Five years in a row David Favela had tried to buy tickets for Comic-Con, the comic book gathering in San Diego that attracts fans by the thousands. One pass for the entire event costs about $200, and so many people want them, fans must wait in an online queue. Apparently, there was some secret technique Favela had never mastered—something that involved several computers at once. "It might be my own incompetence," he says, "It's really difficult."
This year brought another disappointment for the 48-year-old who learned to read English through comic books. Tickets sold out in a couple of hours. Favela, who runs a craft brewery with family, would miss it for the sixth year in a row.
Though Comic-Con holds events around the area—a gracious token for those left out of the main event—it doesn't come to Favela's home in Barrio Logan. This is the blue-collar Latino neighborhood squeezed between industrial areas, not even a mile south of the main event. If only there was something for his people—Chicanos, Favela thought. They could even call it Chicano-Con.
"There's a long history of being pushed around," Favela says of his neighborhood, "so we're used to doing our own thing."
Favelo grew up in a small home in Escondido, a small agricultural town about 30 minutes north of Barrio Logan. His parents came to California from Durango, Mexico with an elementary education. For a while, he and his five brothers and two sisters relied on public assistance, often in the form of government cheese. His parents carried home toys from The Salvation Army in plastic bags. Favela entered school speaking only Spanish. Even asking to use the restroom terrified him. He failed second grade three times.
"It was Christmas, maybe," Favela remembers. He was at The Salvation Army again as they passed out toys to kids. "Everyone else got cool gifts like bats and gloves, balls, things a kid would want. I got this comic book. So I was like, 'Okay, what am I going to do with this?"
On the first page, Favela saw a man with wings on his feet and a staff of snakes. He looked through it. And despite not knowing much English, the pictures helped fill in the gaps. He read more. And more. And by sixth grade, he was reading at a high school level. He graduated college; earned a master's degree at the University of San Diego, and was selected for a fellowship at Princeton.
Favela dreamed up Chicano-Con just a couple months ago. It's held in the 5,000-square-foot parking lot at Border X Brewery, which Favela owns with his brother and two nephews. They've set up a cape-making booth for kids and will have live music, local artists and artists from Tijuana, Mexico, and photos with lucha libre wrestlers. They've helped donate 1,500 comic books to kids.
"I wanted to bring that experience to the barrio for free," Favela says.
Last weekend, more than 350 people turned up. This weekend, he expects around 1,000.
For times, dates, to connect, or to check out more photos, visit the Chicano-Con Facebook page.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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