Cholo was applied to individuals of mixed American Indian and Mestizo ancestry. However, its precise usage has varied widely in different times and places.

The term's use is first recorded in a Peruvian book published in 1609 and 1616, the Comentarios Reales de los Incas by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. He writes (in Spanish) "Cholo is a word from the Windward Islands; it means dog, not of the purebred variety . . . . the Spaniards use it for insult and vituperation

In Colonial Mexico, the terms cholo and coyote co-existed, indicating mixed Mestizo and Amerindian ancestry.

Cholo as an English-language term dates at least to the early 1900s, derived from the Peruvian reference mentioned above. Isela Alexsandra Garcia of the University of California at Berkeley writes that the term can be traced to Mexico, where in the early part of the last century it referred to "culturally marginal" mestizos and Native American origin.

An article in the Los Angeles Express of April 2, 1907, headlined "Cleaning Up the Filthy Cholo Courts Has Begun in Earnest", uses the terms cholos and Mexicans interchangeably. The term cholo courts was defined in The Journal of San Diego History as "sometimes little more than instant slums as shanties were strewn almost randomly around city lots in order to create cheap horizontal tenements. The use of the term in these articles indicates that it meant simply poor Mexicans.

The term has two somewhat different meanings, one in the United States, Canada and Mexico and another in the rest of the Americas.

Mexico and north

In modern Mexico and the U.S., "Cholo" is a term used for a tough Mexican Gangster. A cholo is stereotypically depicted as wearing loose fitting khaki pants shorts with white knee-high socks, creased jeans, so-called "wifebeater" white tee shirts, flannel shirts buttoned all the way to the top or unbuttoned except for the top button, and Charlie Brown shirts. Cholos are known for starching and pressing their pants and shirts. Typical colors worn by a Cholo are black, blue, gray, and white. A stereotypical Chola is depicted as wearing lots of make-up, often with penciled-in eyebrows. Another main factor of a typical Chola is their constant presence in any Cholo group -- known sometimes as the groupies of the gang.

Cholos often wear military belts. Cholos in the 1990s and 2000s usually have a shaved head due to Sureño affiliation, though some continue to have the more traditional slicked-back hair, sometimes held in place by a hair net or a bandana. A bandana may also be worn in the rear pants pocket, and can identify gang affiliation, sexual orientation or simply be an accessory.

Footwear may include traditional athletic shoes, such as Converse, Nike Cortez, Stacy Adams or Adidas sneakers or Huaraches. Cholos may wear white t-shirts, or embroidered white or pale blue short sleeve, collared shirts. Popular "Cholo" brands include Dickies, Ben Davis, Joker, Lowrider, and Bighouse. Some cholos, particularly older cholos, or cholos wishing to adopt a more refined look, wear formal wear inspired by zoot suit fashion, including dress shirts with suspenders, and fedora hats, but may still retain cholo elements such as a bandana or hair net. Cholos in rural areas, as well as many in northern Mexico may also wear some elements of cowboy or "ranchero" wear, and may even alternate between the two styles. These are more commonly referred to as "Kickers".

This same designation may also be associated with black ink tattoos, commonly involving gang calligraphy, or family names and art. A cholo might also stereotypically own a lowrider. A majority of cholos are Sureno 13 members which employ the Chicano term of ese in a way to call someone dude, like "What's up, ese?" or "¡Órale, ese!". This word in Spanish means that one or that guy, but it also is the letter S, which some have said stands for Sureño, a member of a certain street gang. Another term with essentially the same meaning is Vato, which can be used in the same way.

It is this particular image that Cheech Marin drew on in the Cheech & Chong films. There is also a reference to "The Cholo" in Assault on Precinct 13, although it is used to refer specifically to a blood oath instead of a Mexican person. In the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite, Nano and Arturo De Silva play characters simply referred to as "Cholo No. 1" and "Cholo No. 2". In the videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, there is a street gang called the Cholos who resemble the stereotypical gangster image of a Cholo. The usage was reportedly more prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s than today, though it was still fairly widespread in some areas in the 1990s. The term gained even further notoriety in 2007 in the United States with the song "Lean Like a Cholo" by Down AKA Kilo.

