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People 2012

Lalo Alcaraz: Most Mexcellent

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Tue, May 22, 2012 at 12:43 AM
click to enlarge KEVIN SCANLON
  • Kevin Scanlon

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2012 issue. Check out our entire People 2012 issue here.

Shortly after it was revealed that Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico, a mysterious alter ego cropped up on Twitter: Mexican Mitt Romney (@MexicanMitt), who wears a huge sombrero and tweets things like, "MY GOAL IS TO KNOCK MY TAX RATE DOWN BELOW JUAN PERCENT."

Strangely, the L.A. Mexican-American humorist Lalo Alcaraz claims no official credit for the Twitter account. "I think he's hilarious," is all he'll say. "Whoever's tweeting Mexican Mitt is very funny and a very good-looking man."

Alcaraz is best known for his comic strip "La Cucaracha," which had a home at the Weekly for years but now is nationally syndicated. The cartoon is a send-up of iconic Mexican stereotypes -- Speedy Gonzalez, a man snoozing under a sombrero -- with biting commentary on the continued subjugation of Mexican-Americans.

A founder of the legendary satirical theater troop Chicano Secret Service, a graduate of UC Berkeley (where he roomed with State Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez) and a San Diego native, Alcaraz has been one of Southern California's preeminent voices for Latino rights, even if his delivery comes via comedy.

He comes out of Chicanismo, the '70s-era movement that dreamed of a better life for brown masses in the Southwest. But now his stance has become "post-Chicano," he says. "We have certainly gained important power, and that's only going to get stronger."

Still, he adds, "L.A. can still feel like Johannesburg -- apartheid -- in certain industries. I don't know any Latinos calling the shots in the entertainment industry."

These days Alcaraz, 48, lives with his wife and children in what he calls the "Greater Eastside" (which does not include Silver Lake or Echo Park, he says emphatically). He is writing an animated pilot for a major network. He's celebrating publication of the revised edition of his book Latino USA: A Cartoon History. He's working on a new U.S. history book with Latino USA co-author Ilan Stavans. He's doing a children's book. And he's writing an edition of the Bart Simpson comic book series for Matt Groening's Bongo Comics. "That's almost more prestigious than getting a TV deal," he says.

Alcaraz recently jumped into the Trayvon Martin controversy, siding with the family of the black teen who was shot in Florida earlier this year in a confrontation with a Latino neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Alcaraz has tweeted many a snarky thing about the dark-skinned suspect ("Zimmerman also suspending his campaign for the GOP nomination"). His stance proves that his satire and criticism can cut both ways. "Don't tell me you're surprised there are Latino racists," he says. "Trayvon's just an innocent kid, man. Wrong is wrong."

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2012 issue. Check out our entire People 2012 issue here.

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