Nationally-Syndicated Cartoonist speaks at Bridgewater College

Lalo Alcaraz Details his Experiences and How They Shaped his Professional Career

Joe Caron, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, VA- On Sept. 18, Lalo Alcaraz spoke in Cole Hall at Bridgewater College as the inaugural visiting Showker Scholar. The convocation, “Drawing on Walls”, was attended by students, staff, and community members.  Alcaraz is renowned for creating the first nationally syndicated, politically themed Latino daily comic strip, La Cucaracha. He was also a cultural consultant for the Disney-Pixar film, Coco.

Alcaraz was born in San Diego, California, in 1964. His mother and father both migrated to the U.S. from Mexico when they were young adults. They met in an English-as-a-second-language class in the early 60’s. “Immigrants come here to the United States to work and have a better life,” said Alcaraz when describing why his parents migrated. Lalo recounted that being a cartoonist was the only profession he ever saw himself having. Alcaraz described the neighborhood in which he grew up as being heavily conservative and racist, saying it was a “border town in denial”. Messages like “being Mexican is bad” were constantly being forced upon him.

Alcaraz credits his natural drawing ability to genetics, particularly from his mother’s side. His cousins on that side of the family were all artists. They all lived on the western coast of Mexico, in a place and time where it was difficult to make a living as an artist. This led them to study in Mexico City and become Certified Public Accountants. Lalo spent most of his summers as a kid with them in Mexico City, a place he described as the “Wakanda for Mexicans”, referencing Black Panther.

As Lalo advanced into high school and beyond, his experiences with prejudice and discrimination fueled many of the ideas behind his cartoons. Many of the cartoons he showcased for the talk were commenting on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly at the border. Several others were satirizing celebrities like Donald Trump, specifically his plan to build a border wall.  

Alcaraz’s role as cultural consultant for the film Coco, was the first occurrence of Pixar filling a role of that nature. Alcaraz was hesitant to accept the project at first for fear of getting public backlash.However, he realized that Disney was going to make the movie with or without his help, so he might as well help them make the movie as authentic and true to Hispanic culture as possible. Coco ended up being the #1 grossing-movie of all time in Mexico. Alcaraz was even invited to the Oscars with the rest of the cast and crew. 

Alcaraz is currently working on a new Nickelodeon TV show, La Casagrandes, which is a spin-off of an already existing TV show, Loud House. He co-wrote the theme song and is helping with the writing for the episodes. Forty episodes have already been produced and a new batch of four more are currently being created. At the end of the convocation, there was a Q & A period, and a student asked Alcaraz what advice he would give his younger self. “I took too long to get started on stuff,” said Alcaraz.  Alcaraz believes that if you have a talent for something then you shouldn’t waste any time delving into it.