Vicko Alvarez Vega puts the chola in scholar – literally.
The 27-year-old Texas-born, Chicago livin’ mexicana started ScholaR Comics last October, a comic strip inspired by her own life growing up as a smarty pants in a working-class Latino ‘hood.
ScholaR is a young chola who will throw a jab during a playground fight and return to class to ace her math test. She goes home to read books while the sound of loud police sirens disturb her block. She’s curious. She doesn’t know what sexism is, but she wants to know why there are double standards based on gender. She’s too young to put a name to the policing of the immigrant men on her block, but she wonders why these same fellas keep showing up on the 9 o'clock news.
ScholaR is the low-income, hood rat, nerdy Latina many of us were, and through ScholaR Comics, Vicko wants to reclaim her. The organizer-academic-artist aims to recoup the chola, bring her to the forefront and show there’s more to her than heavy black eyeliner.
Vicko talked with Latina about ScholaR Comics, art as activism, chingona feminism and more.
What inspired you to make ScholaR Comics?
For a while, me and my friends would joke about how I put the “chola” in “scholar,” because while I’m a huge nerd, I’m also someone who doesn’t take bullshit and comes from a working-class background in the same shitty neighborhoods that people associate with chola culture. It started as a joke, but then I thought it would be fun to draw this as a comic. Once I did, people started encouraging me to do more illustrations. I guess I kept it going because of how positively people responded to it. I started to notice that there aren’t many stories, in comic form, about working-class Latina girls. It almost seemed necessary to keep it going.
How would you describe ScholaR?
ScholaR is a huge nerd who doesn’t take anybody’s shit, and this is largely because of the environment she was raised in. She’s academically minded, loves to read, but she feels like a misfit because of this. She’s a nerd in class, so she’s called out for being “different,” as academic excellence is not considered a norm in schools in working-class neighborhoods. But she still has a lot in common with the people calling her names. She’s raised like them, seeing people drop out of school left and right, seeing fights on the playground, seeing neighbors robbing from each other – and every so often she’s caught up in it herself. ScholaR is someone who acknowledges those differences and is trying to piece it all together, literally being the chola in scholar.
ScholaR's a child. Why make her so young?
It’s easier to relate to people in your youth. You can’t really understand everything around you, and you’re open to getting to know anyone. I also didn’t want the comic to be too specific of any one community, and I feel like I can do that best through the eyes of a child. It’s for working-class women and girls of color. As an adult, you develop your own identities, but there are experiences in our youth that we – the chola in Texas and California, the chonga in Florida, the 'hood Latina in New York and Chicago – all have in common.
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