Frederick Luis Aldama shared insight into what it’s like as a voice of Latinx representation in the comic book industry during his talk to Western Carolina University students over zoom on Oct. 13.
Aldama, also known as Professor Latinx, is a legend in the realm of Latinx comic book writing, winning many coveted awards for his work while continuing to be an activist for Latinx representation in the media.
Aldama shared his roots as a Mexican, Guatemalan, Irish- American and why those roots caused him to be exposed to racism from a very early age.
“My mom is a Guatemalan, Irish-American from east LA. My dad is Mexican from Mexico City. I mention all of this because, in the mid-70s, kids that spoke Spanish were told not to speak that ‘dirty Mexican’ at school. Bilingualism was kind of frowned upon crazy enough,” Aldama laughed. “I also remember coming home upset because a teacher told me to my face that I was not Mexican, that I was Spanish. I was completely confused because my family told me that we were Mexican, Guatemalan, Irish- American.”
Aldama described these moments of blatant racism and trauma as something that would later spur his movement toward activism.
“That is when I started asking questions like, ‘what does literature do in the world?’, ‘what about cultural objects, comic books, films; what do they actually do in the world and how can I use them to make a difference?” Aldama said.
Aldama began his fundamental reshaping of the comics industry by analyzing just how little representation Latino, Latina, and Latinx people have had within comic media.
“Whenever I went searching in the Marvel or DC encyclopedia, they never mention any of the Latino superheroes, and they barely mentioned any of the Black and Asian superheroes. They were a little bit more present, but there was no mention of us. So I went back into the archives and I reconstructed it to show just how the erasure of our presence in comics is real,” Aldama said.
Not only is the erasure of Latinx people in the media a continuing problem, but people who are trying to break this trend are also denied opportunities.
“Very often when creatives go and knock on the big doors, we are not heard. So, I wanted to create my own comics and publish comics, graphic novels, and graphic nonfiction that are created by Latino, Latina and Latinx people,” Aldama said. “I think it is really important for us to bring our mythologies, our homegrown stories, our folk tales into the modern mythos.”
Aldama finished his talk by commenting on how important it is to find and follow your inner writer’s voice, encouraging everyone to share their stories.
“I think that we all need to find our voice and once you find your writer’s voice, it’s like a train. It’s like Snowpiercer, you can’t stop that train but you need to be able to explore and take time to find your voice and to find that confidence to know that you have something to share with the world that’s meaningful,” Aldama said.