For over 20 years, Lalo Alcaraz has gotten hate mail in response to his barbed Chicano satire, sarcasm and socio-political commentary. Reared in San Diego and a former San Diego State University Aztec, the award-winning editorial cartoonist is not, however, the caustic embittered iconoclast who lives to create controversy. He simply shares his take and views on class issues, national and international politics as well as the need for progressive immigration reform and more multicultural representation in the media.
His unfiltered and hilarious depictions and descriptions of the best — and worst — ways to go about achieving these things continue to generate heated discussion from across the spectrum. La Cucaracha, the daily comic strip he developed many years ago, has reached cult status among a generation of young hip, techno-savvy Latinos who identify readily with the humor and satire embodied by Cuco Rocha, Alacaraz' antennae sporting anti-hero and his cohorts. His weekly editorial cartoons on government, economics, and other hot-button topics continue to generate angry, vitriolic comments back and forth between Democrats and Republicans (“Dumbocraps” vs. “Teapublicans”) or from the left to the right in exchanges that test the limits of civility.
In celebration of his 25-year “cartoonista” career, the former LA Weekly editorial comic is the subject of an expansive solo retrospective exhibition at Placita Olvera's Mexican Cultural Institute.
Co-curated by MCI director Abelardo de la Peña, the exhibition opened on September 16, the date that Mexican independence from Spain is widely celebrated in both Mexico and the U.S. In an oblique reference to the twin yokes of Spanish colonialism and U.S. cultural imperialism, the exhibit is subtitled “Heritage Month: Celebrating 500 years of Art, Comics & Satire.”
The exhibition features original editorial cartoon art stretching back as far as 1984 and includes posters, cartoon panels, paintings and even a large color cut-out of Migra Mouse, a cartoon Alcaraz created to poke fun at Disney support for anti-immigrant groups and movements during the Pete Wilson Proposition 187 campaign. Also on display is a page from the LA Weekly featuring the “Mexiled” column he penned during the 1990s, which preceded Gustavo Arellano's “Ask a Mexican” column and delivered the same irreverence and intelligence.
Asked if he expects to be doing comics for another 25 years, Alcaraz, who also co-hosts the Pocho Hour of Power political satirical talk show on KPFK and was a co-founder of the political sketch comedy troupe Chicano Secret Service, says wryly “It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.”
“Lalo is the among edgiest and most prolific Chicano artists in the country,” says de la Peña. “It's an honor to present his first solo retrospective.”
Alcaraz's exhibit is on view at the Mexican Cultural Institute through Oct. 15.
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