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Mexican(?) Thais and Mexican ties

22 March 2014

(Thanks to Chris Simms, for noting a misunderstanding of mine that required a revision.  I moved two paragraphs and rewrote part of one.  Revisions in italics)

This video from Coconuts TV (“The weird and wonderful of south Asia”) was posted on Borderlands Beat under the headline “Young Thai men emulate Mexican cholos”.

The headline  confirms my sense that “Borderlands Beat” is less a Mexican site than a U.S. one, where “Mexican” and “Mexican-American” are assumed to be the same thing.  “Cholo” is not a word usually found in Mexico (although according to the 1571 “Vocabulario en Lengua Castellana y Mexicana” of Fray Alonso de Molina, there is the Nahuatl word “Xolo” … slave or kitchen-servant).  Where it is found used regularly is in South America (especially in the Andean countries) as a sometimes derogatory term for those of indigenous descent (or, in parts of Bolivia, for those of Afro-Indigenous descent).

Somehow, in the United States, the term was applied to “Latino” gangs  in California and later in other U.S. urban areas with a Latin American immigrant and descendant underclass.  Often poorly educated and underemployed (like most gang-bangers), the “Cholo” style is described as one adopted by:

A person, typically young,  associated with gangs and apparel such as loose pants, a white tee-shirt worn under a well-ironed shirt buttoned only at the neck, and sneakers.

“Cholo” would be seems to be more  “Hispanic” phenomenon than a Mexican one in the strictest sense.  Although there are “Cholos” in some Mexican cities, they are seen as a foreign import, rather than another autochthonous.  I will say that the only Cholos I’ve seen in Mexico have been returned migrants who were raised in the United States, or U.S. citizens of Mexican descent visiting relations here.

At least in the United States, Cholos are often also heavily tattood.  While tattoos were never uncommon in Mexico, the “body ink” gave them a sinister image when the practice was also taken up by  Salvadorian gangs in U.S. prisons.  Deported from the U.S. those gangsters … and their style … reached El Salvador (and other Central American states) and has given  Cholos style (whether the actual person is a criminal or not)  a much more sinister image in Mexico and Central America  beyond that of a simple ethnic marker. 

The native Cholos are  — in the snarky view of one commentary — also found in Tepito and other  Mexican “ghetto” areas, either involved in petty mischief (like grafitti painting) or as gunmen for criminal gangs, have a taste for cumbia, hip-hop and rap, and tacky girlfriends.

While perhaps a rather picayune quibble — and I know many Mexican-Americans reject the idea that Mexican-Americans and Mexicans are culturally different, it doesn’t strike me as all that strange that some Mexicans, and some Thais have taken up a foreign style.  Coca-cola and blue jeans are not the only U.S. cultural exports, nor are Mexican influences in Asia limited to chiles.  But whether the Thais have taken up a U.S. style, a Mexican one, a Mexican-American one,  simply created a Thai version of what they see as a Mexican variation of a Mexican-American style is something I can’t answer.

Young Thai men emulate Mexican cholos Borderlands Beat 20 March 2014

Tribus Urbanas:  Los Cholos Formacion Cultural 6 June 2012)

Antonio, Giovanna,  and Norma.  Cholos  Tribus Ubanas (Blogspot) November 2010

One Comment leave one →
  1. chris sims permalink
    22 March 2014 10:31 am

    “Cholos are often heavily tattood, a style that may have sprung from from the practices of Salvadoran gangs in US prisons.”
    Nonsense,cholos have been heavily tattood since way before there were Salvadoran gangs in the US which didn’t happen until the mass immigrations due to the civil war there in the 80s.

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