In this panel aimed at highlighting Latinx and Native American voices, moderator Henry Barajas brought together Latinx and Native American writers and creators from across the Americas, including Darcie Little Badger, Julio Anta, J. Gonzo, Theresa Rojas, Hector Rodriguez, Rhael Mcgregor, Luke Martinez, Frederick Aldama, and Sonya Ballantyne for his panel at Comic-Con @Home. All the panelists described the projects they were working on, as well as discuss the challenges and complexities of being Latinx and Native American creators.
Darcie, who is Lipan Apache, talked about her book called Elatsoe YA book about a 17 girl named Eli who investigates her cousin’s murder and ends up investigating his death has the ability to wake the ghosts of animals; it’s a fantasy mystery.” Darcie noted the pressure of being a Lipan creator, and how she couldn’t represent all of her people. “Someone is going to read my book, thinking I’m representing all Lipan,” she said.
Hector is the creator of El Peso, a Mexican comics hero. Hector was born on the Texas-Mexican border, and wanted to focus on the issues that are impacting both sides of the border with writing this come. He has been working on it for 9 years, and he’ll be hitting 15 books next year, collaborating with artists from Argentina, Mexico, the US, and Italy. On one of the pros of making this comic independently, he noted that this comic “makes sure more voices are heard.” As an educator writing this comic “gives him more of a voice in the community.” Hector noted that he and El Peso have “a keen focus on protecting the front line of essential workers,” noting that many of his students are “children of essential workers who are immigrants.”
Rhael is new to comics scene, has started working in indie comics. She said she “loves writing romance and autobiography and short educational works,” and that “ever since [she] was young, [she] was always involved in storytelling, and comics was the medium that chose her.” Ultimately she “wants to make stories that educate people and make them happy.” While discussing inequities they each face, she mentioned that being Native Canadian from the Métis, and white-passing, she most often doesn’t get racially profiled. Once non-Native people find out she’s, “all the questions and racism start coming out,” and noted that it could be “a very complicated situation” when that happens.
She further elaborated, “As someone white and Indigenous, my family never really introduced our culture to us for 17 years. Learning about my culture now is a whole situation to wrap my head around and get that back. My grandmother doesn’t even want to say that she’s Métis. I had thought I couldn’t enter those spaces and talk about my culture. That’s it’s own story in and of itself.”
Julio, who is from Miami and now lives in New York City, is from Cuban and Colombian backgrounds Reflecting on his experience growing up, he noted that when he’s in a minority-majority city, you “don’t encounter the same sort of racism as you do in the rest of the country.” On his current projects, he said they are “comics touch on the intersection of American life and Latino identity.” With this interest in racial and ethnic disparities, he noted that his current comic is focused on differences in social distancing policies enforced on white people vs. Black and brown people. He noticed that in New York, police officers were violently arresting people who were social distancing and wearing masks for simply being outside, versus downtown where they gave masks out to people. This comic is up for free now on his website.
On whether he and his fellow creators have a responsibility as Latinx creators Julio said that any sense of that should only come from wanting to see themselves as fully fleshed-out people in media. “We don’t ask this same question of white people,” he said. “We should feel free to write whatever it is we want to write, not about racism or class struggles. We want to see ourselves in the average rom-com movie and play characters that aren’t the housemaid or the nanny that are stereotypical to Latino culture.”
Luke was raised in California, where he teaches high school history and English to a mostly Latinx classroom, noting that many of their parents are migrant farm workers. He is currently writing Daughter of the Underworld, a Latinx Space Opera. He is also working on a webcomic called “Storm Riders” that’s inspired by D&D—has a character named Alejandra who’s a combination of Roman and Aztec
Dr. Teresa Rojas is a writer, editor, and artist. “I try to do it all and occasionally sleep,” she said. She is the founding director of Latinx Comics Arts festival. Even though the pandemic forced her to shut down the in-person even this year, she and the other organizers were thankfully able to do a virtual convention. On her creative journey, she mentioned how she created an art and literature zine inspired by St. Sucia, and so later started her work Calacas.
On the subject of any sort of burden she and her fellow creators should have, she said, “I don’t think we have a particular responsibility to tell a story or kind of story. If anything, we are completely open to any story and should be open to telling any story. But if you don’t see the story you want to see in the world, you have to write it. If it’s about your own story or family, write it. We can tell any story that we want to tell. There are absolutely no limits.”
Jay Ganzo is a Chicano artist based in Cyprus CA working on his Luchador hero comic, La Mano Destino. Like a majority of the panel, said he was doing his own project was due to dissatisfaction with what was out there. For his project specifically, it was also about bringing honor to a Mexican concept Americans tend to treat as a joke. “Every time I see a Lucha Libre I see them as a joke, and they’re actual heroes to me. I wanted to reflect on the bright cues of Latinx culture instead of how they’re usually presented in American media. I wanted something where the wrestling was important and treated with respect.”
Sonya Valentine is a writer and filmmaker who does a lot of different types of writing. She recently contributed to the anthology book Women Love Wrestling, with a story on meeting the pro-wrestler Edge who told her she “could be whatever she wanted to be.” Right now she is writing a graphic novel, and “hopefully” will be working a Star Trek novel soon. On representation in her storytelling, she said, “All stories I tell come from a political place because of who I am. That often includes racism and sexism, such as in my upcoming book about pro-wrestling. I was hoping not to make it political but it’s largely about all the stuff I hated about myself as a kid that made me think I couldn’t be a wrestler. It naturally comes up in my case usually.”
Frederick Louis Aldama, who got an Eisner for his scholarly work Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics, is the Director of Soul-Con, and writer of The Adventures of Chupacabra Charlie, which is used for academic purposes. The main character, the Chupacabra Charlie, meets the human Lupe, they go an adventure to help people in this fantasy education book. He noted that this is the “most exciting thing he’s done ever.”
While it was a very illuminating panel with wide-ranging discussions from Latinx and Native-American people, it very noticeably had no Afro-Latinx voices present. Hopefully the next time Henry Barajas does a panel meant to be inclusive of all voices in these communities, it will include Afro-Latinx creators as well.
You can watch the whole panel here.
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity