Around The Way Girl: Vicko Alvarez

I guess I always considered the word hoodrat demeaning. Growing up the word Chola was demeaning. It was one in the same telling these stories with ScholaR. She’s a little girl growing up poor. She’s trying to do well in school and not fall to the pressures of her surroundings.Originally from Dallas, Texas Vicko moved to Chicago in 2006 when she received a scholarship to attend The University of Chicago. At The University of Chicago Vicko double majored in Political Science and Latin American Studies. After graduating in 2010 Vicko began working for non-profits within the Labor movement—a cause that was easy for her to relate to since she came from a working class family. When work began to consume her life and she realized she wasn’t creating art or taking care of herself, Vicko decided to take a step back and focus on herself.

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What inspired you to start ScholaR comics?

It started as a joke. The word Chola is in Scholar and it’s something my friends and I thought was funny. We felt out of place at U of C because of the neighborhoods that we came from, however we felt out of place from the neighborhoods we grew up in because of the education we decided to get.

I drew the original character and I thought it would be interesting to add a story to her. I wanted to make it through the eyes of a kid in school. I’m getting my masters right now in education. I love working with kids and trying to understand how their minds work. Everyone says how honest children are and I like that approach with ScholaR. She just says things the way they are, without shaming and using language that easily accessible. That is how little ScholaR and the comic came about.

How do you draw inspiration for creating new ScholaR stories?

My friends. I always ask my friends for ideas with ScholaR. I bounce ideas off of them since they all like the character. They always tell me Scholar should do this or that. For right now I want ScholaR to be nice. I don’t want to traumatize her.

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So, did you read a lot of comic books growing up?

Everyone always asks that and assumes I’ve been obsessed with comic books since a young age. My older brother read comic books when we were young, naturally as a little kid I was interested in what he was reading. X-men was my favorite and I loved Batman. You’re told to grow out of that phase though and then came the pressure to do well in school.

At the same time I was like what the hell is with all of these women? Even if they were superheroes they all had large breasts, revealing clothing, and always white.I just dismissed it- I don’t come from a super politically conscience family. I didn’t pick up the interest again until I started drawing ScholaR. Right before I created her, I noticed more articles on Facebook about the misrepresentation of women in animation and comics.

I also feel like this is going hand in hand with what I am trying to do. I want to teach middle schoolers. I am thinking of alternative ways to educate kids—I thought to myself why not comics? I wanted to see if comics can help the kids I am teaching now and the ones in the future. I started posting my comics online and it naturally gained interest.

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How does being a Latina from Texas influence your work?

Chola culture not in Texas is not directly labeled. You have your hoodrat community everywhere, but the Chola community is in California, Los Angeles, and Southwest. I grew up thinking if you were a kid from the hood you were Chola. I moved to Chicago and was like “ya’ll don’t have Cholas?”

All of the stories on my website are my stories. They come from growing up with conservative Mexican parents.  They come from mental health issues not being prioritized, but also living up to the pressure of certain expectations as a poor kid. Kids just can’t be kids in the hood. You work to get A’s and to survive.

In your interview with Latina Magazine, you say you want to reclaim the word hoodrat. Can you elaborate more in what you meant?

Because of my mother I have a respect for communities that have been marginalized. My mom never went to school past the fourth grade, she worked on a farm. She never had the opportunity to get educated. When she came to the United States she has only worked as a house cleaner. She is cleaning rich white people’s shit, literally. My dad was never educated past the 6th grade and has only worked construction jobs. Growing up our [Vicko and her brother] realities were right in front of us. I always knew my parents were treated like shit. I knew their intelligence was being belittled or disregarded or that their bosses didn’t even understand that my parents had any sort of intelligence.

I understood all of this from a young age, but it wasn’t until I got to U of C and I was surrounded by pools of white people who were rich and went to boarding schools in Switzerland- I was like wow, you aren’t only belittling my parents now you are belittling me and undermining my intelligence. So I think that’s what I was like when I meant any poor people. Whether they are educated or not, my mom or whoever, or the people you look on the street and call hoodrats. I mean whether they are in school or in a gang there is a story there and how they got to where they are at. The more you did into these stories the more you can figure out how they got there.

I guess I always considered the word hoodrat demeaning. Growing up the word Chola was demeaning. It was one in the same telling these stories with ScholaR. She’s a little girl growing up poor. She’s trying to do well in school and not fall feel the pressures of her surroundings. That’s basically where it came from– my respect for poor people.

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Which Chingona feminists do you identify with?

Oh Lord…. Selena. That’s a cool question because I’ve never identified with Icons. I’m comfortable with what I know. I know my mom, my grandma, and Selena. I guess Frida Kahlo too, but that’s a typical answer and that’s not to say she wasn’t amazing. After that my friends and my peers.

Have you been able to find a Chingona crowd in Chicago?

It was hard, but I found it. Chicago has a huge Mexican-American population. I do feel that there are aspects I consider feminist that other people don’t-like promiscuity. Calling women hoes or sluts isn’t something we should be shaming other women for.All these people like to tell you what is and what isn’t a feminist. Some people say feminism isn’t liking hella gold jewelry or getting your nails done every week, but I’m not like that and I wanna look cute.

At the root, feminism is understanding whatever action that you take is for you, whether it’s getting your nails done or growing out your body hair. Is it for you?

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What can we do as women to set examples for the Little ScholaRs everywhere?

Talk to them. When I was growing up everything was taboo. I grew up in a a very Catholic home and everything was extremely taboo. and we didn’t always talk about things that needed to be talked about . For example, we didn’t talk about sex. My mom didn’t even talk to me about my period. There are all of these things little girls growing up are taught to be ashamed of. We can have healthy conversations with them, they’ll get it, because they are living it. I don’t wanna say that little girls of the Latin Community don’t get talk to by their mothers-we are a mixed community with a lot of different experiences- but I would just want to say talk to little girls. You don’t only have to talk about things that they are hiding. Talk to them about anything that they wanna talk about. Anything. Answer their questions.

I saw a meme one and it said “Kids asking questions” and the White parents were answering the question and the Mexican Parents were saying Don’t ask so many questions. Obviously, it was semi-inaccurate, but it was also very true.

What exciting things does ScholaR have coming up?

ummmm…right now ScholaR is pretty tough and fairly reserved. She’s gonna stay that way for awhile. So the next couple of comics are going to focus on what she is hiding. I go back and fourth if her conflicts should be more accessible to kids or her conflicts should be more accessible to adults. I mean this is for kids, but adults really like it. I think the next couple of issues are gonna be geared towards kids. So yeah, you’re gonna see more of what shes’s hiding, what she likes doing, as opposed to just talking back to teachers.

Even though ScholaR is more of a freelance social experiment for you, what advice would you give young girls who want to pursue a career in comics or online publications?

In relations to the comics-my comics are really simple. I used to do acrylic paintings-mostly portraits. I decided not because of time and I liked the idea of my comics being simple. Since this is for the kids that I am teaching, I want the comics to be simple so they know this something that they can do and don’t feel overwhelmed if “they can’t draw.” It doesn’t have to be these super elaborate drawing they see in comics. They get very intimidated if it doesn’t look like a Batman or Superman comic.

I’m real with them and the art and comic world is very male dominated, but I’ve been showing them more comic artists and characters that have women and people of color. It’s a scary reality, but I want to let them know that they can do it. They are really into it. They are so smart. Ms. Marvel is one that I showed them lately.

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What advice would give your 20 old self?

ughhhh… how long ago was that? How old are you?

27.

Okay. Hmm.. junior year. Ok, probably battle up all of the anger I had with calmness.Do more art. School isn’t the only top priority. I was at U of C at this time, so I feel like, I guess I knew what I had to do. Like I knew I shouldn’t have let all these White students intimidate me, but it always got to me. It was such a competitive school.

Find positive motivation. Find things that are motivate you. My parents motivated me to do well in school because my parents told me I had no other option. The things that motivated me at U of C were all of these White professors and students constantly looking at me like I’m stupid. I always wanted to one-up all of these elitist surrounding me.

I think that’s why I enjoyed organizing. It was like beat the boss. Organize because we can build a community that can produce change.

I was very depressed and anxious then. Twenty wasn’t the worst age, but it wasn’t the best age. I loved Chicago, but I hated U of C. I loved Chicago, but I didn’t want to return to Texas. My parents kept telling me to. I guess it would be to find positive motivation.

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Do you have plans to go back to Texas?

No. Dallas just doesn’t compare to Chicago. The cities don’t compare at all. Plus, I’ve just always been really independent.

What is your favorite thing about Chicago?

Right now it has to be the activist community. Which trails back to diverse…I hate using the word diversity, but Chicago is a very diverse city. It’s diverse in race, culture, the history that people carry. Also, people from here are very Chicago ’til they die. It’s wild.  Because you have all of these backgrounds you have a wild city that is in the Midwest.

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Be sure to check out Vicko’s  website  and catch up on the ScholaR series. Also, follow her on Facebook and Twitter

 

XO,
Ariel

 

 

 

 

 

 

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