In South Texas, cholos are sometimes referred to as chucs or chukes. Tejano cholos typically make heavy use of starch on their jeans (mostly denim).

In the English-speaking world of the United States, the word is most primarily and heavily used in Caló slang, but it in turn has infiltrated into mainstream American English use. Most specifically, the term "Cholo" when used in American English is likely to be done so by people associated with American youth movements such as the Chicano/Mexican-American/white & black lowrider subcultures, African-American gangsters of the Western United States, or the hip hop scene in general. Suicidal Tendencies and other Los Angeles hardcore punk rock groups popularized elements of Cholo fashion during the 1980s.

Racial and cultural status, along with social class are reflected in the term cholo itself, which was adopted in California in the 1960s by youth following the pachuco tradition, as a label for that identity (Cuellar 1982). In 1571, Fray Alonso de Molina, in his Nahuatl vocabulary (Vocabulario en Lengua Castellana y Mexicana Y Mexicana y Castellana), defined the word xolo as slave, servant, or waiter. The Porrúa Dictionary defines cholo, as used in the Americas, as a civilized Indian or a half-breed or mestizo of a European father and Indian mother. The word has historically been used along the borderland as a derogatory term to mean lower class Mexican migrants, and in the rest of Latin America to mean an acculturating Indian or peasant.

To explain the stigma accruing to the Indian component of the term "Cholo", it is useful to look at another word containing assessments of racial and cultural identity: indio, the Spanish word for Indian, which in Mexico conveys two principal images. First, there is the image of Indian identity communicated in nationalist discourse taught to children in elementary school about "the brave and noble Indian Heritage" of Mexicans. However, another definition seems more pervasive on an every-day basis in popular discourse, and that is the use of the term "indio" as a common insult to mean dumb, uncivilized, or unsophisticated. This is also implied in widely-used popular phrases such as "acaba de bajar del cerro" (someone who just came down out of the hills), or "trae el nopal en la frente" (the image of a person with a prickly pear cactus on his or her forehead). The cactus, of course, is one of the elements in the symbol of the Aztecs and appears in the national seal on the Mexican flag. These phrases ostensibly refer to Mexican identity, but do not appear to be used to refer to persons of primarily European descent and cultural background. Rather they refer to the peasant population of the ranchos.

Despite, or because of, its long history of denigrating semantics, the term Cholo was turned on its head and used as a symbol of pride in the context of the ethnic power movements of the 1960s. See also: Naco

"Cholas" and "Cholitas" are females who adopt similar fashions. Cholas may wear clothing that is very similar to Cholos, such as Dickies pants or baggy jeans, tank-tops or t-shirts, as well as halter-tops or blouses. Cholas in the 1980s and 1990s often curled their hair and teased it upward, with hair gel or haispray (the so-called "Scare-do"), and often wore black or dark lipstick and bright eye shadow. In the past, cholas were generally the sisters or girlfriends of cholos, but in recent years, increasingly form gangs or friendships in their own right.

South of Mexico

Under the casta system of colonial Latin America, the term Cholo originally applied to the children resulting from the union of a Mestizo and an Amerindian; that is, someone of three quarters Amerindian and one quarter Spanish ancestry. More precisely, the term was specific to the Viceroyalty of Peru and neighbouring Andean regions of South America. In El Salvador, the word cholo means big, large (grande).

During the colonial era a myriad of other terms (mestizo, castizo, chamizo, etc.) were in use to denote other individuals of European/Amerindian ancestry in ratios smaller or greater of Spanish-to-Amerindian ancestry. The term is most commonly associated with Peru and Bolivia.{{Fact|date=February 2008

Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador

In modern-day Peru and Bolivia, "cholo" is a widely used term which generally refers to people with various amounts of Amerindian racial ancestry. Among Peruvians, the term mestizo is not commonly used as part of the language or as a anthropomorphic descriptor although in other Latin American countries is usually used for those of various proportions of Caucasoid European to Amerindian ancestry.

