by Lalo Alcaraz
Is there still room for the lowly newspaper editorial cartoon in the content-rich, media-saturated 21st century? I think so, now more than ever. A clever editorial cartoon can take a complex, prickly social issue, and make a point more effectively than any radio talk host. Witness Eduardo (Lalo) Alcaraz, who grew up in southern California and northern Mexico. His parents took the care to cross the border for his delivery, guaranteeing him US citizenship. While this legal nicety is despised by many, it seems more consistent with our heritage than policies in other countries. His life revolved around the dissonance between Latino and White southwestern culture, and a maniacal skill for sketch put him in a small college newspaper drawing politically-charged editorial cartoons. He now draws for a one of those free papers that grace so many major cities, and in the world of cartooning, this counts as arriving.
Is he any good? Lalo has a clear, crinkly style, occasionally graced with top notch pen and ink work. This book covers a decade of his career, so some of the early stuff is pretty rough, but at all points he shows a real knack for arresting visual images that neatly encapsulate complex issues. His topic is a bit specialized (Latino culture and US immigration policies) but that is certainly a wide enough range to engage a huge readership. He basically pleads for rationality and compassion in treatment of the new class of aliens in our midst, and has a penchant for reading hate mail. That’s what graces the book’s back cover, rather than fawning blurbs by other cartoonists. If people hate him this much, he must be doing SOMETHING right.
Few cultures have every really received outsiders gladly, and while America dreads the Hispanic growth we see today, one-hundred years ago we dreaded the Irish and Italians who now basically run the east coast cities on all levels. We, as a society, will adapt. Cartoonists like Alcaraz are an important part of the adaptation process, as they can show us our prejudices and paranoia with both a surgical precision and just enough ridicule to make many people question and perhaps change their opinions. This is never an easy task, but I believe Lalo has the specialized subject and drafting skills to make that happen. Plus, I picked up a few useful Spanish words to add to my limited “Dos Cervesas, por favor” vocabulary.
Akashic Books: www.akashicbooks.com