December 17, 2004

Lalo’s Sharp Eye

Two new books take on issues of power, identity, and immigration

By David Steinberg

Two words cut to the chase and explain the nature of Lalo Alcaraz’s political cartoons. Those words are “deliberately antagonistic.” Those two words appear in the introduction to “La Cucaracha,” the title of a collection of Lalo Alcaraz’s political cartoons.

So given that cautionary note, one knows that his work may not be the cup of tea for some people. But the cartoons cannot be ignored.

In most of his cartoons, Alcaraz employs knife-sharp ethnic humor and hammer-like bluntness to make his point.

A sharp example of Alca-raz’s many-sided humor is on the cover of “La Cuca-racha,” where four people are slinking along a street in front of a movie theater.

The theater’s marquee announces five films— “My Big Fat Latino Movie,” “Lord of the Rims,” “Burrito Shop,” “Maid in Malibu” and “Estar Wars.”

The theater’s name is Cinespanglish.

And next to the theater is a coffee shop that spoofs the pervasive Starbucks. The shop’s logo says “Barrio-bucks Cafe” with a skull at the center.

Alcaraz spotlights a range of issues that hit home for many ethnic minorities, but for Chicanos in particular. In doing so, he raises the bar of political awareness for all Americans.

Alcaraz’s cartoons have appeared in L.A. Weekly since 1992.

And they’re making a name for the graphic artist.

One sign of his recognition is that he draws cartoons that are nationally syndicated.

Another sign is that “La Cucaracha” is but one of two collections of his cartoons in book form published this year.

The other is “Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration.”

In the introduction to “Migra Mouse,” Alcaraz writes that these immigration-related cartoons are a “hot-button issue in this country and central to my life. I am the child of Mexican immigrants.”

Though immigration is an overarching concern in “Migra Mouse,” Alcaraz, as with any political cartoonist, strikes at other issues, such as multiculturalism, ethnic stereotyping and Latino political power.

Buy his books, sold a fine Chicano bookstores everywhere and not-so-fine ones as well. Mainstream retail establishments may or may not have his books in stock, depending on their political persuasion and tolerance for biting satire. Online? Try Amazon or

“Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration” by Lalo Alcaraz, Akashic Books, $12.95, 119 pp.

“La Cucaracha” by Lalo Alcaraz Andrews McMeel, $10.95, 128 pp.

Check http://www.lacu for Lalo’s upcoming gigs

Originally published in the Albuquerque Journal

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