Where's Our Chicano Super Hero? Part 2
Meet Fernando Balderas Rodriguez, comic book creator and deported American
Belinda Quesada, Contributing Writer
See Part One of the Article at: Where's Our Chicano Super Hero?
Published on LatinoLA: July 16, 2013
For comic book creator/publisher Fernando Balderas Rodriguez, the term Deported American is an oxymoron. Forget that he was born in Michoacán, Mexico. For him, there is no question his loyalty is to San José, California, it's where he was raised and where his only child, Luis, was born. In fact, each of his "Aztec of The City" (AOC) comic books prominently feature landmarks of his beloved city.
Creating a Chicano Super Hero has been Fernando's passion since he was a teenager and avid comic book collector. With the latest Superman movie, "Man of Steel" on track to gross over 400 million worldwide, (a staggering amount by any calculation), Fernando can't help but question, so where's our Chicano Super Hero?
Now settled in Cabo San Lucas, Fernando is online promoting his eighth comic book, ""Aztec of The City, Legends Last Forever", Vol. III, Issue 2. Admitting that he couldn't do this without the help of sister, Martha, who resides back home in San José. She is his rock and the US AOC merchandise contact.
As an independent, self-publisher, his comic books are just a small part of his intellectual property. This dude is an ideas man who doesn't let borders dictate his boundaries.
Self-Deported in 2006, Fernando's easy-going persona helped him navigate the cultural and linguistic awkwardness of his new life. Overall, he remains healthy thanks to a lifetime commitment of long distance running. Celebrating his fifty-second birthday recently, he runs five to six days a week. He is now at peace with his life in Mexico. Finally finding his niche writing for icabo.com, an online tourist website.
This candid interview is part 2 of two. In his first interview, Fernando discussed his Chicano Super Hero comic book series. In part 2, he discusses his Self–Deportation and philosophy on being a Deported American in Mexico.
BQ: How do you summarize your Self-Deportation?
FBR: I arrived in San José, CA at age four and never took advantage of 1987 Amnesty law. When faced with being incarcerated anywhere from six months to three years just to fight my Deportation, I voluntarily signed off on the Self-Deportation. I did so in order to see my son, Luis, and to move forward with my comic book dreams rather than being locked up. I just couldn't deal with that scenario. I did my time, paid my seven-month debt to society and simply wanted to move on. Even if it meant surviving in a place that after forty years of being away from was still pretty foreign to me. I'd been encouraged by family and friends to write about my life here and Deported American just fit.
BQ: Are US Immigration and Deportation Laws too harsh?
FBR: Yes, they are pretty harsh. In my case, I did not see a judge and was counseled by ICE (US Immigration and Custom Enforcement) agents who explained that my case would take six months to three years to appear before a judge. That meant spending all that time incarcerated. The ICE representatives said since I was not a legal citizen, I could voluntarily leave the country. My response was pretty clear and I chose freedom. I would never want to be behind bars ever again.
I've been in Mexico for seven years now and have never had any problems with the law. The US makes it tough to get out of the system once you're in it.
No Americans will do the type of jobs that perhaps a newly immigrated person would. I've yet to see any Americans protesting and picketing where Migrant Farm Workers are working with claims that they are taking their jobs. Mexicans don't mind working hard while they're in the US.
I just know that separating families is not the answer. It is painful for families to endure that kind of separation. Fortunately for me, when my son reaches twenty-one years old next summer, he will apply to reunite with his Deported father under the 2003 Family Reunification Act. That's something that gives me hope. Going back home where I belong, being with my son and making up for the seven years that I've physically been out of his daily life.
BQ: How did you learn to cope in Mexico?
FBR: It has been a real culture shock. Employment wise, I learned early on that if you are in your mid-thirties or older and looking for work, it's tough. You really have to have contacts like a relative or someone on the job that will vouch for you. Mexican-American's who have been Deported back to Mexico are treated differently. It's like reverse discrimination.
