Op-Ed

Patt Morrison Asks: Pocho pundit Lalo Alcaraz

The cartoonist behind "La Cucaracha" talks about @MexicanMitt, "the Juan percent" and painting the White House brown.

Cartoonist and artist Lalo Alcaraz is the creator of the first nationally-syndicated, politically-themed Latino daily comic strip, "La Cucaracha."

Cartoonist and artist Lalo Alcaraz is the creator of the first nationally-syndicated, politically-themed Latino daily comic strip, "La Cucaracha." (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Every presidential campaign turns out to be a quadrennial godsend for editorial cartoonists, but for Lalo Alcaraz, 2012 is a jubilee year. Herman Cain, chowing down at a Miami restaurant, asks, “How do you say ‘delicious' in Cuban?” Newt Gingrich uses “bilingual education” and “language of living in a ghetto” in the same sentence. And then there's Mitt Romney, son of a Mexican-born Mormon who also ran for president of the United States. Or the “United Estates,” according to Romney's mysterious alter-Tweeter, @MexicanMitt, who's muy simpatico with his staunch “supporter” Alcaraz.

After 20 years of spearing politics and politicians in his cartoons, first in the L.A. Weekly, then The Times and other papers, Alcaraz still draws seven “La Cucaracha” comic strips a week. He also runs the website pocho.com, cohosts a weekly radio show on KPFK, teaches at Otis College and creates gallery-exhibited acrylics and pencil drawings. Dude has time to mingle with Mexican Mitt? Chale — get outta here!

What strips did you read growing up?

I remember reading “Gordo,” by Gus Arriola, the first kind of Latino comic strip in the U.S. My formative comics are “Doonesbury” and “Bloom County” in college. “Bloom County” especially was political and outrageous and modern.

You do a daily strip plus individual panels. Some people think that if they can read a comic strip, they can do one too.

You know, the No. 1 requirement for being a syndicated daily cartoonist is the ability to keep doing it forever, until you die. That's the quality they're looking for! It gets tiring, but I'm not tired of it.

Some issues never change, just the names of the politicians.

Look at the presidential race — “self-deportation” is back. My character — the militant right-wing self-deportationist I created in 1994, Daniel D. Portado — now he's on Twitter trying to reclaim his glory.

Your daughter is a teenager; you must be mindful of the need for role models, like your level-headed character Veronica.

Teacher Vero is based on my wife. I try to make sure she's as strong a character as can be and doesn't take any guff. Most of the characters are just kind of long-suffering. The Cucaracha rants a lot; the Cucaracha and [laid-back] Eddie are both me. I'm half-ranty, half-clueless.

There's Kafka's cockroach character Gregor Samsa, and Don Marquis' cockroach Archy — what's the appeal?

“La Cucaracha” was supposedly a song people would sing in Spain and change the lyrics [to] mock whoever was in power. It came to Mexico that way.

My strip's about the people, the 99%. People who have hated me or tried to get rid of my strip without reading it say it is about a whole bunch of cockroaches, which is not true. One character is La Cucaracha. Nobody ever told Charles Schulz, why are you saying all the white kids are “Peanuts”?

Do you read your email?

I go through phases. Sometimes people CC me on their hate letters when they write in to The Times or whatever paper is running me. They don't think I'm going to write them. I just got one from a high school basketball coach; this guy is demanding that my strip be dropped, and [his letter] includes this racist stuff about Obama and Halle Berry. I wrote him back: You're a basketball coach, I'm assuming you have some African American players, do your players know what a racist you are? [He said], “Oh, I'm not racist.” He told me to relax!

You were born here to Mexican parents and lived near the border. You started a 'zine and then a website, pocho.com. The concept of “pocho” and “pochismo” was originally a slur. Now it has bragging rights.

It's not a replacement for “Chicano,” but it's a kind of parallel. It's been used against immigrants who, when they go back, are perceived as [having] been here too long, as not being as Mexican as they could be. Mexicanos, they'll make fun of pochos and talk about how agringados [“gringo-fied”] we are, and meanwhile, they're sitting in a McDonald's in Mexico City having a Big Mac and listening to American pop music and watching American TV shows that are dubbed.

