Fernandez-Alvarado: Stop the cultural appropriation of Cholx aesthetics

The cholx aesthetic was more than a fashion style,

it was an entire culture.

(Erica Pahua/Daily Emerald)

It goes hoop earrings, lip liner, crunched up hair and winged eyeliner. That was the aesthetic: the look that all my cousins rocked. They would kick back in their Dickies jeans and GenX shirts while nodding off to MC Magic and N.O.R.E. in the living room.

The cholx style came with an attitude that became iconic in all communities for “fuck you up” glares and high arch eyebrows. The cholx aesthetic that is known today derived from the Zoot suits style and the 1960s chicano pride movement. This look was dramatic and demanded attention during a time when many Latinx individuals would hide due to fear of harassment.

But it was also a look that raised problems from people outside of the community. Police would use this look as a reason to practice “stop-and-frisk” and store owners would use it as an excuse to follow people around in case of theft. A style that was rooted as a source of pride began to be associated with gangs and drug violence. In the end, the cholx aesthetic that we know of today is not as dramatic and has taken a more modern approach.

So you could imagine my frustration when I found a post on my Twitter feed from Kylie and Kendall Jenner in which they dressed a model in a flannel buttoned from the top, black slacks and hoop earrings.

This aesthetic, a look that made many of my family members more vulnerable to police brutality, was being used for profit by two privileged white girls.

I know the complex association that Mexican communities have with cholxs. The truth is that this example of cultural appropriation is different from white girls wearing box braids or wearing a chief headdress because this kind of culture was something that Mexicans in my community are not proud of.

As a child, I witnessed the last wave of cholxs in my hometown of Woodburn, Oregon. I remember going through my city and realizing that I did not see one cholx person and then immediately thinking “thank God.” My siblings and I were pulled from going to our local school because our parents feared gang violence would harm us or pull us in.  

This culture was not glorified in my community and was looked at as the cause of many problems from low graduation rates and teen pregnancies to violence and substance abuse. But the reality was that these were kids from low income communities with troubled families that felt like they needed to belong. Latinx children turned to gangs because our community and America’s fear of the perceived ‘superpredator’ did not give them much of a choice. The cholx problem faded away but didn’t get resolved.

And though cholx culture did result in something bad; it is still ours. When white people dress in this style they do not recognize the suffering that our communities endured because of it. It becomes a joke or something fashionable, and not seen as a serious issue that resulted in large dropout rates and imprisonments in our communities. At the end, it’s our raza and our culture.