When I first arrived, I was released in Tijuana. The one person I could remember in TJ was my mom's best friend from childhood but I had no way to contact her. After four days there, my sister, Martha, booked a flight for me to Michoacán. After 6 months in Morelia, making mops with my family, I hitchhiked back to the border and found work in Rosarito. I lived there for 3 years working at a real estate office and restaurant.
BQ: Shortly after you arrived, you were involved in a Hit and Run accident. What happened?
FBR: In May 2008, I was walking home from work in Rosarito and was hit from behind by a car that didn't stop. I was hospitalized for a month. I have plates and pins below my left knee, shin, and ankle. My friends call me the six million-peso man. The doctor told me that I would be as good as new and I guess I am. I thank God that I can still run.
BQ: Describe your daily routine?
FBR: I am able to write from home. It's a nice life that allows for some flexibility. I still run almost every day preparing for big races. I have been writing for nearly a year at icabo.com. I started out with a few articles a month and now it's twelve a month. It's enough to pay bills and live modestly.
BQ: Any regrets?
FBR: Yeah, I totally regret not taking advantage of the 1987 Amnesty Law, not marrying my son's mom, not having a larger family and regret losing precious time with my son, Luis. On the bright side, my son has been to Cabo San Lucas three summers, which is something that might not have occurred otherwise.
BQ: Do you dream in English or Spanish?
FBR: I dream in English and always in black and white. I can recall maybe two dreams in color.
BQ: Favorite childhood memory?
FBR: My mom bought me a shoeshine box and I was shining shoes downtown near First Street and Santa Clara Street. When Frank Scadina offered me a position as a clerk at his comic book store. I'll never forget that. It led to buying and reading more and more comic books. It was a magical time to work there. I was like a kid in a candy store. I thank my mom who was a beautiful, wonderful woman.
BQ: What books influenced you?
FBR: Growing up, for fun I read mostly Marvel comic books. I loved Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and was totally into everything they were doing i.e., Spiderman, Hulk, Iron Man, Avengers, X-Men Fantastic Four, etc. Those books/artists totally influenced what I do in comic books. I also enjoyed Gabriel Garcia Marquez' ''100 Years of Solitude''. I totally believe that in order to write better, you have to read as much as possible. So I try to absorb as much literary works as I can.
BQ: How important is internet/social media?
FBR: For me, it's my lifeblood. I thank God every day for the Internet because it allows me to stay in close contact with my son and the rest of my family. We share events of the day, pictures and do Instant Chat. I've literally watched my nieces grow up on Facebook. It's the closest contact I have with everyone back home. I love Skype too.
And, it's also really cool to be able to provide input on the making of the Super Chicano AOC video. Please watch our Aztec of the City Chicano Super Chicano Hero video on You Tube. Our San José team has made two videos but would like to create a weekly series or a free access cable TV show. So stay tuned.
And growing up, I watched Rod Sterling's ''Twilight Zone.'' Now that man was a brilliant writer and creative visionary. I'm fascinated by that show. With You Tube, I find interviews, old TV shows, current shows and movies. It's great.
BQ: Biggest drawback living in Mexico?
FBR: Not having access to some of the simple things that I used to do, like coaching high school track and field, being a comic book guest speaker at local elementary, middle/high schools, talking to comic book store owners about AOC, or what's new on the market, meeting fans and thanking them personally. Being in Cabo, there are a lot of Canadians and Americans here. Everyone speaks English and they accept US Dollars. If, for some dark reason, I'm not able to return to San José, California, I'm content to die in Cabo San Lucas.
BQ: Important lesson learned?
FBR: I've learned that if you are in America, do your very best to stay in America. As bad as people complain about it, it's still in my opinion, the best country to live. Having grown up there all my life and now having been here for seven years, I know.
BQ: What does being Latino mean to you?
FBR: Being Chicano means everything to me. I have always expressed my cultural pride as an athlete/coach and with my comic books. In 1992, when I was shopping at Brian's Book's comic book store, I noticed there were no Chicano/Latino comic book super heroes, and that's when I decided to make a Mexican American hero.
