Cholos in the Bronx

My amigo Carlos Alvarez Montero is a street photog extraordinaire. He left Mexico to study photography in N.Y. and found the Firme Rydaz while still in school. He made this documentary, and shortly after went back home where he continues to chronicle gangster subcultures. He sets the flix bar  high. I asked him is if was okay if I jacked his sources and wrote about the bike crew for the Bronxink.org where I’m currently pitching stories. The cool guy he is, he gave me all the numbers I needed to make it happen. So, from D.F. to N.Y.C, I’ll add some more cholo pieces to this blog. Photos below from Firme Rydaz Myspace page.

Cholo Rap: From California To Neza York

Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009    Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez
Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009 Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez

A hard-core rap concert takes place in a mall, just upstairs from a movie theater. No police presence to speak of and very light, but focused security.

Mexican rap (if it’s any surprise) thrives with its own sub-genres. You get the political message from a group like Advertencia Lirica, aging thug wisdom from MC Luka, the spirit of hipster D.F. gets a boost from Mood-Fu, and Pato Machete keeps heads nodding in his post-Control Machete years.

Nothing I’ve heard from groups like Kartel Aztlan or Cartel de Santa prepared me for a showcase of Chicano-style rap that I saw Sunday headlined by Kartel de las Calles along with acts like Neza’s El Plata Ramirez.

Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009
Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009

This was gangster culture as pop culture that I was witnessing (there was one vender selling Nike Cortez, Joker Brand bandanas, Dickies pants and dark sunglasses — a certain type of Mexican-American Apparel and the look of the SoCal cholo.)

Hip-hop culture is being used here to create an identity where rasta, emo, goth, punk, or sporting tight jeans and a colorful scarf just won’t cut it.

KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

Concert-goers came from nearby places such as Naucalpan, Iztapalapa, Ecatepec, La Raza, and of course, Neza York (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl) taking the bus or train in to commune with their peers.

Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009
Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009

There were young men and women with bandanas, jerseys emblazoned with “Los Angeles” in gothic text, “Sureño”, or the always ominous number “13” (as in the Mara kind) scrawled on their shirt backs, their necks, arms and hands.

Writing about the globalization of thug culture and cholo culture in Mexico is nothing new. I’m actually glad it’s been covered before.

Cholos grew out of Chicano, or Mexican-American culture, and found their greatest expression in East Lost Angeles.

Cholo style was most definitely a result of the Mexican immigrant experience in the southern U.S. as opposed to a style found in Mexico itself.

Wrote Jeremy Schwartz in a blog post about noted Mexico City photographer Federico Gama’s pictorial on Neza York cholos in the late 90’s.

Gama’s is a fascinating piece of work and you can see more here, following his bio.

Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

It can seem like aping the culture created in Southern California, but without the high potential for danger associated with venues exclusive to gang-friendly crowds. Still, how can you judge how peer groups want to express their identity? Besides, with every “carnal” or “güey” that I heard, I realized this was Mexico’s young generation making cholo rap their own.

Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009
Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009

Here’s Teto’s set.

Plata Ramirez had good energy:

Sombras Urbanas also did their thing:

For more on other performers that played on Sunday check out:

Nasion Sureña Mexicana (NSM)

Loco Nueces

Kraneo

Don KFE

And for more info on cholo rap on it’s home turf, check out:

Chola rappers

Surenorap.com

Chicano Rap Mag

Looong list of Chicano rap artists

And what some of the smarter folks have to say about it.

IF that’s not enough, download this mixtape for healthy dose of Mexican rap: