involved in Mexico's tangled and often dangerous labor politics. Although he was himself politically conservative, his reputation as a spokesperson for the downtrodden gave his actions authenticity and became important in the early struggle against charrismo, the one-party government's practice of coopting and controlling unions.
Moreover, his character Cantinflas, whose identity became enmeshed with his own, was examined by media critics, philosophers, and linguists, who saw him variably as a danger to Mexican society, a bourgeois puppet, a kind philanthropist, a venture capitalist, a transgressor of gender roles, a pious Catholic, a verbal innovator, and a picaresque underdog.
He was born the sixth of twelve children to Pedro Moreno Esquivel, an impoverished mail carrier, and María de la Soledad Reyes Guizar. Four of their twelve children died due to miscarriages. Eight survived: Pedro, Jose, Eduardo, Fortino, Esperanza, Catalina, Enrique and Roberto.