In November 2002, the face of the Sunday funnies changed forever when a Kafka-on-peyote strip called La Cucaracha landed alongside Garfield and Peanuts, featuring the misadventures of an anthropomorphic cockroach and his homies.
Nine years later, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz still enjoys rattling cages, a fact made clear in a presentation in Balboa Park's Centro Cultural de La Raza last Saturday. Led by SDSU professor William “El Guli” Nericcio, the “Cartoonista!” event focused on Alcaraz's body of work and managed to incite simultaneous chuckles, gasps and uncomfortable moments of silence when images like that of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with a superimposed Arizona-shaped Hitler mustache, were projected on a wall.
Afterward, I caught up with the owner of the coveted pocho.com domain name and, from day laborers to GOP presidential candidates, nothing was off limits.
The Enrique Experience: What's the biggest challenge facing modern Latinos?
Lalo Alcaraz: The modern Latino cannot find a good place to buy a fitted sombrero. Just kidding, I think it's good that Latinos have become mainstream, but at the cost of losing their identity. But, America has proven that they'll pull the brown card on you for several generations to come, so maybe I'm being overly cautious on that one.
Most memorable piece of hate mail?
A guy that wrote in to an editor and said, “Go back to Africa.” That's how much he hated me; he wanted for me to go back, not to Mexico, but a million years back to the cradle of humanity.
Have you ever hired anyone standing outside a Home Depot?
I have not, but I've thought about it because I always need good joke writers.
Illegal immigrants are good joke writers?
They're the funniest guys in town.
George Lopez voicing Grouchy Smurf: Good or bad for the Latinos?
Oh, I didn't know that—really? Good for him. Is that an anchor-baby love child belonging to one of the Seven Dwarves and Smurfette? I'd love to see Samuel L. Jackson voicing the black Smurf; that would be great.
If you could have any beloved comic-strip character move into La Cucaracha's barrio for a week, who would it be?
I think the Family Circus family should move in and get ready to be terrorized.
Five seconds to send a message to Michele Bachmann:
[Laughs.] Oh my God, I've got so many good punch lines, but she's ultimately the best punch line of them all. I'm very happy that she'll allow gay marriage if she becomes president, but only hers. How's that?