- Lalo Alcaraz: Political Cartooning in the Latino Community by Héctor D. Fernandez L’Hoeste
Héctor D. Fernández L’Hoeste’s Lalo Alcaraz: Political Cartooning in the Latino Community introduces readers to the work of one of the most influential Latino cartoonists in the late twentieth century, who he characterizes as “more symptomatic of the rise of Latinos within the U.S. population than many other more [End Page 1044] recognizable cultural actors” (1). Central to the claims put forth in Lalo Alcaraz is the interrogation of how the creative contributions of Latino creators—while increasingly appearing in the mainstream and in the university classroom—often remain outside of contemporary political discourse on immigration, naturalization, and the US economy. Fernández L’Hoeste proposes that readers who familiarize themselves with Alcaraz’s breadth of work will gain insight into how the cartoonist has “chronicled and documented” the liminal position that Latinos have occupied as polarized political debates have left many in a state of precarity vis-à-vis employment, citizenship status, and family separation (6). To address how Alcaraz’s work engages with these issues, Fernández L’Hoeste organizes his project into five main chapters, beginning with a discussion on the rise of comics studies in the United States and a survey of earlier Latino cartoons and creators. He then moves to two chapters on Alcaraz’s most famous projects—Migra Mouse (2004) and La Cucaracha (2004)—before ending with a present-day interview with Alcaraz.
Chapter one is the shortest chapter of Lalo Alcaraz but covers substantial historical and contextual ground that is useful when navigating later chapters of the book. Fernández L’Hoeste weaves together a concise history of the onset of comics studies in US universities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He effectively combines this history with a discussion of Lalo Alcaraz’s biography as an emerging cartoonist influenced by his time at Otis College of Art and Design, San Diego State University, and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as his later career as a nationally syndicated cartoonist. Fernández L’Hoeste opens the chapter by briefly tracking the development of the International Comic Arts Festival (ICAF) in 1997 to consider its reflection of the burgeoning relationship since the 1980s and 1990s between comics in the mainstream and in the university setting. Fernández L’Hoeste situates his discussion of the need for comics studies in the university within the larger framework of US media production by first focusing on the increasing number of popular comics that have either inspired or been directly adapted by Hollywood to create big blockbuster films. By directing readers’ attention to the profitability and pervasiveness of comics characters, he underscores the importance of treating comics as a serious art form worthy of academic attention. In particular, he emphasizes the importance of studying comics in this contemporary moment, as he proposes that “the turn of the twenty-first century will perhaps be recalled as the moment of a second effervescence for graphic narratives after the golden age of postwar comics” (14). Following this analysis of contemporary comics, he examines the relative absence of Latinos in US media even when films and television shows are shot in areas with historically high Latino populations. This section also features attention on the often-confused terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.” Finally, he considers how the growing Latino population in the United States continues to face many of the same problems decade after decade, these problems ultimately influencing Lalo Alcaraz’s decision to create cartoons that push back against the nation’s willingness to exploit Latinos’ labor while simultaneously showing no interest in providing them with pathways to citizenship or economic security.
Chapter two considers how Latino cartoonists emerging prior and simultaneous to Alcaraz’s career influence the style and content of his work. This chapter [End Page 1045] functions as a series of brief biographies of notable Latino cartoonists whose work shaped the “context” that Alcaraz is writing and creating in. Fernández L...