The Glorification of the Chola

So I decided that during the Christmas and New Year’s break I would do the big sister thing and spend some quality educational fun time with my three younger sisters and their, like omigod BFFL! who lives next door. Naturally, I took them to The Getty! We rode the tram, imagined what it would be like to live in the mountains, saw an amazing display of medieval treasures and wonderful old books with very cool letters, the kind that the old Disney cartoons like Sleeping Beauty use to open up with. We also saw this really great display of photography, “In Focus: The Nude” which resulted in a lot of shocked faces! Haha! It was great!
As I decided to ignore the continued giggles of the crew I was rolling with, I made my way to the photography of
Graciela Iturbide, whose 30 years of work was displayed in the largest hall the Getty had to offer. I was really getting into the imagine of the tragic melancholy Magnolia, a transvestite living in Mexico, whose masculine body looked demure in a black and white still, his short bob hair cut drastically cutting his chiseled face, his pearls and long dress roaring at me in the feminine ideals of our society… when I heard “OHMYGOD WENDY!! COME HERE!!” never mind that we were in a museum and I was secretly tailing a very cute guy. I turned around and saw one of my sisters running towards me, “they have pictures of East LA!”
Whaaaaaat?!
So they take me to the other end of the hall and lo and behold, there amidst the walls of the Getty, also part of Gloria’s exhibit, were countless images of Cholas trapped in 1986. Wearing classic1980 Chola couture, the o.g. docker pants, white tank tops, big feathered bangs, dark raccoon eye shadow, thin eyebrows and throwing up their gangsta signs. On the wall, an inscription,
“a society so marginalized without a voice, they created a language of sings, only they hear”.
Wow. Really? How poetic.

As people gazed at the pictures, I wondered what they wondered. What were they thinking? As it happened to be, maybe by pure coincidence, we were the only Latinas in the room. I couldn’t help but feel like people were looking at us wondering why we weren’t wearing bandanas. One of my sisters said, “pshhh. this is so old school. Cholas don’t even dress like this anymore” No, no they don’t. I mean, the modern chola has highlights and a Coach bag.
Cholas have come a long way since Aqua Net. Someone needs to update this asap!
Maybe I should Ask A Chola.

I can appreciate the display, the pictures, the attempt to showcase a group of people who often times are criticized and viewed in a negative way. I take issue with the display being seen by those that don’t know any better, as current. Yes, it clearly says 1986, however, there are no current pictures of East LA, there are no signs of progress there are no signs of prosperity. Or maybe I’m just thinking that there is nothing special about these pictures because I saw it live and in person while growing up in East LA. Primer Impacto status.
And most of the time, I was scared!
I didn’t want to get shot, stabbed or jacked!!


Nonetheless, any of those women stuck and fragmented in the photography could have been anyone from my neighborhood, and certain members of my family. In a way, I feel a sense of wanting to protect them from the curious looks of casual observers. Prevent the objectification of class and social status.
Maybe it’s a sense of wanting to protect what I know and what is familiar.
There is more to cholas than meets the eye dammit!
Besides the image, there is a culture, a sense of belonging, an sense of identity and family.
A friend once said to me, “Wendy, you would be a great chola, you have the look.”
Really? What is it? The long dark hair? The arched eyebrows? The don’t mess with me attitude? The “I will cut you” looks? I know, I’m fierce.

The display itself is aight at best. The pictures aren’t that great. It’s a definite must see, but also bit on the lame side. The fact that the Getty would commission this work is wonderful. Speaks volumes on the analysis of what art and our society is really all about. But at the same token, its a bit dry for my taste. The exhibit ends April 13th, 2008. Go see it. Its Free.

You know Cholas are big time when celebrities want to be like them.

Here are some celebirty Cholas I love.
JLo from Get Right Video:

Pendejo, gets on my nerves…

Yeah…he’s an eediioot. Gwen from Luxurious video:
(why is there always a white girl wanting to be a chola?)


Fergie on London Bridge video with her two chola friends:
So… what is a chola?
According to the Urban Dictionary user Suavecita:
1. CHOLA
A chola is a firme hyna (latina) that wears a lot of makeup: thick eyeliner, liquid eyeliner on top going out of your eye dark brown or red lipstick and eyebrows drawn on or really thin. We mostly have permed hair with hella gel or straight and arched on top. We kick it with people in our own barrio and not really claiming a color mainly your raza. (Brown Pride) or (Barrio)and wear baggy or tight cloths with nike cortez shoes.
We bang our barrio and raza and got fine ass vatos!!!!

Well, I haven’t seen a fine ass vato in a long ass time, so I have to question the last part, but I do agree on the rest! And just a FYI, when State Senator Gloria Romero, an o.g Chola in a suit, became the Senate Majority Leader, she got up on a podium in Manhattan Beach and yelled out “ORALE!!!! Thanks for being here!!!” and also, the Cholas that run the Boys and Girls Club where I vote are hella cool and very informed on the issues. Last election, they were like, “mija, have you voted yet? Where is your sister? Bring her. We need all of our raza to vote. Here, take a sticker.”

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22 thoughts on “The Glorification of the Chola

  1. durante says:

    What would your chola name be? Sad Clown? Shy Girl?

    I have to question your concern about cholas being objectified via the exhibit–isn’t anything on exhibit left to the judgment of those that don’t know?

    That Ask a Chola site is hilarious!

    durante vita

  2. durante says:

    What would your chola name be? Sad Clown? Shy Girl?

    I have to question your concern about cholas being objectified via the exhibit–isn’t anything on exhibit left to the judgment of those that don’t know?

