Readers speak out, 'La Cucaracha' comic strip quickly returns to LA Times
Associated Press
Mar. 9, 2007

 John Rogers

LOS ANGELES - There was joy in "Roachville" on Wednesday as the edgy, Latino-themed comic strip "La Cucaracha" returned to the Los Angeles Times after a swift, Internet-driven protest.

The newspaper had dropped the comic strip Monday to make room for other features.

Lalo Alcaraz, the creator of "La Cucaracha," said he was dumbfounded when he opened his hometown paper that day and saw no sign of the wisecracking, antennaed Chicano hipster named Cuco Rocha or any of his barrio friends.
"They didn't give a hint of who they were going to drop," he said. "It was kind of poor form."

The move was short-lived.

"We've had some reader reaction, which is why we brought La Cucaracha'
back," Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said. She couldn't immediately say how many unhappy e-mails the Times had received but noted it was "enough that we thought we should listen and bring it back."

To make room, the Times gave the boot to veteran comic strip cat "Heathcliff."

"La Cucaracha" was one of four strips the Times dropped to create more space for its kids reading page. Sullivan said it was unlikely the others, "Candorville," "Mr. Boffo" and "Mallard Fillmore," would return.

Alcaraz said he had been dropped from newspapers before but usually when the left-leaning "La Cucaracha" managed to offend either a publisher or a large segment of a community.

As far as he knew, he said, he was on good terms with the Times.

When his strip went missing on Monday, he quickly called his editor at Universal Press Syndicate.

"He said, You've got to call out your Cucaracha army,'" the cartoonist recalled with a laugh.

Alcaraz quickly began e-mailing friends and saw his message posted on Web logs. By Wednesday, he said, he had been copied in on some 300 unhappy e-mails sent to the Times.

"I was hoping for like a dozen," he said.

Universal Press Syndicate believes "La Cucaracha," one of just a handful of Latino-themed strips, had particular resonance in Los Angeles, with its large Hispanic population.

"To us, this is an indication of a newspaper really taking a look at the audience that it is serving and doing a careful job of evaluating that, and in this case it was the Latino community," Universal Press Syndicate spokeswoman Kathie Kerr said.

Wednesday's strip had Eddie, who works at the Barrio Bugle newspaper, arguing with his mother over what news is more important to the community - the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq or the deaths of James Brown and Anna Nicole Smith.

Alcaraz said his experience might someday find its way into "La Cucaracha."

"Maybe the paper will drop a strip featuring a wombat and all the wombats will come out and it will turn out wombats are half their readers," Alcaraz offered.