Chicano punk cartoonist uses art to fight back

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CHEEKY CHICANISMO – Junco Canché pulls no punches with his political illustrations that address issues with little regard to boundaries.

Donald Trump has transformed into a horrible Hydra. Multiple badly-toupeed reptilian heads snake out of a Keystone XL pipeline, tongues venomously lashing out. The words “Muslim Ban” and “Alternative Facts” are spray painted in bleeding neon green and red behind the chimera on the polarizing wall the president promises to build on the U.S.-Mexico border.

This is the artwork of Joaquin Junco Jr. and he takes no prisoners. Known under the aliases Junco Canché and the Chicano Punk Rock Artesano, Junco is a rising editorial cartoonist like no other, whose work forces viewers to look at the polarizing xenophobic tendencies of modern America as well as the frank expositions of the blunders and misdeeds of politicians.   

Junco, 26, had a modest upbringing, his family splitting their time between Chula Vista and Tijuana.

Artistic inspiration hit early in life.

“I remember being into art and drawing as far back as I can remember,” he said. “Saturday morning cartoons were an early influence. Later on I got into political and editorial cartooning. Lalo Alcaraz and Rius were artists I looked up to.”

Alcaraz, author of the syndicated comic strip “La Cucaracha,” has known Junco for many years and calls himself “a huge fan.”

“Junco’s work is sharp, well drawn, and well written,” he said. “Seeing it gave me hope that political cartooning was not going to die, it was going to thrive. It was also reassuring to see that another Chicano political cartoonist was rising.”

Another of Junco’s major influences is punk rock.

“My brother introduced me to punk when I was in high school,” he said. “He noticed my passion for politics and he told me these bands talk about the same topics. I fell in love with the genre. It’s the ‘do whatever you feel like’ attitude of punk rock that I try to incorporate into my artwork.”

Junco got his first big art gig during his second semester at San Diego City College.

“I was in one of my Chicano history classes and busy doodling away in my notebook when this girl sitting next to me looked over and asked if I’d be interested in cartooning for an independent zine that her and her friends were putting together and I immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s do this!’”

Already interested in political cartooning, Junco drew cartoons for the zine satirizing the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. He was also a state champion cartoonist for the Southwestern College Sun and El Sol magazine.

Since then has worked as a freelance artist for such publications as the San Diego Free Press, El Coyote Online, La Prenza San Diego and Pocho.com. He is currently majoring in graphic design at CSU San Bernardino.

Junco said he is very passionate about Latino and Chicano rights.

“One of the zines I drew for, El Coyote, would always be involved in activism at San Diego City College,” he said. “I would participate in many of the marches organized for Latino causes. I was always ready to contribute and participate.”

When it comes to Trump, Junco feels like his work is cut out for him. 

“I notice I haven’t really been that active as a political cartoonist this year,” he said. “Ever since Trump became president I find it kind of redundant to draw anything related to him. I look at the headlines in the news and I feel like they speak for themselves.”

Junco insists that Chicano artists have an important role to play in modern society and that Latino communities should get together and support local artists.

“You go to a place like Chicano Park,” he said, “the murals tell the stories of our ancestors in Mexico and the immigrants working in the fields and what they had to face. It is important that Chicano artists put down their stories for future generations, to go and learn about what these people did not just for our cause, but also for minorities in general. We need to create visibility for our communities.”

Chicano artist Marci Luna said he is impressed with Junco’s ability to convey complex political topics into a simple image and still retain the subject’s immediacy.

“Words are one thing,” he said, “but as the saying goes, pictures, in this case drawings, can tell a thousand words and be interpreted in just as many ways. Junco’s art continues to transcend crossing borders, cultures and current events and it’s great to see him gain more exposure.”

Junco said he is pleasantly surprised at how much he has accomplished.

“I never thought I would be able to pull it off,” he said, “but now I am actively making a name for myself and getting myself out there, I’m making it happen. My whole family, my dad in particular, have stood by me and supported me. Not a lot of artists have a lot of support, so I’m very appreciative and grateful for that.”

Junco urged those wishing to pursue a career as an artist to stay determined and focused, and to constantly work to fine-tune their craft.

“You have to draw every day,” he said. “No matter what it is, just draw. Find your style and don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you feel like you’ve reached the top, don’t settle for that and always strive to be better than you are now.”

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