Welcome to Tapas Tuesday, where I feature community comics by underrepresented and international creators on the Tapas platform. De La Isla* by Lorena Torres Loaiza (LorenaTL), a magical realism webcomic that takes place in a fictional South American island named Telares, navigates themes of ambition, class, privilege, and inequality.
Childhood friends Ximena and Valeria face their inevitable roles in society as adults. Ximena, the heiress of the Velasquez family, becomes a magician’s apprentice. Her maid, Valeria, feels that she should have received the same opportunity. Valeria’s desire eventually turns into vengeance, threatening her country and her friendship with Ximena.
De La Isla does an excellent job of exploring inequality and social disparities. Ximena and Valeria, both from separate classes, confront difficult choices for their family and society. The creator also portrays colorism in a well-nuanced manner, showing how skin tones can relegate people to societal roles. Valeria, seen as lesser than for her brown skin and servitude, experiences the injustice of not getting the future she wants. Her best friend Ximena, fair-skinned and higher class, effortlessly gets the offer to learn magic. This enrages Ximena, and so she works hard to get what she wants. When she does, things don’t turn out the way she expected. Her friendship with Ximena becomes strained.
The story’s external conflict involves the threat of invasion by the Spanish and the British. A conquest could mean a massacre of all the magicians. However, the other magicians, called the Dahlian, are planning to brainwash the citizens into believing that there’s an epidemic spreading across Telares. The Dahlian forces would deliver the cure and gain the country’s favor and elevate themselves to the elite class. To protect her country from either fate, Ximena uses her learned powers to choose the people to inflict the disease with. Her actions lead to her questioning her real purpose in society.
The creator also does well with magical realism. De La Isla’s first chapter mentions Telares’ superstitions and beliefs, including the lore about Raquel, the first magician. The Spanish conquerors kill anyone practicing magic, including Valeria’s brother. The story implements the concept of magic users as a commentary on power and inequality. Ximena eventually sees that she could use her status and money to genuinely help the lower class. Valeria realizes the consequences of using her magic for the government’s gain.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
*De La Isla means Of the Island in Spanish.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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