In new YA graphic novel Frontera, teenaged Mateo is crossing the Sonoran Desert to get back to the United States when he has a run in with Border Patrol. As he escapes, he ends up stranded in the desert without a plan or (more importantly) water. Things are looking bad, but then help comes from an unexpected, supernatural place.
Though Mateo has a run in with a ghost, this supernatural project comes from a very personal place in creators Julio Anta and Jacoby Salcedo's experiences. In fact, the story is drawn from Anta and Salcedo's family historical relationship with the Mexican American border and other borders as well.
Writer Julio Anta tells Popverse, "When Jacoby and I started talking about doing a graphic novel together, the southern border was constantly in the news. We began having conversations about our younger selves and the many ways his Mexican American family’s story intersected with that particular border and then of my family’s history with other American borders – the waters between Cuba and the United States, and the air between Colombia and here. It’s in those stories and our shared history that we found this project, Frontera."
Inspired by the experiences of both his own family and that of artist Jacoby Salcedo's family, Anta nonetheless underscores that Frontera "is a work of fiction. But it’s a fiction that takes elements of this countries past and present, and melds them together to tell the story of two young men named Mateo and Guillermo. From the WW2-era 'Bracero Program' and subsequent 'Operation Wetback' deportations; to the Ku Klux Klan’s 1977 border patrol initiative; the current wave of hyper-militarization along the U.S./Mexico border and sabotaging of humanitarian efforts; and of course, the various militias and paramilitary groups who have made headlines for rounding up migrants—the story of Frontera is one that is grounded in a history of violence and a spirit of resiliency."
Artist Jacoby Salcedo says, "Our hope is that the book not only resonates with people who can relate to Mateo’s journey, but with all readers who come to the book with an open mind.”
Anta agrees: "Our hope is that Mateo and Guillermo’s journey inspires reverence for both the migrants who have crossed the Sonoran Desert and the communities that call it their home. A place where invisible border lines have shifted throughout history, but community and resiliency has remained," he said.
Frontera is published by Harper Alley on July 18. Read an excerpt from Frontera in the gallery below.