La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo

La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo is a book that aims to fill a gap in the historical record, highlighting the contributions of Ramon Jaurigue (Tata Rambo) to the Pascua Yaqui tribe in Arizona and the Mexican American Yaqui Organization (M.A.Y.O.). Ramon Jaurigue is the great-grandfather of the book’s writer, Henry Barajas, who channels his background as a journalist into piecing together Jaurigue’s story through interviews, oral histories, newspaper clippings, and the scant recorded history available through his public library.

The story opens in 2015, with Barajas taking an aging Jaurigue to a protest, relating to the reader that it may be the last march he would be able to attend, before traveling back in time to 1969. The book traces Ramon’s involvement with M.A.Y.O. to protest the construction of the I-10 highway, which would have further displaced around 12,000 members of the Indigenous Yaqui community. A vital step to blocking the measure is to get the tribe recognized by the federal government, an ongoing five-year-long struggle depicted over the course of the book. Barajas includes both community-oriented anecdotes and personal stories, with tension slowly building as more time dedicated to the community often seemed to mean less time he spent with his own family.

Barajas re-appears in the story several times, but always briefly and as a supporting character, prompting the reader to think of Jaurigue’s legacy and how history is recorded and remembered. The storyline can feel a little stunted with abrupt transitions between scenes, which may reflect Barajas’s difficulty with piecing together his great-grandfather’s story. But as a result, Barajas represents key moments in the history of the M.A.Y.O. without losing the facts in too much fictionalized connective tissue.

The art is very bold and stylized, with thick black outlines—almost any panel looks like it could be made into a poster. The color palette centers around shades of red, blue, and yellow, invoking traditional comic book colors, but with a twist—shades of teal and turquoise, deep red-orange, and muted sunflower yellow—that also references the American Southwest. The consistent use of these colors brings some unity to the disjointed scene changes.

In the book’s foreword, scholar Frederick Luis Aldama stresses the importance of corrective counter-narratives that balance our understanding of American history with appropriate, truthful representations of people of color. He describes how comics have become an important medium is this regard, and La Voz de M.A.Y.O. is an excellent example.

After the story, the book includes a two-page interview between Barajas and Congressman Raul Grijalva; five full issues of the titular newsletter, La Voz de M.A.Y.O.; various newspaper clippings; and a five-page letter from Ramon himself. Barajas has produced a well-rounded work that would be easy to place in a classroom curriculum, with a wonderful opportunity for studying primary texts alongside a historical narrative.

Librarians wishing to shelve this book and teachers looking to teach with it should be aware of the following content warnings: police brutality, brief depictions of colonial violence, and brief depictions of war.

La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo
By Henry Barajas
Art by J. Gonzo
ISBN: 9781534313637
Image, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (Teen Plus)

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Character Traits: Pascua Yaqui, Mexican American
Creator Highlights: Latinx Creator, Chicano Creator