    That Ask a Chola site is hilarious!

    durante vita

  3. Pachuco 3000 says:

    I saw the same exhibit. It was aight. (sp?)

    Iturbide’s Catholicism and her upper class gaze oozed all over the place. Perfect for WASPs to relate with. “See even Mexicans see Mexicans as poor, exotic, hedonistic and prone to violence.”

    I think you should take on Ask A Chola in a who is a real chola. I think she might be faking the funk just like Lil Loca.

  4. Pachuco 3000 says:

    I saw the same exhibit. It was aight. (sp?)

    Iturbide’s Catholicism and her upper class gaze oozed all over the place. Perfect for WASPs to relate with. “See even Mexicans see Mexicans as poor, exotic, hedonistic and prone to violence.”

    I think you should take on Ask A Chola in a who is a real chola. I think she might be faking the funk just like Lil Loca.

  5. Margarita says:

    LOL!My Chola name was Little Loca…can the real Lil Loca please stand up…which evolved to my tagger name that lasted one day as i wrote my name in pencil on the Jr. High bathroom door and then erased it cuz this chola was going to college and then grew up to get her degree, highlights, and coach glasses. They need to take pics of biz cholas…lol.

    I miss my cut you look. I think we need to bring it back along with the big feather bangs. Wahaha!

    -Margarita Happy Hour

  6. Margarita says:

    LOL!My Chola name was Little Loca…can the real Lil Loca please stand up…which evolved to my tagger name that lasted one day as i wrote my name in pencil on the Jr. High bathroom door and then erased it cuz this chola was going to college and then grew up to get her degree, highlights, and coach glasses. They need to take pics of biz cholas…lol.

    I miss my cut you look. I think we need to bring it back along with the big feather bangs. Wahaha!

    -Margarita Happy Hour

  7. Estrella Luna says:

    I liked the post. The part that really made me laugh was…there is always a white girl chola. The one I grew up with even had the back yard tat.

  8. Estrella Luna says:

    I liked the post. The part that really made me laugh was…there is always a white girl chola. The one I grew up with even had the back yard tat.

  9. tacosam says:

    Wendy, great post. You forgot to mention the part about Boo-Boo, the Baby Cholo in the Exhibit. See, cholos are very family oriented like all Latinos!! Eh!

  10. momo Rodriguez says:

    Cholas.. a work of Art… “Imagine”

    Isn’t this a seen from Blood in Blood Out.. remember then the cholo friends show up and mess up the art gallery..

    Let Hope Nobody messes it up///

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wendy,

    You have made an excelent analysis. I don’t even feel like putting in my two cents because I couldn’t have put it better myslef.

    Edgar

  12. The Clerk says:

    found the blog thru google.
    It reminds me of myself when I analyze things.
    I too was one a cholo! hahaha…oh how the days have come and gone.

    nice blog.

  13. The Clerk says:

    found the blog thru google.
    It reminds me of myself when I analyze things.
    I too was one a cholo! hahaha…oh how the days have come and gone.

    nice blog.

  14. Mariposa says:

    Snap, snap, Mujer! I saw the same exhibit, I thought the photos were fine, not outstanding, and not even original considering Cholas have been taken these photos for generations. I had my qualms about the East LA, Gloria Iturbide chose to depict but I also understand the attractiveness of Chola style and culture. Growing up as a sassy little gay boy in Montebello a lot of my amigas were Chola Chic. The sky-scrapper platforms; microscopic hoochie-dress; platinum hair; beer can bangs and inch thick make up; they were the first glamazons I encountered; and the first inspirations in my life. It was just a matter of time before they were in the spot light.

  15. Mariposa says:

    Snap, snap, Mujer! I saw the same exhibit, I thought the photos were fine, not outstanding, and not even original considering Cholas have been taken these photos for generations. I had my qualms about the East LA, Gloria Iturbide chose to depict but I also understand the attractiveness of Chola style and culture. Growing up as a sassy little gay boy in Montebello a lot of my amigas were Chola Chic. The sky-scrapper platforms; microscopic hoochie-dress; platinum hair; beer can bangs and inch thick make up; they were the first glamazons I encountered; and the first inspirations in my life. It was just a matter of time before they were in the spot light.

  16. Bibi Piola says:

    Have you ever wondered who “Ask A Chola” is, behind that green guise? Do her ridiculous accents and sordid attempts at humor ever leave you doubtful that a real Mexicana/Chicana/Latina could possibly create such humiliating attempts of humor? If so, you’re not alone.

    “Ask A Chola” made several ludicrous assertions about herself. Namely, she states, “I am Aztlan. I am Mexican,” when the reality is that she is white. Chloe Michalopoulos is a white woman who lives in an expensive loft in the gentrified section of Santa Ana. She was educated at Berkeley, UCLA and Harvard, and she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to capitalize off of a particularly vitriolic form of brown face. What she cannot accept is being questioned. In other words, she’s a complete bigot. i have it on very good authority that she is greek-american, is the wealthy daughter of a prominent academic, has spent a lot of time in mexico and south america picking up slang, and lives in the gentrified part of santa ana — where mexicans and chicanos used to lives, and is now populated by whites.

    This is how postmodernism goes really wrong. You can not just take on any identity without a real stake in what it means to be in that skin with all the negative and positives that come with it. I see the complexity and desire to use performance as a way to challenge truths you might not be able to do from your own body but:

    Black face, brown face, yellow face. Cholas can speak for themselves. Appropriation of culture without any respect for history is lame and is exactly what it looks like. A cheap imitation.

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