The term " cholo " is becoming an element badge and unifier of the current Peru progressively. According to several specialists in the topic, it has evolved and acquired a character of gentile for the vast majority of inhabitants of the South American country. The Peruvians are identified themselves without complex, as " cholos ". In recent years, extensive migration into larger urban centers and diffusion of cultural values beyond the cities into rural areas of Peru has resulted in shifting of meaning of "cholo" to include vast numbers of people. This category now encompases 1) all of those of exclusively Native American ancestry; 2) those with predominantly indigenous ancestry, independently of their social status; and 3) those with any noticeable amount of amerindian heritage further categorized by socioeconomic status. The latter group may escape to such categorization based on a more "European" caucasoid appearance or a wealthier social stautus ("cholo con plata"). This categorization as "cholo" is independent of migratory status in relation to the rural or interior regions of the country, whether they live in urban areas and cities, whether they have taken up urban European cultural practices, and whether are bilingual or monolingual in Spanish or a native language such as Quechua o Aymara. This category of cholo is also independent of wheter a new migrant into large urban centers identify solely with their newly adopted urban cultural norms or not. In that latter context, the usage may occur as a derogatory term when used by the upper economic strata or those of predominat white European appearance. It must be noted however that such use pejorative use of the term does not conform to the generally accepted definition of cholo by the greater proportion of the mixed and native amerindians which together comprise approximately 82% of the population. The term mestizo is not used in Peru except in remote areas by the purely amerindian and it is only of historical interest. The term indio is reserved for the ethnic groups living in the amazon basin o "selva." The term "negro" o "zambo" is used for those of noticeable negroid origin, generally without pejorative meaning. See additional information on usage of these terms in more detail in Ricardo Palma's "Tradiciones Peruanas"..

In Ecuador, "Cholo" is also used to denote a greater affinity for Amerindian than Spanish heritage for mixed-race people. Cholos in Ecuador reside typically in communities whose members are mestizos whose ancestry is both Spanish and Amerindian — often greater Spanish than Amerindian. Yet apart from their apparent Spanish descent and monolingualism in Spanish, their garb, culture and customs, their traditional occupations and many times their surnames are more typical of highland Quichua Amerindians than of Spaniards. This circumstance is in contrast to the evolution of mestizo identity and life throughout the rest of Latin America, where the emphasis has always been placed solely on the Spanish side. In Ecuador as well as in Peru and Bolivia a select elite group of persons with more caucasoid "European" mores and habits, including a more white-appearing fisiognomy have traditionally monopolized the social discourse and handed down labels and tags of racial and social status to the lower classes. Because of the obvious reason is to maintain their staus of dominance in the realm of culture and economy, the discourse on these an other concepts by such groups is suspect of being biased towards that end.

A widely known example of the former are the "Cholas Cuencanas", from the colonial city of Cuenca in the southern region of that country.

When not specifically referring to the above-mentioned mixed caucasoid-amerindian communities, the term cholo generally may convey the same connotations of Amerindian ancestry in various proportions than Spanish. Most of the population would not qualify as pure caucasoid but instead of a mixed-race person as it does in other Andean countries. The term as used in Ecuador is supposedly a neutral term to designate the human groups described above. It may be used, however, following the colonial Spanish manner of speech as a pejorative term to disparage someone as being a member of the "lower class", a designation historically associated and usually reserved to maintain in check the social status of those of greater Amerindian admixture.

Chile and Argentina

In Chile and Argentina, "cholo" also at times may connote a person of unmixed Amerindian ancestry or predominantly Amerindian appearance.

In Chile the term is used almost exclusively to refer to Chileans with strong amerindias appearance and immigrants as well as Peruvian and Bolivian Immigrants. Sometimes it can be used as an insult. It may also be applied to anyone of unmixed Amerindian ancestry or predominantly Amerindian appearance, except if the person is a fellow Chilean. In that case, the term used is "Indio" if is a man or "India" if is a woman.

In Argentina "Cholo" and "Chola" are also commonly used as nicknames, not only for those who would be considered cholos. It is sometimes considered a negative epithet or may be known or used only as a nickname, such as the case of Argentine football (soccer) player Cholo Simeone.

See also


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