Getting into San Diego’s Comic-Con is tougher than the skin under the Hulk’s heels. After fighting too many losing battles over SDCC badges, David Favela and his crew decided to launch his own convention: Chicano-Con. Hosted at the Border X Brewery in San Diego – a stone’s throw away from Comic-Con – the event showcases under-appreciated Latino comic books, superheroes and art. We spoke with Victoria Carter, one of the event organizers, and asked “¿Que onda con Chicano-Con?”
The event was conceived as an art show but morphed into something more.
“It turned into a family-oriented event focusing on the community, the culture of art, shared experiences and giving back to the community. And just being able to create a creative outlet for artists.”
They want people to get to know their neighborhood, Barrio Logan.
“There was a rough past but I think times have changed. It’s become the place to be now. There are just so many different art galleries, there’s just so many different businesses that are opening up. We have more breweries that are moving down. It does have its past but it’s not what it is anymore. It’s become something new. It’s become something better.”
They’re not trying to emulate the busy, frenetic vibe of Comic-Con.
And they’ve got no beef with Comic-Con. “We didn’t go into this saying, ‘Hey Comic-Con doesn’t have anything to do with Latinos.’” It’s more of a fun event where we can experience the same joy and everything that everyone else is doing. I mean, we have so many Latin-inspired comics already, so we might as well have some fun while everyone else is.”
“We are doing movie nights, giving away free popcorn to the kids. Having a kids corner where they can do arts and crafts and be interactive. We will have vendors there so they can sell their merchandise and just kind of have a really good place to network and mingle and it is going on during Comic Con so it is a good time for everyone to come over here and relax from all the congested areas down there and all the crazy stuff that’s going on. They can just step outside of the zone for a little bit, have a beer and just relax with everyone.”
Chicano-Con @ Border X Brewing 2181 Logan Ave, San Diego, California 92113
Even though Marvel and DC Comics superhero comics are obviously very popular in Latin America (as they are in the rest of the world), the region has developed its own comic book industry. This industry has given birth to iconic characters. These characters and stories speak directly to Latin American reality and identity. They deal with challenges such as economic crisis, class division, racism, and State repression. Of course, they do this in an often funny way. Other comics have achieved cult status even if their quality is, well, not of the highest standards. These are ten titles that speak of the depth and breathe of Latin American creativity.
Title: Condorito Country of origin: Chile So when was it first published? It has been published since 1949 Created by: René Ríos, known as Pepo
The adventures of a Chilean condor that lives among humans is told in short vignettes that always end with a character passing out and the iconic word PLOP. Simple stories deal, however, with issues such as unemployment, the military dictatorship in Chile and class division. Condorito is a working-class everyman who faces class discrimination. Before Pinochet took power the comic was a bit conservative, mocking hippies and left-wing politicians, but after the coup, it changed and silently denounced the dictatorship. A 3D animated movie was released in 2017, with iconic characters such as Cabeza de Huevo, Garganta de Lata and Pepe Cortisona.
Title: La familia Burrón Country of origin: Mexico So when was it first published? 1948 Created by: Gabriel Vargas
It was published for 60 years and told half a million copies, a huge number by Mexican publishing standards. Cuevas got into the hearts and minds of a lower-class Mexico City family. It is a linguistic jewel: it used slang, Prehispanic words and invented words that appealed to the creativity of chilango vernacular. Vargas’s main influence was American comics, but he soon developed a style that was unique and influences generations of Latin American comic book artists.
And this family is a true icon of Mexico City
Up until today, this family is venerated by Mexicans. There are multiple murals, toys and museum exhibitions dedicated to the Burrones. A true representation of 20th century Mexican idiosyncrasy.
Title: Las aventuras de Capulina Country of origin: Mexico So when was it first published? 1970s Created by: Oscar González Guerrero on a character created by Gaspar Henaine Pérez
Gaspar Henaine Pérez, better known as Capulina, was a comedian that became iconic on the 1970s and 1980s. He had a television show and a very successful duo with Marco Antonio Campos, better known as Viruta. The character of Capulina gained huge popularity in a comic book series with stories by comic artist Oscar González Guerrero and art by his son Oscar Gonzalez Loyo.
Title: El libro vaquero Country of origin: Mexico So when was it first published? 1978 Created by: Mario de la Torre Barrón, c
A classic of Mexican kitsch! NSFW content that has plenty of blood and plenty of sex. It was considered mass entertainment for the lower classes but is now being reinterpreted as an important cultural icon that deals with gender, sex and national identity. As the title suggests, it all happens in a microcosm of cowboys and saloons. This comic book has enrolled some famous writers, such as Jordi Soler, to write stories, as it is now a cultural icon, popular among hipsters.
Title: Memín Pinguín (yes, this one is quite problematic) Country of origin: Mexico So when was it first published? 1962-2010 Created by: Yolanda Vargas Dulché.
