Culture

13 Things You Should Know About Cholo Culture

Odds are if you grew up in the 90s you knew at least one cholo at your local high school. But did you know that the phrase “cholo” goes way back to 1609? Originally a derogatory term used by Spaniards for mixed-blood descendants of the Spanish Empire, the word seems to have evolved since then to have meaning outside of ethnic heritage. Having been reclaimed by Latinos of mixed heritage, the term has come to mean many more things. So for all you cholos, cholas, cholitas, and chongas out there, here are the 13 things you should know about cholo culture.

1. Why did they call us Cholos?

Credit: Wikipedia


So what is a Cholo? And where did the word even come from?

A Peruvian text dating back to 1609 features the first known use of the word. The writer, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, wrote the book in Spanish and it was called  Comentarios Reales de los Incas. 

“The child of a Black male and an Indian female, or of an Indian male and Black female, they call mulato and mulata. The children of these they call cholos. Cholo is a word from the Windward Islands; it means dog, not of the purebred variety, but of very disreputable origin; and the Spaniards use it for insult and vituperation”.

Credit: Wikipedia


Vega himself was the son of a Spaniard and a royal Incan mother and was one of the first Latin-American born Spanish writers to be widely read in Europe and enter the western canon. Vega may have been one of the first men to write down cholo, but it is heavily suggested the term predates him.

Later on, in Colonial Mexico, the terms cholo and coyote were used interchangeably to describe Mestizo and Amerindian ancestry.

2. Who let the Anglos learn about the term “Cholo” anyway?

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So by the 1700s, the term cholo is being thrown around in Latin America. So who let English-speakers know about cholos anyway?

You can blame Herman Melville for that.

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credit: Amazon

In the popular 1851 novel Moby-Dick,  Melville uses the term to describe a Spanish-speaking sailor.

The term showed up again in 1907 in the Los Angeles Express.  A headline read “Cleaning Up the Filthy Cholo Courts Has Begun in Earnest,” and the article repeatedly used the terms Mexican and cholo interchangeably. The term “cholo court” was used to refer to the poor areas where Latinos tended to live.

Credit: Wikipedia


Once the word was integrated into the English language, it caught on and was used to mean “Mexican” or “Latino” generally by those who would look down on them.

As Latino immigrants were recruited to work agricultural jobs in the early 20th century, their communities grew and white Americans grew to use the term “cholo” against them.

3. Zoot Suit Riot

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When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the U.S. started deporting people of Mexican descent. Sources suggest that between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican people were expelled from the country, including 1.2 million U.S. citizens who were deported illegally. Mexican communities in the United States struggled to keep their homes and families together, and Latino youth began creating their own “Chicano” and “Cholo” subcultures, as they were referred to by American newspapers.

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Zoot suits – baggy clothes that would hide the shape of one’s body – became a staple of early cholo culture. Barrios were full of the iconic look, and white Americans noticed. Tensions exploded in June 1943 with the Zoot Suit Riots, a series of pogroms against Chicano youth where American military men and white civilians joined forces to attack and strip children, teens, and youths of their zoot suits.

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Police aided rioting servicemen and at the end fo the riots more than 150 Latinos had been injured, with 500 Latinos charged with rioting and vagrancy.

Cholo culture was forever to be tied from then on to insurgent behavior and criminality, justifying the attacks against Latino communities for years to come.

5. Chicano Pride

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Long before the modern image of the cholo with facial tattoos, was the idea of the political radical from the 1960s. Cholo culture took a page out of the Black Power movement and fought back against police brutality and repression. Again criminalized by the American government, the Chicano Pride movement sought to address negative ethnic stereotypes of Mexicans in mass media and the American consciousness. The term Chicano itself was used interchangeably with cholo as a derogatory term for Latinos, but the movement sought to change that.

READ: 20 Things Mexican Families Do That You Didn’t Realize Were Odd Until You Moved Out

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The movement was targeted, like other activist movements of the era, by COINTELPRO, the U.S. Counter Intelligence Program that largely aimed to surveil and disrupt leftist organizations.