Now, how long have you known Mexican Mitt?

I've been actively supporting Mexican Mitt's campaign for a month or so. It seems he came out as a response to the lack of Mitt Romney's personality and the lack of his acknowledgment of his Mexican roots. Latinos were so attention-starved, we look for any sort of acknowledgment in the mainstream media. When Mitt Romney turned his back on the Mexicans — Mexican Mitt must have been a reaction to that.

CHICAGO
News Coverage on John Irving - CTNow
RSS feeds allow Web site content to be gathered via feed reader software. Click the subscribe link to obtain the feed URL for this page. The feed will update when new content appears on this page.

John Irving

A collection of news and information related to John Irving published by this site and its partners.

Top John Irving Articles

Displaying items 34-44
  • Los Angeles Times bestsellers for Nov. 15, 2009

    ++++++++++++++++++++ || Fiction || Weeks on list || || 1. || The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Doubleday: $25.99) Harvard professor Robert Langdon uses his symbology skills to find a missing Freemason in Washington, D.C. || 8 || || 2. || Nine Dragons by...
  • A writing career becomes harder to scale

    A writing career becomes harder to scale
    In the late 1980s, when I was a graduate student working on short stories and flirting with the idea of a novel, I came across an essay that was being passed around my circle of friends. It was titled "Writing in the Cold: The First Ten Years," and the...
  • In 'Lark and Termite,' Jayne Anne Phillips continues to explore human vulnerabilities and the lasting effects of war on memory

    In 'Lark and Termite,' Jayne Anne Phillips continues to explore human vulnerabilities and the lasting effects of war on memory
    Falling in love with a writer requires commitment; the long haul, thick and thin. They get old, you get old. The relationship waxes and wanes. Most readers can recall times of perfect synchronicity -- when the book was the necessary enzyme, the catalyst,...
  • 'Last Night in Twisted River' by John Irving

    'Last Night in Twisted River' by John Irving
    Last Night in Twisted River A Novel John Irving Random House: 558 pp., $28 The opening passages of "Last Night in Twisted River" recycle John Irving's signature themes at such dizzy speed, it's as though the author were ticking boxes. New England?...
  • Writer David Foster Wallace found dead

    Writer David Foster Wallace found dead
    David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead Friday night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46. Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the...
  • Nick Digilio

    Nick Digilio
    Nick Digilio began reviewing movies on The Roy Leonard Show in 1985. He started as "the guy who likes bad movies" (reviewing Critters, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, and the like). He studied at Columbia College and Roy saw him at a few screenings,...
  • Weiner Talks 'Mad Men'

     
    This morning's Variety has what I believe to be one of the more exhaustive discussions of "Mad Men" I've seen, and the guy doing the discussing is none other than creator Matthew Weiner. I could send you to Variety,......
  • John Irving, poolside in 1998

     
    When "The World According to Garp" was published more than 30 years ago, John Irving found himself on bestseller lists for the first time. Since then he's won a shelf of awards, including an Oscar for the adaptation of his......
  • Thursday's TV Talk Shows: 'Charlie Rose' studies the brain

     
    Click here to download TV listings for the week of Oct. 25 - 31 in PDF format This week's TV Movies The Early Show Harry Smith appears on 'A Prairie Home Companion'; artist Stephen Wiltshire. (N) 7 a.m. KCBS Today......
  • Tuesday's TV Talk Shows: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visits 'The Jay Leno Show'

     
    The Early Show The cast of 'Murphy Brown' reunites; Vanilla Ice performs. (N) 7 a.m. KCBS Today Author John Grisham ('Ford County'). (N) 7 a.m. KNBC KTLA Morning News (N) 7 a.m. KTLA Good Morning America Carrie Underwood performs; author......
  • Door in the Floor director to do Paranormal Activity 2

     
    Tod “Kip” Williams didn't make box office waves his The Door in the Floor, an inventive and beautifully acted John Irving adaptation starring Jeff Bridges. Perhaps he'll have a hit on his hands with the Paranormal Activity sequel. Perhaps not....