Hector Cantú usually focuses "Baldo," his widely syndicated comic strip, on its namesake Latinx protagonist and his typical teen hijinks: avoiding homework, hanging out with friends and putting up with his headstrong little sister, Gracie. Last December, he broke from that routine by introducing a plotline about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) into a few strips. On Sunday (January 21), Cantú discussed the reasons why on NPR‘s "All Things Considered."
The plotline focuses on Baldo’s friend, Cruz, who narrowly avoided an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent’s visit to the auto shop where they both work. The ordeal prompts Cruz to explain his status as a DACA beneficiary to his friend, as well as how his parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was young.
"I’m always asking myself if ‘Baldo’ was real and his friends were real, what would they be facing right now?" Cantú explained. "The idea was an immigration officer comes to Baldo’s employment and starts questioning Baldo and his friend about their legal status, because they’ve gotten tips that illegal workers are at this place of business. So by the third day, I’m thinking, okay, what’s the next step in this story? And I said, you know, I’m going to throw Cruz into the mix. He’s going to walk up and he’s going to turn around and walk away. And I’m going to come back to this. And so sure enough, we wrapped up that first week. The second week is where Baldo was walking with Cruz on the way home. And he reveals…he tells him that he is a Dreamer."
Cantú explained his feelings of responsibility to the political and social context affecting Latinx people like his characters, saying: "You know, there has to be some kind of a stand. And I don’t think comic strips are necessarily immune from that, especially a comic strip that is about a Latino family. I cannot have a Latino family—and this sounds really weird, but—living in this fantasy land, you know? There is some reality there. And I think it helps me as a writer to deal with that reality."
Cantú told The Dallas Morning News in December that he and illustrator Carlos Castellanos plan to revisit the storyline in tandem with government decicions on DACA and undocumented immigrants. "If this country starts deporting children, we are going to deal with that," he said. "We will have [Cruz] be in that group."
Listen to the full interview at NPR.org.