Latino cartoonist’s “TOONDEMIC” fights COVID disinformation | Health


TEMPE – It all started around a bowl of ‘medicinal menudo’, a term political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz coined as part of a common joke.

Several years ago, at a convention at Harvard University, sociologist Gilberto Lopez took Alcaraz to a place that served Mexican beef tripe soup. Grateful for the meal – and the dish’s reputed hangover-relieving abilities – Alcaraz told Lopez: “I owe you my life.”

Lalo Alcaraz

The menudo forged a link between Lopez and Alcaraz, who has consulted on popular TV shows and movies and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 and 2021. During the pandemic, Lopez invited Alcaraz to collaborate on a Hispanic-focused education campaign on prevention and vaccinations against COVID-19.

Lopez, assistant professor in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, launched the COVID Latino Project in an effort to use art and social media to spread information – and counter disinformation – about COVID-19 throughout the Southwest.

The effort brings together experts from Arizona and the Central Valley of California, home to many Hispanic farm workers, and delivers culturally relevant campaigns via the internet and social media.

The project has so far included animations public service announcements in the Spanish and neighborhood murals to better connect with the hard-hit Latin American population.

Lopez said the project stemmed from his frustration with the kind of information circulating in rural Hispanic communities – “very technical, very jargonous information.” Through collaboration with artists, Lopez said, the resulting pieces are easier to share online and will help make the subject more digestible.

“Humans are storytellers,” Lopez said, “and we tell stories in a way that people understand.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics are almost three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than twice as likely to die from the disease. Almost 87,000 Hispanics died from COVID-19 in the United States

Alcaraz has produced work focused on the Hispanic community and topics like immigration for more than a quarter of a century, and Lopez said that Alcaraz was keen to contribute to the COVID project with a cartoon series encouraging Latinos to come forward. get vaccinated.

Illustration contrasts a vaccinated farm worker – looking healthy and holding a box of cabbage – with an unvaccinated worker holding a box of red-tipped “coronas” – cabbage-sized representations of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“COVID Latino is a… great effort to fight disinformation in the Latin American community and to fight the reluctance to vaccinate,” said Alcaraz, best known for his national comic strip “La Cucaracha” and his contributions as a cultural consultant for Nick’s “The Casagrandes” and Pixar’s “Coco”.

Alcaraz, who in April was named Artist in Residence for ASU’s School of Cross-Border Studies, discussed his work at a recent exhibition in Tempe. The message is particularly important, he said, because “people are getting sick and dying from misinformation.”

When Jaleesa Minor’s teacher recommended the exhibit, the ASU student did not recognize Alcaraz’s name but “for sure” acknowledged his work.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Minor said he saw his comics on his kitchen counter and on social media. Her style has helped her connect with the Chicano community. The vibrant “crazy colors” used by Alcaraz are reminiscent of the colors Minor grew up with: in the painted walls of houses or the shiny clothes used for festivals.

Minor, who is majoring in neuroscience with a minor in Chicano studies, said it was essential for Latinos to talk more about COVID-19 and how to protect themselves against the disease.

“It is extremely important to have conversations like these at the table with our friends and families,” she said, adding that her relatives are worried about getting what they consider to be a vaccine produced at home. look forward to which they know little. “Much of my family… is very reluctant to trust anything the government provides.”

Alcaraz, who is the son of Mexican immigrants, remembers feeling left out growing up in San Diego. He channeled this frustration into his work, a therapeutic practice that he hopes helps bring attention to an often overlooked group of people.

“If we are invisible, we can be demonized and made to disappear,” he said. “And it is wrong.”

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