ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico cartoonist whose take on Native American life has been cheered and jeered for its authenticity and irreverence is now drawing artwork for the state.
Ricardo Caté is behind the new anti-opioid campaign titled “A Dose of Reality about Opioids.” Funded by the state’s Human Services Department, the campaign includes four new cartoons drawn by Caté.
“Our voice has been missing for a long time,” said Caté of his thoughts on Native Americans’ voice in popular media.
Caté is the artist and creative voice of “Without Reservations,” a one panel comic that has been running in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper since 2006. The comic often features unabashed, humorous perspectives on Native American life, with messages that are both cheeky and at times controversial.
“That is the point, I can take people being offended,” said Caté of the messages in his cartoons.
Caté is part of the Santo Domingo Pueblo. One of his most notable cartoons features a child standing next to a Native American adult man saying, “Someday son, NONE of this will be yours,” as the man gestures to a distant natural landscape.
The state has now commissioned Caté’s work for a campaign targeting opioid use. The cartoons commissioned for the campaign are aimed at speaking to New Mexico’s pueblos and the Native American population.
“We were kind of looking for a way to address different issues within the tribal communities,” said Jay Quintana, prevention program manager for the New Mexico Human Services Department’s Behavioral Health Services Division.
The new “Dose of Reality” state project features four comic panels from Caté, each with a commentary on prescription drug addiction. The panels will be published on posters and billboards across New Mexico.
“(We want to) get people to start asking questions, to start seeking resources and treatment,” said Quintana of the cartoons.
Each comic has a dose of Caté’s style and sarcasm. In one panel, a Native American man can be seen holding a plant while saying, “This plant cures all ailments.” A pilgrim-style character can be seen saying, “We have opioids for that.”
Another panel features two Native American men fishing in a stream. In the distance, smoke signals spell out the phrase “recovery is possible.” One character can be seen saying “it’s not that hard to quit. I’ve quite lots of times.”
“For Native people, (the problem) hasn’t been addressed, I feel, I’m very proud I, in fact, have a hand in this,” Caté said. “I hope people start talking about it.”
While some will inevitably find the cartoons to be edgy or perhaps even offensive, Caté says he isn’t worried about hurting feelings, when opioids are ruining lives.
“Anyone who takes offense to it, well? Like I said it’s going to take a back seat because, I feel that this is really helping,” Caté said.