Border Town Should Be Required Reading
Border Town is one of the most important comic books on shelves right now.
I have only just recently (within the last few years) started referring to myself proudly as Mexican and Latina. This was not because I was not proud of my heritage but instead because I felt I was not Mexican enough to claim it. However, considering the current political climate, it is increasingly important that I state with pride that I am a white Latina American.
Since I am white, I have not received any of the discrimination many Latinx people in the United States have. Similarly, Frank—the protagonist in the recent Vertigo Comics Border Town—is half-Mexican and white passing. The moment he announces that to his new class is when he is proving he is not racist to his fellow classmate Julietta. She responds
That quote and this book is a love letter to all of us whose identities are interwoven with multiple nationalities, ethnicities, races, and cultures. Often as Americans, we are asked to prove how American we are or are not. Border Town challenges this. It’s a book about accepting yourself and your heritage—every part of it. Furthermore, we are in a political climate that demands marginalized people speak about their histories and how it weaves into American culture.
In the book, a crack in the border between worlds releases an army of monsters from Mexican folklore in the midst of rising racial tensions while Frank Dominguez and his new friends work to discover what’s really going on in this town torn between worlds.
Border Town means a lot to me because of my heritage, but it should also be required reading for people who are not Latinx or even persons of color. Since I am white it is easy to forget the difficulties many people of color face in this country. Movies like Book of Life and CoCo are immensely important for Americans to see because it tells Mexican stories that are in a lot of ways at times familiar in their messages to many Western stories.
However, the difference between those stories and Border Town is that this comic is not afraid to face reality while recalling stories deeply rooted in Mexican folklore. The book opens with a family attempting to cross the border while avoiding the hometown militia but then later are killed by a chupacabra.
The story is similar to The Book of Life and CoCo but those movies are obviously more “commercial” and geared to a younger audience so they are not nearly as politically or racially charged and easier for white audiences to consume. That being said, all art is a reflection of life. Border Town reflects the broken America we live in. It does not shy away from the fact neo-nazis walked around with tiki torches a year ago. The book does this through while still celebrating the beauty of Mexican culture and a clear love for America. It is not afraid of the cognitive dissonance it creates for many readers.
There is often a lot of debate about whether politics belongs in comics and overall, my answer is yes. Famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo once said, “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” Recently, being Mexican is suddenly a political statement in and of itself. This book does not shy away from its politics or the reality faced by many immigrants in this country. This comic book is one of the most important books on shelves because of this. I am deeply looking forward to the remainder of this book as well as delving further into my own Mexican culture.