With both politicians and civilians holding strong opinions about how to regulate the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration can be a touchy topic. Hector Rodriguez, a Dallas teacher, has created comic book superhero El Peso Hero to bring those issues to light.
Debates over immigrant rights can get especially heated in Texas, where one in every six people is an immigrant, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Dallas in particular has a high percentage of Mexican immigrants. Rodriguez’s Latino comic book superhero, El Peso Hero, tackles everything from border crossings to immigration officials and drug violence.
Rodriguez spoke to Voxxi about how El Peso Hero’s story began, the community reaction, and his goals for the comic.
Modest Beginnings for Hector Rodriguez
Rodriguez, a 2nd grade teacher in the Dallas Independent School Disctrict, began writing El Peso Hero as a side project.
Having grown up in a Texas border town with a largely Hispanic population, the comic book creator said that he felt that “there was a misrepresentation of the Hispanic population in the mainstream” media. El Peso Hero sprung from that lack: “Kids in Spanish-speaking communities don’t have a hero that relates to them.”
The first volume sees the superhero combating a drug trafficking ring and a corrupt political system. A second volume is almost finished, and Rodriguez plans to continue the hero’s story for a series of six.
While Rodriguez began the project with the aim of keeping his teaching and artistic life separate, he found that after an interview with Univision, the lines blurred: “A lot of families saw me there and felt inspired,” he explained, noting that soon after the interview, some of his elementary students “would go home and write their own stories.”
El Peso Hero Advocates for Immigration Issues
The additional attention paid to El Peso Hero pushed Rodriguez to see his work as an advocacy tool, both in his home and school communities.
While he admits that his comics “deal with heavy topics: drug trafficking, border violence, and so on,” he believes that many families and kids in Dallas can relate to those issues and need to see them discussed openly.
“The parents have actually come and said ‘I’m really glad you’re doing this, because it really needs to be addressed.’” Rodriguez also noted that he was grateful to the Hispanic community and immigration groups for embracing El Peso Hero.
The comic book creator emphasizes that he doesn’t want to push a personal political agenda: “I have readers on both ends of the spectrum. I hope to speak to many different people…though some viewers have put me in a specific group, I tend not to express my political views. I’m a storyteller, and the story speaks to different people in different ways.”
While the website has received many “likes” on Facebook and follows on Twitter, Rodriguez also says that he has a number of harsh critics. He takes this in stride: “Good or bad, the word is out, and the focus is on immigration.”
Though Rodriguez states that much of the material in El Peso Hero is too mature for his 2nd grade students, he has managed to put pieces of his artistic work to use in the classroom.
As a self-proclaimed storyteller, Rodriguez uses age-appropriate panels from his work to help his students understand sequencing and story elements. He has also incorporated other graphic novels into his teaching.
In addition, using his comic book is a way of connecting to his students: “I can show them a part of what I’ve done.” Many students are enthusiastic about their teacher’s work.
Rodriguez will speak to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on Monday, January 6th, 11 AM EST.
Originally published on VOXXI as El Peso Hero: A Latino superhero fighting for immigration rights