Toronto’s Blue Jay’s logo was designed by Spanish Paco Belsué, from Jaca, Aragon, who died in October, 2011, in Ontario’s capital. This is unknown information in Canada, lost in the memories of Spanish immigrants and rescued, one decade ago, by journalist Ramón J. Campo.
Everytime I tell a Torontian that the Blue Jays’ logo was done by someone from my town I receive tons of disbelief, that sometimes may look as cynicism; they pretend to believe me, but deep inside, they pity me. But it is true, the image of Canada’s most cherished bird was created by a friendly Aragonese, big-bellied and slow, who emigrated to Toronto in 1968 in the search of new professional horizons.
His friend Juan Tudela had received a letter in which Spanish draughtsmen were requested, highly paid by then in all publicity agencies. to work in a cartoon film. They were privileged in that grey and dirty Spain, who was new to industrial development and tourists. Belsué, who designed for an agency in Zaragoza and imagined a world without dictators, decided to move to that distant country which wasn’t a usual receptor of Spanish immigrants.
He started to work in the agency Savage Sloan Ltd., and soon after he was meant to design the logo of a newly created professional baseball team: The Toronto’s Blue Jays. The ambitious project went straight to Paco’s desk. He had to play with the image of the blue jays, a popular bird whose colours are blue, white and grey and common in the North America’s North East. After discarding many drafts, he drew the one which would be definitive; a predictable but efficient combination of the bird, a baseball ball and a maple leaf, a common patriotic place. Thus, from his hands and imagination, one of the most recognizable logos in the country was born. The job was signed by the agency and Paco Belsue’s name was kept in anonymity. In the book ”This side of Spain”, published in the 80s, the activities of Spaniards to Canada was told and the author stated, about Belsué, that ”his contribution to Ontario and the country will have a place in its History”.
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You have to live in Toronto to understand the dimension that the Blue Jays have and, above all, to verify the immense popularity of its logo, comparable to the one the Maple Leafs when it comes to hockey. Every spring, at the beginning of every season, Paco Belsué’s image is embedded in the city and in every day objects. The Blue Jays is the only non – American team to win the World Series, something accomplished twice in a row: 1993 and 1994, a milestone written in every History book. The Rogers Centre, the great stadium where they play, is, along with the CN Tower, one of the most emblematic buildings in Toronto’s skyline.
Since Paco’s first design, many modifications have been made, in a clear adaptation to trends and merchandising. Fans, nevertheless, remained keen on the original, and kept on buying shirts and caps with it, so the club decided to bring it back as a team’s emblem, the only one that identifies them now.
The Aragonese designer made other jobs for exclusive brands such as American Express or Benson & Hedges, but he was never more than a talented, efficient and discrete designer who made big companies win millions. In his way, he stopped being Paco and started being Frank, although his e-mails were usually signed as ‘Paco de Jaca’. I suspect that life didn’t treat him well, his professional career wasn’t, in the end, successful or dazzling. He got in agencies and jobs which weren’t very edifying and his great creativity vanished slowly. I met him ten years ago in his last years, as a retired senior citizen, in his house in Greekville, in South Toronto. Modesty comes in two dresses: to hurt or to dignify. His house wore the latter.
We then talked a lot about our town, the one he had left half a century ago. His memories were vibrant and fertile, showing a life that seemed to be stuck for centuries. I wrote an article about out meeting for a Spanish magazine and we never saw each other again. He used to send me every know and then – every time with less frequency – designs, ideas or links where Jewish people were always implied.
A few weeks after settling in Toronto, in October 2011, one of his nephews wrote me to tell me Paco had just passed away. I want to think that destiny acted with determinism and had its reasons, he left once another one from Jaca, me, had arrived in Toronto.