6. Cholos and Gangs

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With the rise of America’s criminalization of Latino organizing, Mexico and Central America saw a rise of deported Chicano youth returning to its streets in the 1970s. Groups that stuck together were not accustomed to life in Mexico and were largely viewed as American due to their appearances and language.

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Soon the groups came to be associated with gangs, mostly bringing together young boys and men between the ages of 13 and 25 years old. Many of the gangs from this era actually formed in the United States – like MS-13, Latin Kings, Norteños, Sureños, and the 18th Street Gang. The groups which were established in the U.S. continued in Latin America and cholos brought American street culture back with them. With few jobs and school opportunities available to them, the groups began to make alliances with local drug cartels based on particular regions and cities.

7. The Chola Fashion

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credit: wearemitu / YouTube


While cholo culture evolved in the 80s and 90s, it also became a part of the American fashion industry. Men moved away from the traditional zoot suits and towards loose-fitting khaki pants, white knee-high socks, creased jeans, and plaid or flannel shirts over white tank tops.

WATCH: Cholas Talk CHOLAS FASHION 

Credit: Hypebeast


Women, on the other hand, left a more lasting impression on American makeup and fashion with their signature pointed eyebrows, outlined lips, and heavy gold chains. The manicured black baby hair and slicked back ponytails were also iconic, referenced today in countless music videos and runway looks. Selena Gomez, FKA Twigs, Rihanna are just a few celebrities who have rocked the Chola look.

8. Cholo Music

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Who didn’t love the 2007 hit,  Lean Like a Cholo? If you didn’t know what a Cholo was by then, odds are you were living under a rock. Down AKA Kilo slid into the top hit charts with his tune on the cholo lifestyle, but he was certainly not the first. Back in 1979, punk rock band The Dickies recorded “I’m a Chollo” for their album,  Dawn of the Dickies

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Oddly enough, cholo culture would be tied to American goth music and oldies. The connection isn’t entirely clear, but “Cholo Goth” is definitely still a thing.

9. Cholo Iconography & Tattoos

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Of course, we couldn’t have an article on cholos without mentioning tattoos! Some of the most iconic body art in the world rests on the backs of cholos and cholas worldwide. Though much of it is associated with Christian imagery (think the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and countless crucifixion scenes) and calligraphy, cholo tattoo culture has also evolved some of its own new imagery. 

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One of the most iconic of this new tattoo world is the “smile now, cry later” set of masks, normally associated with theater. The image pays homage to the pain and suffering many people living the cholo life experience – a short amount of joy sometimes for a lifetime of consequences.

10. The Cholo Lingo

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Along with a mixture of American and Latino culture came a mixture of the two languages: Spanish and English. Spanish words slid into the Cholo English lexicon, and words like vato, neta, wey, prieto, and jeta became standard in graffiti, tattoos, and other written corners of the cholo world.

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What do those words mean? Well, vato is “dude,” wey is “dude,” prieto is “racist or uptight dude,” and jeta is “sour face.”

11. Cholos and Lowriders

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Back during the 40s and 50s, Los Angeles-based Mexican-American youth started redesigning cars, painting them and lowering them for aesthetic purposes. It became a cultural phenomenon and political statement, reinventing the American automobile for the Latino community.

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credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune

California wasn’t having it, and in 1958 the state outlawed operating any car modified so that a part was lower than the bottoms of its wheel rims.

Credit: Instagram @houstonlowriders

Cholos were quick to circumnavigate the restrictions. A customizer named Ron Aguirre developed a way of bypassing the law in 1958 by using hydraulic pumps and valves that could change the height of a car at the flick of a switch. The next year, Chevrolet would introduce the Impala, which happened to have a frame excellently suited for lowering and modifying with hydraulics. The rest is history.

12. Cholo “Homies” Toys

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If you were a Latino kid in the late 90s or early 00’s you probably remember these little figurines, also known as Homies. The adorable characters were created by David Gonzalez and based on a comic strip that he created,  The Adventures of Chico Loco. The toys have become collectibles across the world and spawned dozens of imitations.

