New York Daily News Changes Mariachi Cartoon, But Doesn’t Apologize

Oct 18, 2014
4:49 PM

In case you missed this one, last weekend Mekahlo Medina, President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), wrote a post demanding an apology from The New York Daily News for the following editorial cartoon, which had caught the attention of NY1’s Roberto Lacayo:


In that post, Medina wrote the following:

When I first saw the tweet, I did a double take. NAHJ member Roberto Lacayo pointed out an editorial cartoon published in the New York Daily News meant to engage about that city’s grading of taxis, instead it insulted and cast a negative light on Latinos for the sake of something that was “fun to draw.”

Bob Eckstein’s cartoon could have proven his point without having to resort to negative ethnic depictions. The cartoon, according to Eckstein tweeting with NAHJ member Julio [Ricardo] Varela, showed Mariachis on a train to illustrate “an example of what some may find annoying.”

Varela is the publisher of this site, and when he tweeted with Eckstein last Saturday, the cartoonist did tweet out an quasi-apology after a very detailed back and forth:

Interestingly enough, Eckstein’s claim that this was all just innocent fun didn’t fully pass muster, considering that the politician who had introduced the bill to grade NYC’s taxis was Carlos Menchaca, a city councilor of Mexican descent. Our Rebelde-in-Chief tweeted that question to Eckstein:

As of this posting, Eckstein never has answered that question, even after he was actively tweeting Varela on October 11 saying that people shouldn’t misinterpret the cartoon.

Then earlier last week, Medina had posted an update about his initial NAHJ post:

Update: I spoke briefly with New York Daily News Deputy Editor Arthur Browne Monday afternoon. Browne wanted to get my perspective on why Latinos found the cartoon insensitive and enforced stereotypes.

He informed me how the cartoonist came up with the idea and that it was not intended to offend.

The problem is, it did offend and it was completely avoidable.

Why wasn’t there anyone in the New York Daily Newsroom to flag this cartoon? Are there Latinos in critical editorial roles at the paper? Are there Latinos in hiring positions to ensure better representation at all levels?

These are questions I asked in a follow up email to Mr. Browne.

During our brief conversation, he also did not apologize for the cartoon. He told me the paper would address the issue with their readers in the next few days.

I asked that an apology be included in that address.

I also offered NAHJ’s help to better diversify their newsroom and more importantly management roles that ultimately set the tone for how all communities are covered.

Mekahlo Medina
NAHJ President, 8:30pm pt Monday Oct. 13th

Yesterday, the Daily News ran an editorial about the cartoon, saying that Eckstein drew the cartoon “with a bit of whimsy.” The editorial continued:

Some were not amused. National Association of Hispanic Journalists President Mekahlo Medina, for example, wrote that the cartoon “casts Mexican-Americans in a negative light as ‘annoyances’ and outcasts.”

The Daily News then decided to contact a Lehman College professor of Mexican studies who “offered that the cartoon could be read to suggest Mariachis are the most aggressive panhandlers, that it could spark memories of former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker’s 1999 rant about the No. 7 line and foreigners, and that Mexicans could see a negative reference to the trains that have transported young Central Americans up through Mexico to the U.S. border.” (Our take about that explanation? That last one point is a bit too much and John Rocker? Really? Guess the editors of the paper didn’t really even see what Eckstein tweeted or didn’t even bother to make the connection to Menchaca.)

Nonetheless, the editorial wanted to let everyone know they “stand informed” and that Eckstein has now changed the cartoon:


But not one apology.

As if Medina’s post was just being ignored and that this was all about a manufactured controversy from a bunch of sensitive ethnic journalists. Go back to your corners, Latinos, and keep it down.

Here’s the thing: is it that hard to apologize? Is it that hard to be a bit more respectful to NAHJ members? This is not about offense, it is about addressing concern with a bit more professionalism. Plain and simple.

We are still waiting for the editorial where The New York Daily News tells Medina that they were sorry and that maybe, just maybe, they need to be more aware of its changing NYC audience, one that is getting more and more Mexican every day.

PS Then there is this from our friends at NiLP:

NiLP Note: In reaction to our post yesterday on “The Great New York Subway Mariachi Controversy” we had this interesting observation by Juan Carlos Aguirre, Executive Director of Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders in NYC:

This is interesting but more interesting is that the people who play in the subways are not mariachis and I am very sure this was the case in the situation with the author of the cartoon. I have talked with so many of these groups and see them all the time when I ride the subway to work.

Most Mexican musicians that play in the subways play Norteño music which is a very different rhythm and style of music from mariachi. Sombrero does not equal Mariachi!!!! Additionally not all of the musicians are Mexican. I once stopped a group of them and hired them for a performance. In the end I found out three were Salvadorian [sic] and two Mexican. Naturally I asked why were Salvadorians [sic] playing Mexican music and the answer was simple, out of necessity. They were hesitant to tell me they were Salvadorian [sic] because they thought I would not hire them.

This cartoon issue shows how unaware people are about anything south of the border. Everyone assumes without checking facts.