La Voz de M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo Volume 1
Henry Barajas (writer), Bernardo Brice (letterer), J. Gonzo (artist), Claire Napier (editor — full disclosure, former WWAC EiC and current contributor)
Top Cow Productions
November 13, 2019
The beauty of graphic novels is simple: they can take even the most complex subject matter and, through the combination of words and images, make them relatable and interesting to anyone. This medium becomes that much more important when we realize how much of our history has been lost, or worst, deliberately erased. La Voz de M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo is Henry Barajas’ heartfelt retelling of his grandfather Ramon Jaurigue’s history and the role he played as co-founder of the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization in successfully lobbying the Tucson City Council to improve the working and living conditions for members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. His actions paved the way for federal recognition of the community. In this moving biography, Barajas recaptures what was lost, having sat down with his Tata Rambo who recounted the often painful moments of his past. Combined with his own research, Barajas takes readers back to a past that very much reflects the present and the struggles that many marginalized communities still face today.
Though the story doesn’t touch too closely on his time as an orphan and later a soldier in World War II, Barajas skillfully uses the few pithy pages dedicated to these and a few other moments to help define who Jaurigue is. Moreover, though his admiration for his grandfather is evident, Barajas isn’t afraid or ashamed to reveal the not-so-wonderful parts of Jaurigue’s life, reminding us that everyone is human, and everyone is flawed, no matter how much good they do. Jaurigue’s work for the community was stellar, but it came at the cost of his family life, which we get to see snippets of here.
But mainly, La Voz de M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo focuses on the work of the M.A.Y.O in shaping the Pascua Yaqui community’s place in the world and ensuring more healthy and prosperous opportunities for their future, serving as a historical recounting of Indigenous history that has been left out of the history books of America. We see the many ways in which Jaurigue uses his communication skills and confidence to rally people from various walks to his cause. Phone calls and business meetings in offices and even dark corners of nightclubs were as much a part of the efforts as the starkly depicted peaceful protest marches.
Following in the footsteps of Maus and Persepolis, this book also gives us a human face to both the subject of the story and the storyteller as Barajas does include himself in the narrative. Speaking about the journey that brought him to recording this history, and the moments he shared with his grandfather in the oral recounting, it adds that much more depth and weight to how important this history is both to Barajas, and to others who can see themselves in the struggles and accomplishments of the Yaqui people.
J. Gonzo’s artwork is distinctively bright, with detailed and expressive faces capturing every emotion that Jaurigue’s undertaking involved. Most notable is Jaurigue’s cheerful smile Gonzo so accurately depicts in many of the panels. Though there are many moments of sadness and regret for Jaurigue, it becomes evident that he was still a man who tried to find joy and hope where he could, or at least give that to others through the simple act of a smile. Flipping through the final pages of backmatter reveals an image of Jaurigue himself wearing the very expression that Gonzo brings to life on the page.
The backmatter also contains numerous pieces of information on the M.A.Y.O, including pages from La Voz de M.A.Y.O newsletter, photos, and newspaper clippings. On every level, Barajas ensures that this book is a worthy addition to any library, and especially to any classroom, where teaching the history of all people is paramount.