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Homies became so popular the Los Angeles Police Department complained that the toys were promoting “gang life.” Some Latino advocacy groups, such as the Imagen Foundation, also felt the figurines promoted anti-Latino stereotypes. However, the fears turned out to be unsubstantiated – Homies have been shown to help American adolescents with their cultural identity and self-esteem. As the toy line has expanded, the various characters have also shown a greater range of lifestyle choices and possibilities.

13. Cholos Go Mainstream

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If you’ve ever played Grand Theft Auto, you’ve likely encountered cholo culture and characters. In fact, in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, there is a gang called “The Cholos” who dress and act exactly like, well, cholos!

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In this day and age, we’ve seen cholo fashion, art, lingo, and more go mainstream.

Napolean Dynamite featured two characters simply referred to as “Cholo No. 1” and “Cholo No. 2.”

Prayers, the cholo goth band founded in 2013, is fronted by the iconic Rafael Reyes, a.k.a. Leafar Seyer. Their lyrics explore the harsh realities of street life and cholo culture.

With cholo culture referenced at so many twists and turned in popular culture, it’s almost impossible to miss. Who is your favorite cholo?

There’s A New Urban Line Of Taco Gear And This One’s Actually Wearable

Entertainment

There’s A New Urban Line Of Taco Gear And This One’s Actually Wearable

No matter your preference, how you like them, how you eat them, tacos are a way of life. They represent where we’re from and to be honest, they are not going anywhere — they will remain part of our life.

Gerald Flores understands the taco goes beyond just a dish, it’s a lifestyle. In 2014, the Corpus Christi native was trying to figure out what to wear, when an idea went off in his head.

“Like many Latinos, tacos are a huge part of my life. They represent my culture and so much more. Back in 2014, I was looking for a taco shirt for myself and I couldn’t find one that I would want to wear, so I decided to design my own,” said the taco lover. “That’s how Taco Gear® was born and it’s been a crazy and fun journey ever since.”

mitú is excited to partner up with Taco Gear® in our mitú mercado where you’ll find a wide assortment of Taco Gear® products.

We are featuring some of Taco Gear’s® most popular t-shirts, sweatshirts and trendy bucket hats.

If you’re a taco lover you know that when someone offers you a taco, you just eat it and that’s exactly what this Taco. Just Eat It. Longsleeve tee says.

mitú x Taco Gear®

This tee takes a spin on a popular brand and makes it our own. You can shop this tee (that’s already making me hungry) on our site available in a unisex fit for only $29.99.

If tacos are life to you, say it with this bomber jacket.

mitú x Taco Gear®

This classic bomber jacket will keep you warm during those nights you’re waiting for your tacos at your favorite taco truck. This jacket is such a favorite, it’s sure to sell out, so grab yours for $49.99 before it sells out.

When fellow intellectuals ask what your favorite work of art is, you can let them know with this Taco Lisa Tee.

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Art connoisseurs will not know what hit them when you show them this Taco Lisa Tee now available in our store in different colors for $24.99.

True taco lovers ain’t got no type. Let people know you’re not shallow with this Taco Type Tee.

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We don’t discriminate against any kind of taco and we love showing our love with this shirt that lists just a few of our favorite tacos. This comfy tee comes in different colors and is only $24.99.

When you and bae are hungry and can’t decide where to go for dinner (or breakfast or lunch), settle it with this Back To The Taquería Tee.

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Don’t know what to eat? Don’t know where to hang out? Don’t know what to “cook” for your family potluck? Back to the taquería it is. This tee comes in three colors and sells for $24.99.

And when you walk up to the taquería register they’ll know exactly what you want as soon as they look at you with this trendy Fresh Tacos bucket hat.

mitú x Taco Gear®

At the taquería is where we spend most of our days, so represent with this bucket hat available in our shop for just $22.99. It’s perfect to shield your face from that taquería steam 😉.

A founding father once said, “give me liberty or give me death,” and in 2019 we like to apply our lives to that saying and this one: *ehem* Give me tacos or give me death.

mitú x Taco Gear®

Because what even is life without tacos? Stop — we don’t want to know. Shop this philosophical taco tee in our shop for just $24.99.

