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SGV Connect 125: A Sweatshop Documentary Comic Strip

“It was a very common thing to have it in the house… It’s not supposed to be talked about in public that you’re doing this work because it makes you a target for the city and the state.”

A printed copy of Isabel Pan’s comic strip Má. Photo by Anthony Solorzano, courtesy of South El Monte Arts Posse

This week Chris brings us a special feature interview with artist Isabel Pan. Pan is the artist in residence at C.A.S.A Zamora in El Monte. Her project has been a documentary-style, slice of life comic strip depicting the impact of sweatshop labor and refugee crises on the children of immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley. 

A panel from Isabel Pan’s comic strip Má

Pan’s subject is the son of a sweat shop worker, Denny. His parents came to El Monte in the late 70’s, fleeing the Vietnam War. They endured the loss of family en route to America, and the struggle of working in the garment industry once here. Pan’s comic strip is titled Má, which is what Denny calls his mother.

A panel from Isabel Pan’s comic strip Má

Má explores the generation gap and communication breakdown that Denny experienced growing up with parents who were traumatized by their escape from Vietnam and exploited by employers in Southern California. Denny’s mother was a work-from-home seamstress, payed cents per piece, who provided a home for her children. 

A panel from Isabel Pan’s comic strip Má

Pan - raised in part by working class grandparents - talks frankly with SBLA about the physical and emotional burden of this labor,  as well as the beauty of sharing these experiences with other Monteros. Her comic can be found at C.A.S.A. Zamora and Matilija Lending Library in El Monte.

Artist Isabel Pan. Photo by Anthony Solorzano, courtesy of South El Monte Arts Posse.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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