Lalo Alcaraz is a nationally syndicated cartoonist and author of “La Cucaracha,” a daily comic strip that appears in the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was also a cultural consultant for the new Pixar-Disney movie Coco, and he'll give a talk at the University of New Mexico's Woodward Hall, Thursday, March 1, at 5:30 p.m.
He spoke with KUNM’s Marisa Demarco.
KUNM: So, you've been making sharp political comics for a long time - has the year under Trump and the jumped-up rhetoric around the country changed anything for you?
ALCARAZ: It screwed up my sleep cycle, I guess. Because, you know, I have to cram in more cartoons. I have to learn to ignore sometimes what he says, which is really hard because he's the occupant of the White House, so he will distort the news cycle. People love telling cartoonists right now, 'Oh you're so lucky with all this material, right?' I'm like no, I would trade all of it for a little peace and quiet. It's a challenge to not draw him over and over again. I think all cartoonists are going through this—political editorial cartoonists—figure out new ways to draw the issue and not be harping on what's-his-face all the time.
KUNM: Yeah not jumping all the time for every piece of bait that comes down Twitter, right? But at the same time, it seems like it's an especially important time to bring nuance and depth to the way that cultures are understood.
ALCARAZ: Yes of course! For instance, the movie I recently worked on, Coco, I started working on it almost three years ago, and it was a different world. It was the run up to this whole situation we're in now and now a movie with a complete cast of brown skinned characters—excluding the skeletons, right, technically they're white—but having this cast seems revolutionary because it almost seems like putting down a flag against all this anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Latino rhetoric. But it really wasn't what it was set out to be. It's set out to be a warm family movie that was highly respectful of the Mexican culture.
KUNM: We had this racist editorial cartoon by this syndicated columnist Sean Delonas that came out in our daily newspaper a few weeks ago.
ALCARAZ: I saw that.
KUNM: Have you heard about it? Yeah. It created a lot of anger and sparked some protests here in Albuquerque. What did you make of the comic when you saw it?
ALCARAZ: Allright, well, my policy about other cartoonists is I don't talk bad about anybody's work. Political cartoonists, there's only about 100 of us left, I think. We're an endangered species. I saw the cartoon, I don't know how the editors let that cartoon go by because it was not based in any journalism at all but you know what, Albuquerque Journal? I'm available! You can buy my syndicated feed and I guarantee you, you will not have a racist cartoon in the bunch.
KUNM: Well, and you must understand it from a different angle, too, because I imagine that since you've been doing this so long, that you have made a cartoon that ticked people off.
ALCARAZ: Oh yeah, I do it all the time. You know, I do it by countering someone's position. I don't do it by smearing an ethnic group.
KUNM: Do you think it's hard to find jokes to tell when things are so nasty out there right now?
ALCARAZ: Yeah, you know. I never had any problem coming up with harsh jokes. I'll be honest. I often find every inappropriate thing hilarious. I mean I think that's why I'm good at my job. Now, I believe that what that cartoonist, and what other cartoonists that draw kind of irresponsible imagery, what they don't do, is they don't consider that cartooning is a super power that you have and you should not use it against weaker people. You should not use it to bash oppressed people, you know, disenfranchised people. That's not what this is for. Go ahead and bash all the Democratic fat cat people in power. Do that. That's good. Everybody deserves to be taken down a notch or two but Dreamers—it's just irresponsible use of one’s superpower.