Political cartoonist Eric Garcia is not afraid to speak his mind. He’s not afraid to draw it either. On January 10, Garcia stopped by the National Hispanic Cultural Center to speak about his life drawing against oppression.
About 80 people were in attendance as the University of New Mexico alumni began his talk. Throughout the talk, Garcia (no relation to the writer) belabored that his cartoons, one of which portrayed Former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions as a Ku Klux Klan member, were more than just a quick buck.
“I think there’s is a difference between wanting to do something and having to do something,” Garcia said in an interview afterward. “I have to let other people know what’s going on.”
From a caricature of President Donald Trump taking money from a “Latino for Trump” to build the border wall, to President Barack Obama kicking Latin-American refugees into an alligator’s mouth, the common theme in “El Machete Illustrated” is the oppressive policies, structures and people that cause misery for so many.
Even that name, “El Machete,” has a story.
“They told me I needed a title for my political cartoon series,” Garcia said, referring to his first job at The Weekly Alibi after graduating from UNM. Garcia said he first heard the name used to describe an old newspaper running in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
That newspaper, Garcia said, covered events in Mexico and around the world during one the most tumultuous periods in that region's history. Garcia said he wanted to be the cartoon series of that, thus “El Machete Illustrated.”
El Machete was also the name of a radical-communist newspaper in revolution-era Mexico, according to Stanford Libraries.
“There’s a proud legacy of this moniker being used as a political device,” Garcia said, adding that he was honored to continue that legacy.
Garcia’s was born in Albuquerque's South Valley. He’s a Rio Grande High School graduate and when he mentioned that to the crowd at NHCC a whistle, presumably from another Rio Grande Raven, cracked over the crowd.
While attending UNM, Garcia drew cartoons for the Daily Lobo, mainly focusing on politics as a theme.
Garcia served four and half years in US Air Force, describing his role as a century as babysitting warplanes.
“While I was there, I was so bored that I would just start drawing,” Garcia said. “I would draw these tiny little caricature … making fun of the jobs that we did, the lieutenants around us.”
After his time in the Air Force, Garcia came back to Albuquerque and used his G.I. bill to enroll at UNM.
At UNM, Garcia studied Fine Arts and Chicano studies. He called out the late Dr. Charles Truxillo as a professor who was especially influential. Garcia said Truxillo taught the history
“My primary education was filled with pilgrims and George Washington, which had nothing to do with me,” Garcia said.
Justin Garcia is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jJst516garc.