The one-liners came quickly, one after another, interspersed with ripples of laughter. Lalo Alcaraz was in his rhythm, and a classroom full of University of Arizona students was in his comic groove.
“I’m sick of Donald Trump,” exclaimed Alcaraz, one of the country’s top editorial cartoonists.
But truth be told, Trump has been manna from heaven for editorial cartoonists and joke writers.
“He’s made my summer very easy,” Alcaraz said.
Alcaraz, 51, who has been drawing cartoons and editorial caricatures for nearly 30 years, made a pit stop in town Thursday.
He visited a Mexican-American studies class in the César Chávez Building, and in the evening he spoke at the YWCA on North Bonita Avenue in Menlo Park. I caught his act at the UA.
With a power point flashing his cartoons — recent and old — Alcaraz highlighted his work as the country’s only Chicano syndicated cartoonist.
His comic strip is “La Cucaracha.” He has drawn editorial cartoons for the L.A. Weekly since 1992. His work has appeared in publications across the country and in Europe and Latin America.
His polemic ‘toons are topical and often Chicanocentric, but not exclusively. Almost all politicians and topics are targets of his wit and commentary.
But this summer the leading Republican presidential candidate has occupied the time and imagination of the San Diego-born Alcaraz.
He’s drawn the “Trumpacabra” cartoon, a takeoff of the imaginary bloodsucking Chupacabra, and lampooned Trump’s call for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. And in a panel series, Alcaraz mocked Trump’s immigrant rhetoric, showing a Mexican day laborer hired on the street who ends up helping to construct the television entertainer’s campaign office.
Trump’s attacks on immigrants, specifically Mexican, said Alcaraz, have “united all Latinos and all decent people.”
Alcaraz, who maintains a website, pocho.com, has also aimed his political barbs at the spate of police shootings and altercations across the country in the past year, and at politicians on both sides of the partisan aisle. Arizona, of course, with its legislation aimed at keeping out Mexican immigrants and banning Mexican-American studies in Tucson Unified School District, has given Alcaraz plenty of material.
Not surprisingly, Alcaraz is the target of angry, offended critics.
Alcaraz said it is par for the course. “The greatest hate letter I received said, ‘Go back to Africa,’” Alcaraz recounted.
Obviously the letter writer was geographically challenged.
But recently his critics have included Chicanos, for his most recent endeavor: working with Disney/Pixar on a new animated film, “Coco,” about the Day of the Dead, a longtime Latino tradition.
His critics point out that Alcaraz was at the forefront of a wave of criticism of Disney when it tried to trademark “Día de los Muertos” two years ago. Disney critics buried the mickey-mouse idea because of its insensitive cultural appropriation.
Alcaraz blasted Disney when he drew a monster mouse with claws and fangs warning, “It’s coming to trademark your cultura.”
That was then.
“You can’t accept a job like this,” said a UA graduate student, challenging Alcaraz for several minutes. The two went back and forth.
Alcaraz argued that by working within the Disney system, he is in a better position to bring cultural awareness to the producers and writers of “Coco.” His critic was not satisfied.
The cartoonist said he has consistently taken risks with his work that includes his current collaboration as a producer-writer for “Bordertown,” a new animated television program on Fox produced by Seth MacFarlane. The program is set in a fictitious Texas border town, centered on two families, one Mexican and the other Anglo.
Alcaraz seemed tired of the criticism, much of it appearing in social media.
But he remained steadfast that he will bring more cultural accuracy and beat back stereotypes on both the small and big screens.
“If I can make them think and laugh, then that’s the sweet spot,” he told the students.