By Raymond R. Beltrán
Last Sunday, December 14, syndicated Chicano comic strip cartoonist, Lalo Alcaraz, appeared at Chicano Perk in Barrio Logan to sign copies of his recently published 2004 Freedumb FighterCartoonista Calendar. Local artists and activists, such as Victor Payan, Mario Torero, and Nuvia Crisol Guerra, came out to welcome the San Diego born, rebel Cartoonista, and to pick up a copy of the social-satirically-charged calendar, which will bring that sense of consciousness and wit that Lalo is known for to the 2004 election year.
Having been a comic strip artist throughout his San Diego State University years, this social commentating, funny man has gained revolutionary respect from not only Chicanos in his hometown for his long time activism, originating in the Chicano Secret Service and Latino theatre troupe Culture Clash, but has now gained respect (among other terms of expression) from comic strip patrons nationwide. Lalo’s La Cucaracha comic strip succeeded in goading its way inside daily newspapers across the United States in late 2002 with its controversial themes not seen in other pseudo-political strips.
The calendar is somewhat of an annual of Lalo’s greatest hits in 2003. It celebrates holidays unknown to the common calendar owner. Patrons of Freedom Fighter will learn at what time exactly to celebrate Carlos Santana’s birthday, when to celebrate Che’s birthday, Zapatas’s, and Villa’s. There are days reserved for being “crudo” and days that indicate that Latino Heritage Month is over, allowing us to go back out and buy blond hair dye like J-Lo. A personal favorite might be the renaming of the Fourth of July, cleverly titled “Oh come on now.”
Having to constantly keep up with political issues in the media / entertainment biz, Lalo has said before that with Bush in office, Bill O’Reilly’s fear of the “Southwest” becoming Mexico any day now, and the war on terror being an omni-present factor in our daily lives, drawing up ideas for tomorrow’s target of satire isn’t too difficult. La Prensa San Diego caught up with Lalo soon after his San Diego appearance to touch base with the Cartoonista on a few of today’s more prominent issues in the Chicano community …
La Prensa San Diego: With the comic strip having been syndicated for some time now, have you made any enemies lately, or have people been adapting to your political satire?
Lalo: People will eventually catch up to the fact that there are Chicanos and Latinos out there who think much like me, and that we are a major cultural force. It’s gonna take more than my strip, but I think I’m helping, and doing my bit to contribute to an actual dialogue.
LPSD: How’s the syndicated life treating you?
Lalo: It’s great, the deadlines are non-stop, that’s the hardest thing I’ve had to adjust to. I’ve always drawn a lot, so, I’m used to it, but it is more.
LPSD: How did you pick the cartoons on the new calendar and what else can Cartoonista fans look forward to?
Lalo: I try to pick the funniest and hardest ones, the ones with the most reader response. This year, since it’s the Freedumb Fighter theme, it’s a lot of emphasis on Bush. 2004 is an election year! Also, my La Cucaracha daily comic strip collection will come out Fall 2004, with over 300 strips in it!
LPSD: You’ve debated issues on CNN. Being a cartoonist, does the media take you seriously as a political and social commentator? Should they?
Lalo: They oughta, but I try to keep it light and funny, or at least entertaining. I’d rather draw, but maybe I’ll be on Montel someday.
LPSD: Where do you think the “capture” of Sadaam Hussein is going to take the War on Terrorism and the US’s public views on what’s happened to the Iraqi people?
Lalo: It is sad how misled the public is by the Bush administration, equating Sadaam with 9/11. It’s shameful. People are happy, but for the wrong reason. They should have been outraged at the fact that the U.S. government sponsors terrorist dictator regimes all over the world.
LPSD: Arnold … what can we expect in the next few years of his term? The return of Prop 187 and Prop 209?
Lalo: Yep, can’t you feel how emboldened the far right cranks feel? You know, the ones who cry, “RECONQUISTA!” and “LA RAZA IS COMING! LA RAZA IS COMING!” They are nuts, and will bring a sort of civil war into California to satisfy their racist anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant fantasies. They should be deported to Idaho.
LPSD: You’ve commented on Gloria Estéfan and her husband before. What is your opinion on J-Lo, Christina Aguilera, Shakira, and the whole Latin Boom that seems to be dying down now? Do you think it’s even worth discussing?
Lalo: eh … no comment.