Political satirist Lalo Alcaraz was vocally challenged by Carlisle resident Stephen Garisti when he publicly referred to the presenter as an “oh so subtle communist” at the Clarke Forum’s first event of the series; “Media, Technology, and Civic Engagement.”
An overflow of students, faculty and community members gathered in the Stern Great Room on Tuesday, February 7 as Alcaraz presented and displayed commentary on his comics portraying controversial and hot-button issues including Donald Trump’s presidency and immigration.
When called on to ask a question, Garisti reprimanded Alcaraz for “improperly” referring to “Donald Trump” rather than “President Donald Trump,” whom he described as “put in office by the grace of God.” When asked his purpose for attending the event, Garisti stated “I wanted to see and hear what he had to say even though it’s propaganda.” Garisti, who carried a folder of Alcaraz’s cartoons, publicly called Alcaraz an “oh so subtle communist revolutionary.” He condemned his mockery of Donald Trump, stating “the Bible says that fools mock at sin,” prompting Alcaraz to laugh and respond, “are you going to start reading from the Bible?”
Garisti attended the event along with his friend Dave Delp, who worked for Donald Trump’s campaign in Cumberland County. When asked whether he agreed with Garisti’s description of Alcaraz as a “communist revolutionary,” Delp first acknowledged Alcaraz’s right to express his views as guaranteed by the First Amendment but agreed with Garisti, stating “I think I would in the sense that what he’s doing is underpinning capitalism through sole identity politics.” Delp added, “I don’t agree with identity politics at all and I don’t agree with affirmative action at all.”
Clarke Forum Student Project Manager Kayleigh Rhatigan ’19, who felt that Alcaraz brought a “valuable perspective on immigration,” found Garisti’s statement to be an “unwarranted attack on the speaker,” a statement with which many faculty members in the room expressed agreement. Dickinson Public Safety was called to the scene and eventually escorted Alcaraz back to his hotel.
Alcaraz presented and commented on many of his recent cartoons, the majority of which were related to recent political events along with the election and Presidency of Donald Trump. Alcaraz believes that his work allows people to examine important issues in an accessible way, commenting, “most people aren’t political but look at where we’re at… we all need to step up and be involved in one way or another.” The images Alcaraz presented included images and cartoons including a guide on “How to Draw Trump,” an image of Donald Trump as Uncle Sam recruiting for ISIS and one associating President Trump with Adolf Hitler through the use of swastikas.
Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Carolina Castellanos, stated that she believed the cartoons were an important example of “humor as a way of dealing” and felt that Alcaraz’s work could “help break the ice so people can talk about things they haven’t talked about.” She also commented on the importance of representation for Latinx students, and saw the event as a “great opportunity to bring together the Latino community.”
Rowan Humphries ’19 attended the event along with her classmates in Spanish 231: “Contemporary Satire in Latin America.” Humphries enjoyed Alcaraz’s speaking style, describing him as a “naturally hilarious person” whose work resonated with many of her own feelings and stated her admiration for his ability to “channel his political dissent into artwork.”
Alcaraz also engaged the audience by offering commentary on his own life and career. Alcaraz, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, frequently addressed his Latino identity as well as recent immigration policies, stating, “Trump is trying to destroy the economy with these bans and massive deportations.” He commented on hate-mail he has received as well as the challenges associated with being a minority in the Hollywood world.
Alcaraz, who refers to himself as a “jack of all trades” is a nationally-known Chicano artist, satirist, writer and cartoonist. His daily comic strip “La Cucaracha” is one of the first nationally-syndicated Latino comic strips in the United States and is printed in over sixty newspapers nation-wide. Alcaraz is also an author, illustrator, co-host of the satirical radio show “The Poncho Hour of Power” and consulting producer.
Following his presentation, Alcaraz signed many posters which were sold following the event and interacted with many audience members. He stated that he always enjoys presenting to colleges, “regardless of whether they’ll give me a standing-room-only standing ovation like I got at Dickinson.” He added that the students he interacted with were “thoughtful in their sentiments” and “generous with their appreciation.” When asked about his reaction to Garisti’s criticism, he responded with a smirk, “I thought it was hilarious.”
“La Cucaracha” and Political Satire was presented by the Clarke Forum and co-sponsored by the Departments of Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies, the Spanish and Portuguese Department, and the Trout Gallery.