If you have access to the internet or a newspaper, you’ve most likely been exposed to Lalo Alcaraz’s work without even realizing it. His nationally syndicated comic strip, La Cucaracha, has been in daily publication seen 2002. He has also had several political and social commentary cartoons go viral over the years, to the joy and ire of many a person. And, he has even landed a position on a Disney/Pixar feature film, despite satirizing our beloved Mickey Mouse.
Sitting alone on the stage at this year’s San Diego Comic Fest, Lalo Alcaraz greeted the crowd to his own panel. “I guess this is the self-service spotlight on myself.”
Parents of Mexican immigrants, Alcaraz grew up in nearby Lemon Grove. Despite receiving a degree in architecture, he found his way into the world of cartooning. His favorite sort of cartoon art is that of political cartoons.
“For a political cartoonist, there’s not enough arms in all the universe,” said Alcaraz jokingly. “News cycles so fast these days, it’s hard to keep up with.” Like many of today’s political cartoonists, Alcaraz has been drawing a great deal of our President, Donald Trump. “We [cartoonists] are all burnt out drawing him,” he added. To break up the monotony of drawing Trump while still drawing about Trump, Alcaraz says there are things he can use to still get his point across. An example of this which he shared at the panel was an image of a pigeon, sporting the President’s iconic hair style, perched atop a very perturbed looking statue of Martin Luther King.
Though much of his political cartoons are meant to “degrade people who need to be degraded” as he put it, Alcaraz says this isn’t always the case. “Sometimes you’re making a moment in history.” Such an example of this is an image he in the wake of the 2017 Texas floods, where a family sits trapped on top of their house, flood waters surrounding them from all sides, the state of Texas’ outline transposed on the roof, and the mother waving a white sheet for help. A moment in history.
While apart, yet not really apart from his political cartoons, Lalo Alcaraz also draws a comic strip called La Cucaracha, which focuses on Latino culture and politics. As Alcaraz himself put it, “it’s one of the top hate-letter generators at the Union Tribune.” In the letters to the editor section, his comic will garner comments ranging anywhere from “I absolutely love it,” to “I absolutely hate it and recommend that the paper removes it.” Indeed, La Cucaracha is considered to be one of the most controversial comic strips in the history of American comic strips, often labeled “anti-white.” “Every week I’ll get a letter condemning me to hell.”
Recently, Lalo Alcaraz has garnered new attention due to his role in the Disney/Pixar full-length feature film Coco where he acted as the culture advisor. Before this, however, the fabled “House of Mouse” was in Alcaraz’s satirist-sights. When Disney tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” (the day of the dead) in preparation of what later came to be Coco, the company received a heavy backlash. Alcaraz joined in with his own cartoon image called Muerto Mouse, which featured a building-sized, rampaging skeleton of Mickey Mouse with over its head the words, “It’s Coming to Trademark Your Cultura!”
Sometime after this, Pixar contacted Alcaraz. “They invited me for a ‘little-chat,’” he said. When they asked for his help to work on the movie, Alcaraz was stunned. “I was thinking, ‘wow universe, you have a sick sense of humor.” But, Alcaraz saw this as a great opportunity and accepted it. “I wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be the Aladdin for Mexicans.” Because of Alcaraz’s hard work to authenticity, art, and story, Coco has since grossed domestically two-hundred and nine million dollars since this article’s writing.
Often amusing, often controversial, yet ever thought-provoking, Lalo Alcaraz’s career in cartooning has been nothing but true to his own artistic vision. It can be assured he will continue doing what he does best for years to come: bringing laughter or hatred to audiences nationwide.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.