How Lalo Alcaraz got me fired from Patch.com – the true story

by Dennis wilen aka comic saenz on March 12, 2012 in Cartoons, El Now

From December of 2010 through Spring 2011, I was the editor of Brentwood.Patch.com, the West Los Angeles outpost of AOL/Huffington Post’s “hyperlocal” news operation.

For Cinco de Mayo, I commissioned three stories: The real history of Cinco de Mayo as related by a professor at Mount St. Mary’s (Brentwood’s only college), the best places to celebrate with nachos and beer in Brentwood and a cartoon from my friend Lalo Alcaraz about how the Battle of Puebla is understood in Brentwood.

I was thrilled to score a cartoon from a cartoonist of Lalo’s stature at Patch’s standard rate of $50.

This was the same week that AOL and HuffPo honchos announced a Latino outreach initiative, probably to coincide with Cinco de Mayo. I thought they’d be pleased.

The cartoon went live just after midnight on May 5; I Tweeted about it, per AOL policy, and posted a link on Brentwood Patch’s Facebook page. The headline Lalo and I wrote? “It’s Cinco de Mayo – do you know where your gardener is?”  I thought the cartoon — marked as opinion — perfectly expressed Brentwood’s reality and it still makes me laugh.

Early the next day  I got a call from my regional editor directing me to remove the cartoon and delete my Tweets and Facebook posts.  Someone in AOL’s New York headquarters decided Lalo’s image of two Latinos “reenacting the Battle of Puebla” (a housekeeper with a broom and a gardener with a leaf blower) constituted “blatantly racist stereotypes” (it could have been “patently racist”.)  They were objectionable, said my boss.

“Wait!” I said.  “Lalo IS a Latino.  He is the country’s first nationally-syndicated Latino cartoonist (La Cucaracha.) He has written books and won awards! Are you calling Lalo a racist?”

“New York finds it objectionable, ” was the reply.

The next morning my boss, and her uber-boss, the West Coast editor, called me up to tell me I was fired for violating my employment agreement with AOL by posting “racist” material.

Although my friends knew what happened, I kept  the incident pretty quiet. I had been out of work for two years before Patch and didn’t need a rep as “troublemaker” complicating my job search. At the same time, I was personally hurt by the charge I was racist. I was with MLK in the March on Washington in 1963.  Me? A racist?

I never was able to get another job.

But I’m an optimistic American who believes in the free market and being one’s own boss and owning one’s own destiny.  Lalo had mentioned on his Facebook page it would be cool to re-launch POCHO.com, which had languished over the years.

When I saw that, the proverbial light bulb glowed above my cabeza!

Our first meeting was last September.  We officially launched on January 1.

Success is the best revenge.

Note: Lalo asked me to write this because of a post today on JimRomenesko.com. I had responded to a Tweet about a student editor was canned for printing an “anti-black racist” cartoon by a black cartoonist.  Must have been the old 60s hippie in me: OMG! A FLASHBACK!

{ 10 comments }

Mary in Austin March 12, 2012 at 11:25 PM

I think the cartoon is hilarious. I’m extremely pleased that you have this better, more congenial outlet for your (and Lalo’s) creativity, too.

Consuelo Hannan March 14, 2012 at 7:57 AM

the only people that were probably bothered by this were the white people. It seems that they can’t handle the truth. pobrecitos.

just some guy March 14, 2012 at 10:48 AM

I think the cartoon is hilarious too. Having said that, I do think it is possible for someone of a certain race to create objectionable racist material about their own race. I have seen it more than a few times. Lalo’s cartoon is not such a piece. It is a seriously funny and thought-provoking work of art.

With St. Patrick’s day this week, I am seeing reminders that celebrating Irish culture ought to be more about consuming ridiculous amounts of alcohol. Perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that we celebrate most holidays in this way?

Thank you for sharing your story and this cartoon.

marga March 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM

I think the cartoon is “racist”, but not against Mexicans. It’s “racist” against white theoreticians. Indeed, the fact that Aol management reacted tells you quite a bit about their own racial attitudes.

As for the cartoon, it’s not just funny but painful, as it tells such an ugly truth.

marga March 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM

I meant brentwoodians

don’t know why the spell checker changed it to theoreticians

Barbara Saunders March 16, 2012 at 9:13 AM

I’m with Marga. How ironic! The cartoon calls out the racism implied by exploiting Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans while pretending to be socially hip in celebrating “their” holiday.

annette March 16, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Living (and working) well are the best revenge!

Manuel March 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Gabacho’s just want to say they gave the latino a break,OH but look! He’s RACIST!! so we have to let him go, tough luck for you, now go back to being unemployed where you belong! To Hell with that and to Hell with them, success is the best payback!
Show them how its done.

Carol Wallin March 21, 2012 at 2:51 PM

I heard Lalo on the Patt Morrison show last week and called in. Unbelievable this story. Mi amigo, Mexican Mitt, was unavailable to speak with me so I told Patt how I felt. Consider the source of this cartoon. “LALO Alcaraz” appears in bold letters! Besides, it’s hilarious. What do the people in New York know? Not much about latinos, that’s fer sure. Patch’s loss is our gain. Adios, Patch!

googlepos September 11, 2012 at 4:35 AM

5 star article brilliant. I am new to blogging and you used a langauge I can understand

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