culture

This Queer Colombian Muralist Is Changing The World One Wall At A Time

@jessicasabogal / Instagram

Jessica Sabogal is a Colombian muralist adding her unique beauty to walls from the Bay Area to Canada to nationally distributed posters. Sabogal begins each project by researching the neighborhood her work will be showcased. Then, she decides what la gente need to see to disrupt their daily lives. Her work has commemorated trans lives lost, showcased queer women taking up space, and exalted immigrants as “greatness.”

Primero, meet Jessica Sabogal.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal was born and raised in San Francisco, born to Colombian immigrants who narrowly escaped Pablo Escobar’s pervasive violence and terror in their community. They came for education and they gave their daughter a college education.

Sabogal graduated from UC San Diego in 2009.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She became politically active during her undergraduate career and majored in Political Science. By the time she graduated, however, she couldn’t imagine putting on a suit and tie and working in politics. So she put on a gas mask and got some spray paint instead.

 Sabogal started with stencil spray painting.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She wanted to make political statements on a larger scale, and, shockingly, the mere mirroring of Latinx culture is a political statement. Soon, her stencil art started to go viral.

This image of Chicana writer and theorist, Cherríe Moraga, is one of her first viral works.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Since then, she’s started the “Women are Perfect” campaign, which depicted different portraits of her feminist icons. Some critics have claimed that this campaign sets an impossible standard for women, and that women don’t have to be perfect.

Sabogal’s message is that women already possess perfection, without having to try.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She aims to portray real women in her lives. Indigenous women from her homeland in Colombia. Her intern. Her neighbors, educators and other activists in the community. These women make up “Women are Perfect.”

Soon, she started being commissioned to paint entire walls.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

She’s making sure that White America can see Brown and Black America. That White America doesn’t forget their privilege, and the power that comes with it to dismantle white supremacy.

Sabogal’s art is la lucha against gentrification.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

This mural went up in Salt Lake City as part of the city’s mural project. In an interview with Slug Magazine, Sabogal explained her goal for this specific work of art:

“My work always has two intentions. If you see it and you get it, it’s for you. I hope it’s validating and grounding for you. For the folks that feel anything else, if they feel uncomfortable or [question] why it’s in Spanish, or don’t immediately understand its importance, it’s for [them] too. My goal is to make you curious about your apprehension to the work, to sit in it and have the uncomfortable conversations about it.

Sabogal has continued her family’s legacy of prioritizing education first.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

Her work has moved her parents. Her mother, Regina Otero-Sabogal has described Jessica as someone who doesn’t ever give up, and it shows.

She has committed herself to raising awareness and combatting violence against the trans community.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Chyna Gibson was a black trans woman murdered in Sacramento earlier this year.

Caption: “The death of Chyna Gibson, the death of Stephon Clark, the deaths of the countless names we hear every day on the news, were not isolated incidents. As the artists responsible for memorializing Chyna Gibson’s legacy, we could not do so without pushing the viewer to draw connections to broader structural issues of oppression and violence. We can not talk about racism without taking about whiteness. We can not talk about Black lives matter without talking about Black Trans Lives. We can not look at problems at the individual level when they affect our families and communities as a whole. So we urge you that stand here today, to ask yourselves the question, what will you do to protect our trans community?”

Her campaign has garnered the attention of powerhouses like Laverne Cox.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Because women are perfect, and Jessica Sabogal is one of them. She’s currently actively seeking queer, trans, women of color in the Bay Area for her next project. If that’s you, slide into her DM’s, it’s all welcome.

Showcasing lesbians and queer folks has proven controversial.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

The above mural was created in Montreal during the annual Decolonizing Street Art Convergence, and critics have spoken out about it. In an interview with Xpress Magazine, Sabogal said, “Why is it a big deal for me to produce a big lesbian mural in Canada? I am discovering it is a big deal because it is still not being talked about.”

Though she has received wide, positive reception, even commissioning the walls of Facebook headquarters.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

“Muralism for me is the beginning of a creation of my own political system—my own way of bringing about the most change I possibly can,” she told Slug Magazine. “In a way, they are small “advertisements” created in the name of my own people instead of trying to target us to buy something. They bring validation instead of trying to take something from us.”

Her murals say what we all want to, and it cannot be ignored.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal makes a huge effort to put indigenous people at the center of her work. No white person can argue with that statement, and it’s too true for so many in our community.

Her murals have been so powerful that some people have defaced the work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal, joined with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Melinda James, together called When Women Disrupt, traveled the country creating murals on college campuses. This one was defaced in Los Angeles, at USC. It was restored.

“I will not mourn the decline of whiteness in my America.”

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

“Liberation is not white,” “White supremacy is killing me,” “America is Black,” and other statements have captured the attention of so many, and of course given some white folks some strong opinions.

When Women Rebel have defended their work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

On its website, the feminist collective wrote, “By confronting communities in the public space with art that uplifts the voices and sacredness of people whom history has often rendered invisible and less than human, WWD’s intention is to provoke greater discussion and thinking about the institutionalized and everyday systems of power and representation that reinforce racism, patriarchy, and inequity.”

In a medium that is male dominated, just by creating her work, Sabogal is breaking glass ceilings.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

You might have recognized much of her work as part of Shepard Fairley’s “We The People” Public Art Campaign. I’m shocked if you haven’t screenshotted any of these images to your IG story.

You can buy her prints on her website.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

JessicaSabogal.com is home to all of her work, in highest resolution, along with a shop of her available work. Want to support a queer Colombiana while making your home modern and welcoming AF? Here’s you chance.

And bring your truth to life all around you.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

Here we are, in all our glory. Her latest campaign is called “Our Existence Will No Longer Be Silenced.” It goes onto say that “we require no explanations, apologies, or approvals.”

Whatever you do, follow her work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

You can follower her on Instagram @jessicasabogal, support her artistry at JessicaSabogal.com or just go right ahead and add her work to your IG story already. She lifts us all up. Vamos a dar lo mismo.


READ: You’re About To Want All Boricua Elizabeth Barreto’s Illustrations Tattooed On Your Body

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13 Things You Should Know About Cholo Culture

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?

Credit: Wikipedia


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.

Image result for moby-dick

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

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.

Zootsuit2.jpg

Credit: Wikipedia

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

Credit: Instagram @powwowfutures


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

Credit: Instagram @ogbiglelo


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

Image result for cholas

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

Credit: Instagram @tonifrancois

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

Credit: Instagram @thechaoschronicles


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. 

Credit: Instagram @marco_ojeda449


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

Credit: Instagram @txchnxlxgy


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.

Image result for lowriders california

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

Credit: Instagram @pakitorod777


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

Credit: Wikipedia

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!

Credit: Instagram @enchantedpopup


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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