Not Down with the Cholos

I went shopping today. I needed a couple of gifts, something for my wife who was not feeling well so she did not come with me and a couple of things for my soon to be Godson. I found everything I needed at amazing good prices and not a lot of browsing. I am a sniper shopper, I know where my target is and go for the kill.

A cholo is a Chicano who dresses like a gang banger. They are not necessarily criminals nor up to no good, but their style choices makes them stand out. They obviously want to portray a tough persona that does not want to be taken lightly. I have not seen many cholos in KC, but I also don’t really hang out in malls or arcades anymore.

My wife has had a stomach ache all day and was taking a nap to try to feel better so I was on my own for dinner. I decided to go to the food court at the mall after I finished shopping. I walked with my bag trying to avoid all the kiosks with the latest gimmicks. I see a couple of cholos sitting on the massage for a quarter chairs and then a couple of more leaning on the hood of the car on display from the local dealer. One of them gives me the stare down but I keep going.

For some reason some Hispanic people have a hard time picking me out as Hispanic. I am not sure if it is my built, I am huskier and a little taller than your average Central American, or maybe my eyes, they are lighter than average. I keep my summer tan all around and always speak Spanish when around people that I suspect speak it. I prefer to be wrong and switch to English than not use Spanish, still today I was once again singled out.

I stopped at an Asian food place, as Asian as Taco Bell is Mexian food, and ordered something. The cholos happened to follow me to the food court and a couple of them decided to order at the same place. As soon as they got in line the Spanish guys behind the counter started to joke with them informally. They did not sound like they knew each other, but they were being friendly.

I tried to order my drink in Spanish but like the hicks on the gas stations in the middle of nowhere that yell “Whaaaat” before I even open my mouth, he spoke in broken English back to me without even listening to what I had just said. When he handed my drink to me I said “gracias” and it finally clicked in his head that I spoke Spanish and maybe that I was also Hispanic.

I sat down in a table where there was not a lot of people around me. Put my bags on the table and started to eat my meal and people watch. A couple of college guys sat adjacent to me with some sandwiches and the cholos sat right in front of me. A couple of them started staring right at me but I ignored them and looked elsewhere. All of a sudden I saw a couple of kids on full punk wear and purple hair.

The cholos kept up their staring down at everyone around them and I thought of the time when my friend Travis actually had a physical confrontation in a mall. I have at least 100 pound on even the bigger one out of the group and I doubt they have any other experience but street fighting which is still dangerous but people tend to freeze after an elbow is dislocated or a wrist is broken. I certainly did not want to get into a fight, so I continue to ignore them and finish my meal.

Then a sad thought entered my head. I actually would have felt more comfortable sitting with the purple hair girl and the kids with the ripped jean than with the cholos. I see no point on trying to be tough or intimidate people or wear clothes that are way too baggy. I am glad I have so many friends and they are so different from one another, I even have a lot of Hispanic friends but I cannot seem to be down with the cholos.

6 comments on “Not Down with the Cholos

  1. The ironic thing about the whole situation is that they probably have the exact opposite perception of how others see them. I grew up in Compton, an area filled with Cholos and black gangsters. Naturally, I become friends with many of them, and it was always the case that when we went to an area that had a lower level of Cholos, they always walked proud and it was almost like an ego boost. Thoughts of superiority and being more in tune with the ‘manly side’ were common.

    It wasn’t until later, much later really, that I realized that dressing like a cholo, wearing size 50+ pants, and mad dogging people was not something that others highly admired – and most people that didn’t accept the challenge didn’t do so not necessarily because they were scared, but because they didn’t want to ‘waste their time’ on someone they see as lost, in a dead end life. Quite a culture shock really, and one I still have flashbacks of and still need getting used to.

  2. i understand your vibes. the world can be a real tricky place. you might find your friends so far removed from your experience.

  3. Well, I’m glad you didn’t have to break out your mad kung fu skills on them in the mall in front of God and everybody!! =)

  4. I’m not familiar with the term “cholos”. Do they use that label for themselves or is it something that outsiders use to describe them?

    Back home we had a group we called kikkers. They were basically suburbanites, often but not always from the lower class suburbs, that embraced country or cowboy culture. They wore the hats and the belt-buckles and the boots. They exaggerated their drawl and spit a lot. They were mostly looked upon as poseurs, though, because their interest in hickdom pretty much ended with their appearance and demeanor. It sounds like your cholos are a bit more authentic than that, albeit in a way that’s harder to simply grow out of than for kikkers.

  5. Strangely, there’s a mexican restaurant on the North Shore on Oahu called Cholo’s. I think the only reason they get away with it is due to the extremely low percentage of Hispanics that live on the island. The people that were like the cholos that you described were the Samoans in our school. I swear, I had friends that literally just happened to look over at them and then the Samoans would be harassing them forever and threatening to kick their asses for giving “stink eye.” It was a scary threat, since the Samoans were larger than most of the men on our football team.

  6. The sucky thing about this is that he probably knew very well you you speaking Spanish and was trying to shut you down for pretending to be in the club without being brown enough.

    I get this all the time. I’m kinda stuck in the middle, gabacho who grew up wit da cholos in LA then found that bicultural doesn’t buy you crap with people who don’t know you.

    We’re not Americans any more, we’re “communities” trying frantically to feel like we belong to something. According to Sherman Alexie, American Indians obsess over who’s Indian enough to deserve the label (and the glamor I guess).

    So I finally had to invent my own ethnicity, and if I like you enough, I might let you in.

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