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Julio Anta and Henry Barajas: Two influential voices in Latinx comics

Their graphic novels capture the concerns of Latino youth in the United States.

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Three months ago, The Beat, an online blog about comics, reported the publication of two new graphic novels that address different aspects of the Latinx experience. 

The first of these is HOME, by Julio Anta, a Miami-born graphic novel author with a Cuban father and Colombian mother. HOME tells the story of a young Guatemalan immigrant separated from his mother at the U.S. border, who must learn to harness his newfound superhuman abilities. 

"My father is a Cuban refugee who came to the United States as a five year old, and my mother is the daughter of undocumented immigrants from Colombia, so there’s pieces of Juan — the protagonist of HOME — in both of my parents story, but not in my personal lived experience," Anta told The Beat.

While Juan is an undocumented migrant, Anta admits that he spent his childhood "living in an environment where I mostly felt safe from the racism and xenophobia that my characters experience in HOME. Unfortunately, that’s changed as I’ve gotten older and experienced racism firsthand, but it wasn’t until I was an adult and left Miami," he said. 

The second Latinx comic mentioned by The Beat is called Helm Greycastle, a fantasy story set in a world where the Aztecs were never conquered by the Spanish. Its author is Henry Barajas, a writer originally from Tucson, Arizona. Barajas explained in an interview with NPR that his intention was to recreate a sort of Southern "Mordor" — the famous world of J.R.R. Tolkein.

"What if Mordor had a southside?" Barajas said. "What if the world of The Lord of the Rings had a southside?"

"I wanted to create something that challenged the Eurocentric fantasy genre while making it organic — and also incorporating Mesoamerican history," the 32 year-old graphic novelist added.

 

Barajas, who now lives in Los Angeles, regrets that in school he was not taught about Mesoamerican history and Indigenous cultures, where his roots are. That is why he wanted to include the subject in his new novel, something he already started to do with the previous one, The Voice of M.A.Y.O.

"Growing up, my family would always tell me my great-grandfather did something amazing. But they really didn't go into detail [about] what that was,"  he told NPR.

Barajas dug into his family history and discovered that his great-grandfather, Ramon Jaurigue, co-founded the Mexican American Yaqui and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization in Tuscon, Arizona.

During the 1970s, the group lobbied the Tucson City Council to improve conditions for members of the local Pascua Yaqui tribe, a group that has lived in the region for hundreds of years.

"It's not an everyday thing where you can tell people that your great-grandfather helped one of the last Native American tribes gain federal recognition," he said.

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