First things first: this is a very controversial title because of how the Afro-Mexican main character is drawn, and because of the ways in which other characters refer to him. There are plenty of stereotypes here, but also a denouncement of racism. The class division in Mexico is also referred to when a rich student is enrolled in a public school and faces the wrath of the proletariat. An interesting object of study that makes us think of how representations of race that might have been seen as innocent at the time gain new dimensions as the effects of stereotypes are better understood.
Title: Kaliman Country of origin: Mexico So when was it first published? 1965 (previously a radio show from 1963) Created by: Modesto Vázquez González (radio show), Hector González Dueñas (Víctor Fox) y Clemente Uribe Ugarte (comic book)
During the 1960s Mexico was a cultural powerhouse in the continent and Kaliman is good proof of this. The superhero was originally just a voice on the radio, but then became a comic book that was published for 26 uninterrupted years, which spanned 1351 issues. Kaliman is a superhero of unknown origin who was raised in India and fights alongside an Egyptian kid named Solin. Kaliman practices multiple martial arts and goes to mystical places like Tibet! A true transnational creation generated in Latin America
Title: Mafalda (but of course we couldn’t possibly forget her!) Country of origin: Argentina So when was it first published? 1964-1973 Created by: Quino
More of a comic strip rather than a comic book, Mafalda is a young girl who hates soup, loves her family and despairs at the state of the world. Argentina’s answer to Charlie Brown and the Peanuts series is a funny, nostalgic and thought-provoking universe in which childhood’s point of view reveals the idiocy of the adult world. Mafalda is a symbol of pacifism and a true icon of Argentina.
Title: Love and Rockets Country of origin: United States So when was it first published? 1981 Created by:the Hernandez brothers: Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario.
Perhaps the most daring and iconic comic book to come out of the Latino community in the United States. This universe of interrelated storylines have traits that make it uniquely Latino: some stories take place in the Central American fictional village of Palomar, while others have magical realism elements. The Locas series focuses on Maggie and Hopey, one of the first queer couples in the American comic book tradition.
Title: Turey El Taíno Country of origin: Puerto Rico So when was it first published? 1989 Created by: Ricardo Álvarez-Rivón
A unique comic book in that it shows how an indigenous community, the Tainos of what is now Puerto Rico, lived before colonization by the Spanish. It shows the cultural richness of the island in pre-Columbus days and brings back indigenous words and tools. A real standout!
Title: Elpidio Valdés Country of origin: Cuba So when was it first published? 1970 Created by: Juan Padrón
A true Cuban classic and perhaps the most famous comic book to come out of the island. In a truly nationalistic spirit (some might argue that these comic books are in fact propaganda), the story takes place in the nineteenth-century war of independence that Cubans waged against Spain. Elpidio Valdés is a multiplatform narrative, as there are movies and cartoons about this historical character.
Historical artifacts from the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad and posters of the women’s suffrage that date back to 1832 that are on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Among these historical and important artifacts is the costume of La Borinqueña, an Afro-Puerto Rican superhero.
The costume of La Borinqueña, created by comic book writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, is featured in the “Superheroes” exhibition at the Smithsonian.
This significant addition to the exhibit comes just three years since Miranda-Rodriguez debuted La Borinqueña in the first graphic novel.
“La Borinqueña debuted in 2016 at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City,” Miranda-Rodriguez said in a statement. “Throughout the last three years, her overwhelmingly positive reception has provided me the platform to address the humanitarian crisis that grew out of the island of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis. For a year and a half, La Borinqueña became recognized and celebrated by mainstream media outlets and cultural institutions positioning me as a prominent voice for Puerto Ricans.”
Miranda-Rodriguez said that after Hurricane Maria, La Borinqueña became an example of pride and determination.
Miranda-Rodriguez adds that through the La Borinqueña brand, they’ve been able to raise a quarter of a million dollars from the sales of Ricanstruction and La Borinqueña Grants Program.
“Via this program, we have awarded grants to local grassroots organizations in Puerto Rico, further showing the world that our hero truly embodies a heroic ideal,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “Fight for justice, work for justice. In a time where popular culture centers around superhero storylines that take characters to fight in intergalactic wars, La Borinqueña shines a light on the battles that we all need to fight here in our country.”
The costume of La Borinqueña is featured right next to Wonder Woman.
“The fact that both of these costumes were worn by Latinas (Wonder Woman’s Linda Carter is Mexican American) is fitting with the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative, #BecauseOfHerStory in which we are highlighting the many ways women play a role in our culture,” Melinda Machado, director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Communications and Marketing, told NBC News.
The exhibition can be seen now through Nov. 12, and people are praising the addition of La Borinqueña.
“Having ‘La Borinqueña,’ a Puerto Rican superhero, at the Smithsonian is a source of pride,” Flavio Cumpiano said. “It’s a proven fact that children feel empowered to shoot for greatness when they see real-life people who look like themselves achieve greatness, whether it is a Barack Obama or a Sonia Sotomayor. The same is true for superheroes or action figures or characters.”