Graphic artist Rafael “Pinche Raf” Gonzales Jr. is using his Lotería card designs to address the coronavirus pandemic. Lotería card designs photo: Courtesy of Rafael Gonzalez Jr.
Staying protected during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t complicated, but it can be tough. Luckily, one Latino artist is helping guide us on how to stay safe with coronavirus-relevant Lotería cards.
Graphic artist Rafael “Pinche Raf” Gonzales Jr. is a Chicano from San Antonio, Texas who’s using humor and culture to illustrate our collective experiences during the pandemic.
Graphic artist Rafael “Pinche Raf” Gonzales Jr. is a self-taught Chicano graphic artist who uses his art to express his Latino experience. Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Gonzales Jr.
Rafael has strong ties to South Texas. His 8th-great-grandfather (yes, he can trace his family back 8 generations!) Gregorio Esparza fought in the Alamo as a Tejano, while his brother fought on the Mexican side of the 1836 battle for Texan independence. Rafael says he’s proud of his family’s history, bringing his Chicano and San Antonio ties into his work.
About 3 years ago, he taught himself graphic design as a creative outlet and to make graphics for his job at a university. Rafael then started sharing some of his pieces on Instagram. With his coronavirus Lotería designs, Rafael’s getting more recognition for his art than ever before. We asked him about his experience making art during a pandemic.
What drew you to culturally relevant art?
I think it’s been an expression of who I am. I am a Chicano and my experiences growing up and living life as a Latino in America have given me a voice that is shared by many. I like connecting with people through shared experiences, humor, and wit.
Lotería card design photo: Courtesy of Rafael Gonzalez Jr.
How did you come up with these coronavirus Lotería cards?
I needed a creative outlet that paralleled the heaviness of the news cycle. I didn’t want to be detached and tune out of the news, but wanted to give it a lighter creative lens. Humor was very important to me. Laughter and making people laugh is a big part of my world.
Has the response to these cards differed from response to your other art?
Well, first, I have much more of an audience.
I do believe there is a minority of those who think my art is making light of a serious situation, but I would argue that in times of darkness we need light. I think the ‘Pandemic Lotería’ series brings that light. It helps remind us of what it means to play Lotería with family. It brings a sense of hope, that we will once again have this time together and make more memories around a game.
How are you coping with the pandemic?
Well, La Coping Mechanism (see above) that I designed as a margarita is truly life imitating art. My wife and I get together with friends through video conferences and have virtual happy hours. We catch up, drink, and joke. That has been a big help. Also, we garden.
Any message for those struggling on the frontlines?
Yes, I appreciate all [they] are doing for us. From healthcare workers, sanitation staff, to food and grocery workers, and everyone who has kept the world going, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Stay fuerte and may you and your families stay healthy.
To those who can give, please do. Food banks across the country need donations of food and money more than ever so please donate if you are able.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Here’s some guidance using Rafa’s art to reinforce guidance from the CDC. Graphic: Lisann Ramos, Pulso.