On 5 de Mayo 1993, Aztec of the City made it's comic book debut. At the time, I didn't know about Judge Margarito's 1973 independent comic book. He was really the first. All I kept thinking after that was trying to do my best with my heroes that could best positively reflect who we are as Mexican-Americans.
BQ: Next comic book?
FBR: Issue # 2 is the love story of Popocatepetl and Itzccihuatl and offers more background about the Aztec of the City and Super Chicano characters. So far, everyone who has read it has really liked it and been greatly entertained. I don't even need to remind buyers to take good care of the comic books they purchase and read.
One day the series could be worth a lot of money, because they are so unique. And, if it's done right, it will make a hell of an action film. A cross between ''The Crow'' and ''Apocalypto''. There's a scene in the current issue #2 that has a little child playing with action figures of the Aztec and Super Chicano. I know that Latino kids could sure use and enjoy their own action figures that represent us Mexican-American/Chicanos.
Last year, the comic book industry had $418 million dollars in annual revenue. There's definitely room for a Latino action hero.
BQ: Any hobbies?
FBR: I love winning and have been running as a sport for just a few memorable years of tremendous success in high school and junior college.
I was preparing for the Mexican National Track & Field Championships of Mexico, in the 5/10K Distance Races this July 25-28, but since I didn't train during the 3 weeks my son was here, I won't be running. When you reach age forty, there's a Masters Track & Field World Championships held every two years. This October, they will be in Brazil. I had hoped to qualify but due to economics, Mexico doesn't support its older athletes. I did place third in my age group at the National Cross County race in January of this year. So, I feel good about that.
BQ: Any differences between Mexican-Americans vs. Mexicanos?
FBR: Oh, yes, here we are called Pochos. It's a negative term but I don't mind it. I have learned a lot living in Mexico. I think the most important difference is the educational imbalance. American kids and adults are just way more educated. Most Mexicans here barely finish junior high or elementary school. The culture, the educational and economic systems are vastly different here, and those that succeed are generally from elitist or wealthy families.
All kids here in Mexico are not afforded the same dream. Whereas in the US, there is a greater consciousness in educating and empowering our young people. The poverty level is significantly higher here. Consequently, more young people have to work and help support their families. There is also some racism, if you are darker skinned people have lower expectations and treat you differently. It's kind of sad really. And of course, most everyone here is Mexican. There are very few ethnic groups here, Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Irish, and Native-American. Despite the progress Mexico has made, it's still a third world county, in my view.
BQ: Your philosophy since Self-Deporting?
FBR: When I was run over in 2008, I talked to my son afterwards, because he was scheduled to come see me, while I was recovering on crutches for six months. That summer, my son told me that if I had died, he would have probably turned to drugs or alcohol. Ever since then, I'm always careful when I run, and I keep my son close to me via Facebook, emails, Skype and daily or weekly phone calls. I am there for him as best I can from such a great distance. I'm grateful to be alive and thank God every day for sparing my life in 2008.
BQ: Heard you're a Stand Up Comic. How did that happen?
FBR: The Stand Up Comedy was a fun, challenging thing to attempt. Since there are no comedy clubs in Cabo San Lucas, a friend and I decided to give it a go. I'm not a comic but have always been funny and made people laugh, so I just thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try it and decided to just go for it. We're the first ones in Cabo to have tried our hand at comedy and it's cool. I'm getting fresh ideas periodically, and incorporating them into my material. I feel blessed that I can try something like that here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzCb591FM4w
BQ: Final thoughts?
FBR: Aztec of the City is a very good read, especially the new one issue #2, ''Legends Last Forever''. It's about the famous live volcanos in the outskirts of Mexico City, and it features Aguila de Mexico; my six page version of a Latina wonder woman, who can fly through the air, keeping her city safe. It's my tribute to Jesus Helguera, the famous Mexican painter, best known as the Calendar Guy. Feel free to contact me on Facebook to pick up your copy of Aztec of The City comic book.
Or, you can pick up a copy at the Latino Comic Book Expo in Long Beach, California, on August 17/18th. Please drop by our both and say hi. We love to meet our fans. I hope you will read it and feel the same pride that I do. Thanks as always for your support.
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