It is a sad commentary on our society that sexual harassment has become a regular part of the news cycle. Most recently, Border Town creator Eric M. Esquivel had very serious charges levied against him. Esquivel closed his social media accounts, changed his Twitter account to private, and otherwise refused to respond. In the wake of the charges, artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain announced they would be leaving the book.
AiPT! reached out to DC Vertigo for comment and received a statement that Border Town had been cancelled, issues five and six would not be released, and previous issues could be returned. Esquivel may not have had anything to say at the time, but others were taking the statements very seriously.
The allegations against Esquivel are disturbing. Sexual harassment allegations may have become more commonplace, but it does not make them any less depressing and odious. Esquivel’s alleged actions have long term ramifications that will stay with his victim for the rest of her life.
Esquivel’s actions have other far reaching effects, as well. Unfortunately, some people will use this as an reason to rail against progressive comics and their creators. Those who already are quick to dismiss any comic with a social message will now feel they have more ammunition to disregard “social justice warrior” comics. Instead of seeing what may have happened as the actions of one man, some will use it as an opportunity to belittle an entire movement.
Sound unbelievable? After all, despite our political and philosophical differences we are all people that believe in the same basic tenets of simple kindness and humanity. Right? When AiPT! first reported on the allegations, the comments focused on one phrase in the article: “Wildly popular.” Despite the fact a person had come out with serious allegations, people chose to ignore what may have happened and argue semantics about whether a comic book is “wildly popular”.
Unfortunately, this is not a random occurrence. Whenever allegations are levied against someone who is considered forward thinking, certain segments of society will almost gleefully point out the hypocrisy of it. Instead of directing their vitriol at the offender, they will use the incident as an indictment against everyone who speaks out against anything they disagree with. When Harvey Weinstein’s sordid past came to light, many were quick to attack liberal Hollywood. You can almost see them chomping at the proverbial bit just so they could happily talk about how Weinstein had supported one cause or another. It was a shame to see people so readily look past such horrible acts in order to denigrate people who did not vote the same way they did.
(Not to mention how any time a movie, video game, or television series fails it’s because it stars a woman. Or there are too many minorities in the commercials. Or the women in the posters do not have large enough breasts or don’t smile enough. It also does not count how many people will unironically say, “get woke, go broke”.)
Esquivel’s actions also do a disservice to an entire culture. We live in an era where people seriously talk about putting up walls and politicians refer to people from other countries as “bad hombres.” For better or worse, Esquivel has never spoken for an entire race of people. However, he is in a position where he is a face and a voice that can be identified with them. Those who are only familiar with Hispanic people and culture through media and pop culture will hear this news and almost instinctively judge all Hispanics by what Esquivel may have done. When we do not have any firsthand information it is logical to try to form an opinion based on the information we do have.
On a more personal (and much more irrelevant, in the grand scheme of things) level, Esquivel’s actions have affected me. I have lived in El Paso, Texas for most of my life. El Paso is the sister city of Juarez, Mexico. El Paso is one of the biggest and busiest border cities in the world. My wife is Mexican and there are many days when I speak more Spanish than English. Border Town was something I could relate to.
There have been plenty of movies and television shows about Hispanic culture in the United States. To be honest, there are quite a few I enjoy. But few really capture the essence of living in a border city. They either are way over the top or do not go into it enough. They may focus on the bad things or highlight a struggle. Border Town was almost like reading a primer on what happens in a city like El Paso. It had plenty of extreme moments, but it also showcased the daily lives of its cast. It was nostalgic, real, and even promoted a sense of pride. All of that is gone now.
It goes without saying that the people hurt most by Esquivel are the women he mistreated, but his actions have far reaching implications that can affect many lives. Esquivel finally broke his silence on December 19th and said he hopes he can be seen as a “cautionary tale.” Hopefully, it is not one too many people will read.