History is how you remember the past, and the story of Ramon Jarigue (a.k.a. Tato Rambo) was almost lost until it was re-discovered by his great-grandson, comics writer Henry Barajas.
By day, Barajas works as Top Cow's Director of Operations - but for the past few years he's been working to tell Tata Rambo's story, and it's finally come full circle with this week's OGN La Voz De M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo Vol. 1 from Image Comics and Top Cow.
So who was Tata Rambo?
After serving in World War II, he came back home to Tuscon and became a prominent Latino American civil rights activist. Working alongside contemporaries such as Cesar Chavez, Tata Rambo fought for people's rights - and the cause closest to him was the Pascua Yaqui tribe's battle with the Tuscon City government. In fighting for equal rights for the Yaqui, Tato Tambo had to prove that Native Americans were in North America before the United States Government.
With La Voz De M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo Vol. 1 in stores this week, Newsarama spoke with Barajas about Tata Rambo - the historical figure, and also his real-life great-grandfather.
Newsarama: Henry, let's start where this all began for you - how'd you learn about your great grandfather's important story?
Henry Barajas: I heard about how he was a great guy and he did amazing things when I was a child. Sadly, the amazing things he did weren’t documented for the public properly. Thankfully, he and the organization he co-founded - Mexican, American, Yaqui, Others (M.A.Y.O.) - did a great job at self-publishing a newsletter that listed their community news and political efforts. When I realized that they helped a Native tribe keep their land and integrity, it became my duty to tell their story.
Nrama: So how specifically did the idea come about to tell that story - and do it as a comic book?
Barajas: I started writing the prose. My life as a journalist automatically had me writing the biography - but it wasn’t until John Lewis’ March was published by Top Shelf and IDW that the idea fell on my lap. I realized that I needed to take this to the visual medium, the same creative outlet that I fell in love with when I was a child and attempted to do in my early 20s.
I’m lucky that Matt Hawkins and Top Cow Productions found value in what I was doing and allowed me to retain 100% rights to my family’s history, and give me full creative freedom. I doubt I would’ve been afforded that autonomy anywhere else.
Nrama: Who is your great grandfather to you, as a person?
Barajas: Ramon Jaurigue loved his country. Our first conversation with him was about the American tax code when I was a child. He made me feel like I was on his level. Not only was respect earned, but it was also the benefit of the doubt. He loved people and gave everything to help his brothers and sisters. It was an honor to know him.
Nrama: What is it like to walk in his proverbial shoes and become so invested in his story?
Barajas: I lived with his words in my head and intentions in my heart for four years. I took him to his last march to celebrate his late friend, Cesar Chavez, and stand in solidarity with a home seeking asylum to avoid deportation.
We drove around town and he would point out his old schools, properties, and haunts. It felt like walking around like a ghost and watching time unfold in the Old Pueblo.
Nrama: You've Kickstartered this story - how has it been hearing from people who read it when you do conventions and appearances—or just on social media?
Barjas: It was fun to see what stuck with folks the most. Some readers picked up on the whiskey pour in his coffee in chapter one. Someone was so mad over the infidelity and couldn’t understand why he would do that to his family. I think the most memorable stories shared are when readers talk to their elders and ask them questions. They’re always blown away with what they have to say. I hope everyone gets a chance to talk to their family before it’s too late.
Nrama: How has this comic been received in the Tucson City community?
Barajas: Tucson is a warm and beautiful place. I tabled at Tucson Comic-Con in November 2019. The whole experience felt like a victory lap. The illustrator, J. Gonzo, and myself did the math and realized that he worked 90 days straight to get the remainder chapter for the TPB print deadline. Like anywhere, I have my flock I get to soar with.
Tucson has been and I hope will always be there for me when something like this hits.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with this OGN?
Nrama: La Voz was written for the comic book format. This wasn’t a movie pitch. But it would be nice to explore an adaptation. I’m more excited about how the ALA, Library Journal, and School Library Journal have been supportive. I was the lunchtime keynote speak for Library Con Live, and it was an extraordinary experience. The biggest takeaways were not only highlighting how Latinx and Native Americans are important to your stories, but how we need their words and art on bookshelves.
My goal is to see La Voz in schools, libraries, and on Hoopla.