Latino Artists Can’t Get No Respect

[Editor’s Note: This column is written by Lalo Alcaraz, a cartoonist, artist and creator of the first nationally syndicated, politically themed Latino daily comic strip, “La Cucaracha.”]

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a million times. Last week News Taco Editor Sara Inés Calderón tagged me in a tweet about Banksy’s immigrant/DREAM Act graffiti art in Los Angeles and San Diego. My first reaction was to ask, “So what? It’s been done before a million times.” Incidentally, so have I.

Banksy’s transformation of the iconic “Immigrants Crossing” sign, which has become a symbol representing decades of anti-immigrant sentiment in California into one of seeming hope is something that Chicano artists have been doing all throughout California and the Greater Aztlan Territories for decades. The only difference is, when Banksy does it, it’s news.

Even in outlets like Colorlines, which purport to offer informed reporting about racial justice issues. Colorlines praised the appearance of the Banksy piece showing the immigrant, as if it somehow validates undocumented immigrants and their aspirations for the very first time.

[blackbirdpie url=”!/sarachicad/status/41196265425485824″]

This issue of inattention, or being relegated to the back burner, is a never-ending issue for artists of color. Many of us create our work for the betterment of our communities, and no sometimes it seems no one cares. It’s called boring, pedantic, same ol’ same ol’, but when someone like a Banksy or a Shepard Fairey comes along and bites our work — or just does something similar — it is hailed as sheer brilliance by the media and critics. The primary difference here is that a celebrity or an establishment “artist” (we’re usually talking about hipster white guys) did it.

I’m tired of it!

Banksy or Shepard Fairey can do whatever the hell they want — who am I to tell them what to draw? Both artists do some cool work, but I just hate that once again, the work of artists of color is often dismissed as run-of-the-mill or invisible, yet when similar work is parroted and/or mined by mainstream white artists, people just gush.

I call on media, critics and audiences in general to support or at least familiarize themselves with the work of artists of color. Presuming them to be less than white, mainstream artists is part of the cycle that keeps them non-mainstream in the first place. Artists have been borrowing from each other since the second cave artist started drawing the second cave painting. Yet, who gets resources and support is often determined by who gets the credit, and in a world where Banksy’s work is heralded while the work of others is ignored, guess who’s going to be on top?

Follow Lalo Alcaraz on Twitter @laloalcaraz

[Image Courtesy Lalo Alcaraz’s Facebook]

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