Latino comic artists share perspectives on diversity

BY Andrew Ayala

The Latino Comics Panel gave the audience a chance to understand why it is important to embrace culture when creating art and comics.
Panel writers and artists included moderator Javier Hernandez, Eric Esquivel, Melina Chavarria, Rafael Navarro and Jules Rivera.
They gave brief introductions and highlighted their struggles and paths, starting from their roots to their current situations.
All were from different parts of the United States but shared similar interests, goals and passions.
“You better believe diversity is on the agenda. That is how I plan on making my mark. Part of making my world a better place is by inspiring people and getting the people up top to start seeing us in ways that are not just ‘oh go clean the floors,’” said Rivera.
Panelists said there aren’t enough people of color that are heroes or protagonists in comics and proved how they are making their mark in the industry.
“I’m sure we all have the same pride and the same reason. They wanted to see characters reflective of some part of their culture in a comic,” said Hernandez, who was born in East Los Angeles.
The panelists were different ages, and had their own experiences being Latino or Latina.
They said there was a difference between being prideful and trying to seem pitiful through writing and art.
“Never give up. You must always be proud of who you are and where you come from. I still try to do this to this day with any project that I work on. When I work with other companies, I bring my vision from where I come from and hope it gets interpreted properly,” said Navarro.
Pride was something that all panelists gave their thoughts on. They told the audience to always let their roots be known and make sure interpretations are accurate.
Although all were from Latin descent, their different upbringings proved to be influences in their works.
Some artists created comics based on good memories and nostalgic moments, while others were focused on the future and making sure Latinos and Latinas get the lives and credit they deserve.
In a confrontation with a reporter when he first started out, Hernandez said she asked him what are the struggles he’s faced as a Mexican-American creating a comic book.
“Money, trying to get on the bookshelf and in the market. The only struggle I find with self-publishing is having to find the time to make the book since I have a day job. There is no like klansman protesting me. I don’t have any of those issues since I don’t do much work on politics,” said Hernandez.
They all had a common message, that although they are Latino or Latina, that doesn’t need to be the main focus when writing or drawing comic books.
Arguments about the lack of Latino involvement in mainstream media were made.
Esquivel said that the success of Marvel studios and D.C. comics, with no popular Latin characters, and the youth not learning about Cesar Chavez as much as Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X was a problem.
“Our youth, I feel, need to read things that help empower them and show them how to navigate this landscape right now. I’m not afraid to share stories like that because it needs to be heard,” said Chavarria.

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