Mexico’s Newest Growing Cartel Ambushed Mexican Police Killing 14 And Injuring 9

Things That Matter

Mexico’s Newest Growing Cartel Ambushed Mexican Police Killing 14 And Injuring 9

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Minutes after Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador told reporters that his new approach to curb cartel violence is working, Mexico’s fast-growing threat, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), killed 14 police officers and set their cars on fire during a deadly ambush. The police convoy was passing through El Aguaje, a small town in the state of Michoacan, to serve a warrant when 20 armed vehicles ambushed the officers. Fourteen officers were declared dead and another nine were injured.

“You can’t fight fire with fire. You can’t fight violence with violence … you have to fight evil by doing good.” Obrador said at a news conference on Monday morning. While Obrador, a year into his term, continued to speak about how his new policy is affecting change, police officers were calling for backup. “I’m dying,” one officer barely blurted on his radio, according to audio recordings of police scanners at the time.

As first responders arrived on the scene, they found handwritten messages, signed “CJNG.”

Credit: @AlertaGDL / Twitter

Families of the victims are angry that their loved ones weren’t more heavily armed to defend themselves against the thirty gunmen who attacked the police convoy from behind. One day after the attack, a memorial service became a town hall of sorts. Grieving family members shouted at Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles, “Like sheep to the slaughter!” 

Five families refused to allow the coffins of their loved ones to be present in the company of those they feel were responsible for the deaths: the officials who didn’t adequately arm the police to defend themselves. 

Obrador’s strategy to end cartel violence is two-fold: end corruption and provide resources to poverty-stricken regions.

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“We are going to continue with our strategy,” López Obrador later said. “For us it is very important for there to be well-being, that peace with justice can be achieved … and also avoiding that authorities mix with crime.” Experts think Obrador’s strategy is smart for long-term success in stabilizing Mexico. Still, in the short-term, murders have only increased in Mexico. Last year, a record number of 29,000 murders were recorded, and 2019 may just break that record.

Falko Ernst, a Mexican analyst for the International Crisis Group, says Michoacán will continue to be “deep narco-war territory” until the state develops a strategy to de-signify the land.

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In a Twitter thread, Ernst recalled the decades-long history of cartel conflict in a small, rural village called El Aguaje. It “sits on a key overland road connecting the Hot Land region with the Sierra Madre, and was once a stronghold of the Milenio Cartel, big-time coke runners in the ’90s/early 2000s,” Ernst tweeted. At the time, a young Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who would later become “El Mencho” and the boss of CJNG, was a member of the Milenio cartel. 

Ernst was there in 2011 when Milenio drug lords were dragged out of their mansions and executed. “La Familia” then took over the town, until it split into two conflicting gangs. That’s when El Mencho broke away to form the Jalisco (or CJNG) cartel.

Now, El Mencho, personally ousted by La Familia, is warring for their territory, leaving civilians in the crossfire.

Credit: lopezobrador / Instagram

El Mencho lived in the U.S. at one point, without papers, and served three years in prison for selling drugs stateside. As soon as he was released in 1997, he was deported to Mexico, where he went on to serve on the Jalisco state police force. For some reason, he left the force to join the Milenio cartel. El Mencho was born just a few miles away from El Aguaje. Now, he’s leading CJNG to reclaim what they think belongs to them–la puebla del Aguaje. 

The DEA has dubbed El Mencho one of their “most wanted,” and has offered a $10 million bounty for his arrest.

“El Chapo was violent, but El Mencho has taken it to a new level,” the lead DEA agent told Univision.

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“Decapitations, dissolving bodies in acid, public executions, ripping out the heart, killing women and children, bombings against people. It happens almost every day,” DEA agent Kyle Mori told Univision. “El Chapo was violent, but El Mencho has taken it to a new level.” 

In August, CJNG hung nine bodies from a bridge in Uruapan, Michoacán, and hung up a large banner that read, “Lovely people. Carry on with your day.” Ten other bodies were dumped on the road nearby.

READ: Mexico Is Reeling After A Massive Gun Battle Over The Capture Of El Chapo’s Son