By Angelo Lopez / Everyday Citizen
One of the best up and coming political cartoonists in the nation is Joaquin Junco Jr, aka “Junco Canché”. Junco is the political cartoonist for El Coyote Crossing Borders and the San Diego Free Press, and he has had cartoons published in El Coyote Online, La Prensa San Diego, and the Southwestern College Sun. Junco is studying graphic design at Cal State San Bernardino, where he began doing freelance cartoons. His cartoons offer an incisive view of the state and national political scene from a Hispanic point of view. His cartoons at the Southwestern College Sun won awards from the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Thank you for doing this interview. Tell me, did you always draw as a child? What were your early artistic influences?
I have always been drawing. When my parents noticed that me and my brother had talent, they encouraged us to develop it further. My early influences were the animated series from the 90’s, like the Animaniacs, Goof Troop and The Simpsons. Anime was another influence later on.
You are majoring in Graphic Design in California State University San Bernardino. What led you to doing editorial cartooning? What editorial cartoonists do you look up to and inspire your own work?
It all happened during my high school years: I realized that I wanted to be an artist, and at the same I started to pay attention to politics and life around the US/Mexico border. But what led me into editorial cartooning were two artists: Lalo Alcaraz and Eduardo del Río AKA Rius. Not only did they drew cartoons about the subjects I was interested, but they were capable of being both insightful and hilarious. I knew I was capable of doing the same thing. There were other cartoonists as well, but Lalo Alcaraz and Rius were the catalysts.
Your recent December 6, 2014 cartoon shows a deep sympathy for oppressed people and their resistance to their oppressors. What is your thoughts on the various protest movements around the world? What was the big influence on your political views?
All of the movements depicted in the cartoon are standing up to governments or systems that are oppressing their people or a specific group of people, but the respective governments are ignoring the protestors demands, or are enacting the oppression itself. I began to follow rebel movements after reading about the1994 Zapatista Movement in Mexico, where indigenous farmers stood up against the government of that time. I’m sure running a country is no easy task, but when business mingles with politics, the interests of the people go out the window, and obtaining more money and/or power overwhelms politicians’ priorities. And then that’s when people rise up.
I noticed that a lot of Hispanic artists have been influenced by punk rock. Fine artist Camille Rose Garcia, the cartoonists the Hernandez Brothers, and you were influenced by punk rock. What is it about the punk rock music that has had such an influence on you and other Hispanic artists?
For me it was the attitude and the “do it yourself” philosophy of punk rock: the content in punk music went from simple angst to historical revolutionary movements. It’s the possibility to write and sing about anything, nothing is sacred or taboo. If you have something you want to say, you do it using the materials and skills you have at hand. You don’t have to be a professional, as long as you are resourceful and you enjoy what you do.
Many of your cartoons attack extremism and religious dogmatism. One of my favorites is your “Convert or Die” cartoon you did in September 17, 2014 . What are your views on the Christian Right in this country?
What baffles me about the Christian Right the most is their self-righteousness, their belief that Christianity is the superior religion. The Christian Right stands against progress and unification of the American populace, which is composed of various ethnicities, religions and sexual preferences. But to be fair, it’s not just the Christian extremism that I am against: any religion that is taken to extreme is a danger to humanity.
You’ve done several good cartoons on the local scene in San Diego. I like your cartoons about San Diego mayor Kevin Falconer, like your October 31, 2014 cartoon and September 11, 2014 cartoon. I don’t know the political scene in San Diego. How would you describe the politics in San Diego?
San Diego is a predominantly conservative city. There’s a saying that San Diego is divided by Interstate 8: the southern side is predominantly Democrat and the northern side is predominantly Republican. There is also a strong military presence in San Diego. Former mayor Bob Filner was the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. So yeah, pretty conservative.
A consistent theme in your cartoons is the racial polarization in this country. Whether it is the attacks against illegal immigrants , the clash between demonstrators and the police in Ferguson, or even the controversy over the Washington Redskins name, there seems to be a terrible divide on race. Do you think there is a way to bridge the racial divide?
People find comfort believing we are now living in a post-racial society. We are not. There has been progress in racial issues, mind you, but there is still work to be done. It’s up to people within minority communities that have access to higher education to change the system and bring proper representation and dialogue between the government and minority groups. Slurs, stereotypes and prejudice will still be around, but educated people can deter the alienation of their communities. Unfortunately, this is not a full answer to the question, and there is no easy answer. But among the progress made since the Civil Rights movement was a greater access to education to minority students, and we cannot let that opportunity go to waste.
You’re a talented cartoonist coming into the editorial cartooning field at a time when many editorial cartoonists have been losing their jobs due to the decline in newspapers. I’ve enjoyed doing cartoons for the Philippines Today, a small community newspaper. What has it been like to do cartoons for the San Diego Free Press?
Thank you for the compliment. Cartooning for the San Diego Free Press was a personal milestone for me: I have the privilege to do something I like and that I am good at. The SDFP staff is composed of the nicest people you’ll meet in San Diego. It’s been an awesome experience and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
What do you most enjoy about doing editorial cartoons?
Drawing and knowing that people see my cartoons and get a reaction, either because they agree or disagree with my view.
What would you recommend to a person who is visiting San Diego for the first time?
Make sure to visit the US/Mexico border. You may leave not understanding how the border affects or benefits people, but it’s still a sight to see.
A youtube interview with Joaquin Junco Jr. aka “Junco Canché”
Angelo Lopez is an artist and writer that has illustrated three books: Two Moms, the Zark, and Me, Night Travelers, and Cherubic Children’s New Classic Story Book, Volume 2. He blogs at Everyday Citizen.