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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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

Credit: Wikipedia


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.

Credit: Wikipedia


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

Credit: Wikipedia


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.

Credit: Wikipedia


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

Credit: Instagram @mrleanlikeacholo


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.

Credit: Associated Press


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

Credit: Instagram @the_anti_gang


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.

Credit: Instagram @javiboys8


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?

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From That Picture With George W. Bush To Dakota Johnson’s Memeworthy Confrontation— A Timeline Of Ellen DeGeneres’ Downfall

Entertainment

From That Picture With George W. Bush To Dakota Johnson’s Memeworthy Confrontation— A Timeline Of Ellen DeGeneres’ Downfall

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Last Thursday, American comedian, television host, and Finding Dory actress Ellen DeGeneres penned a personal memo to the employees of her talk show in an effort to address recent allegations of workplace toxicity.

“My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that,” she said while addressing recent complaints about her contributions to a toxic work environment on the show. “Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

Writing about what she has learned in recent weeks, DeGeneres vowed to push herself “to learn and grow.”

“We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention,” she went on to write. “I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.”

DeGeneres’s letter comes at a time when serious allegations have been made about her and the executive producers on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Still, while current complaints have gone viral recently, they only seem to be part of an upset over the comedian’s behavior that has been years in the making

Check out the timeline of her downward spiral below:

December 2018 – The New York Times publishes the “Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think” headline

In a New York Times profile, reporter Jason Zinoman examined the comedian’s happy television host persona against her 2018 Netflix stand-up special, titled “Relatable”. With a headline that read “Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think,” Zinoman wrote, “In sharp contrast to her public image as everyone’s good friend, happy to listen, she presents herself — with tongue in cheek — as cartoonishly aloof and indifferent, stuck in a privileged bubble, cracking several jokes, for instance, about her fabulous wealth.”

January 2019 – Defense of Kevin Hart and dismissal of his disappointed fans as “haters”

Soon after comedian and actor, Kevin Hart was ousted from his position as an Academy Awards host due to a series of discovered homophobic tweets and jokes he’d made, DeGeneres, invited him to come on her show.

During her interview with him, DeGeneres urged Hart to ignore the backlash he’d received and dismissed his critics as “haters.” Soon after, she appealed to the academy to hire him for the Oscars once again much to her supporters’ chagrin.

October 2019 – DeGeneres takes a photo with George W. Bush

In the fall of 2019, DeGeneres was pictured with former president George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers game. The photo sparked backlash and expressions of disappointment online. After all, during his presidency, Bush pushed for bans on same-sex marriage.
DeGeneres belittled negative comments about the photo writing, “People were upset. They thought, ‘Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?’ “Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”

November 2019 – Dakota Johnson calls DeGeneres out for lying on her own show

Known as the incident that might have first brought down Ellen, Johnson’s 2019 appearance on the comedian’s daytime show undoubtedly opened the floodgates. During an interview with the Fifty Shades Of Grey actress, DeGeneres commented about not being invited to her 30th birthday party asking “How was the party? I wasn’t invited.” Johnson was quick to defend herself in an awkward but honest moment saying “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen. You were invited.”

Oof.

March 2020 – And of course, that viral Twitter post

Months after Johnson’s appearance, a Twitter thread posted by “Gilmore Guys” podcast co-host Kevin T. Porter went viral after he petitioned for negative stories about DeGeneres’s behavior in “exchange for food bank donations.”

The tweet reeled in over 16K comments and a whole lot of horrifying stories about the actress.

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Queer People Are Shouting Their Gratitude For Naya Rivera’s Trailblazing Character Santana Lopez

Entertainment

Queer People Are Shouting Their Gratitude For Naya Rivera’s Trailblazing Character Santana Lopez

Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

There are few queer characters the people can point to in the past as being someone that changed their lives. Santana Lopez, Naya Rivera’s character on “Glee,” is one of them. Even if you’ve never watched “Glee,” Rivera’s character touched you because of how that representation is so important and empowering.

Naya Rivera’s place in LGBTQ+ media representation will be her long-lasting legacy.

Rivera brought us Santana Lopez, a queer Latina navigating the world of high school in a small town. For many, this kind of representation was so rare and often poorly done that Rivera’s command of the role was impactful. You didn’t have to be an avid viewer of the show to understand and appreciate the magnitude of Santana Lopez.

Rivera brought our experience directly to the mainstream and forced our own classmates to think about the way they saw queer people.

Rivera’s ability to capture the awkwardness and terror of being a closeted queer student in high school still resonates. It is a piece of nostalgia that is so deeply ingrained in queer people that it’s hard not to be emotional about Rivera’s sudden and tragic death.

Who can forget the moment Santana used “Landslide” to tell Brittany that she loved her.

The emotion of a love that is not easy to confess and live authentically is real. Ask any queer person you know about coming to terms with her sexuality in high school and you will hear about the fear and excitement. You will hear about the strategic allyships that epitomize the constant battle between being open and staying safe.

Rivera was more than an actress, she was an ally and advocate during her time on “Glee.”

Season 2, when Rivera’s feelings for Brittany (played by Heather Morris) grew, aired from 2010 to 2011. It was a time when marriage equality was not nationwide. Some states still barred same-sex couples from adopting children. Yet, queer high school and college students had a chance to see their experience mirrored because of Rivera’s insistence.

Rivera’s death is a major loss for the queer community that got our strength and courage from her.

Knowing that all of the “Glee” fans were rooting for and falling in love with Santana Lopez gave us a chance to breathe and feel accepted. Adding her Latina heritage was so important. Queer people of color, who have faced increased scrutiny from their own families, had someone representing them completely and sincerely.

Demi Lovato paid tribute by remembering the time she played Santana Lopez’s girlfriend.

The queer Latina love was not lost on fellow queer Latinos. Lovato herself was not out about her sexuality at the time and she admits in her post that Rivera inspired her. Rivera’s efforts to give the character an accurate and respectful storyline will forever be praised and admired as a fully realized manifestation of our experience.

Thank you for being someone we didn’t know we needed, Naya.

Our hearts are broken and our eyes are wet. We send love and hope to your loved ones. Rest in power, mija. We love you and will never forget what you did for our community.

READ: Naya Rivera’s Body Found In Lake Piru After Going Missing During Outing With Son

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