Are You A Cholo?
Cholo Is An Ethnic Slur
Created by Hispanics (criollos) in the 16th century, and it has been applied to individuals of mixed American Indian ancestry, or other racially mixed origin. The precise usage of “cholo” 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) “The child of a Black male and an Indian female, or of an Indian male and Black female, they call mulato and mulata. The children of these they call cholo. Cholo is a word from the Windward Islands; it means dog, not of the purebred variety, but of very disreputable origin; and the Spaniards use it for insult and vituperation”.
In Colonial Mexico, the terms cholo and coyote co-existed, indicating mixed Mestizo and Amerindian ancestry. Under the casta system of colonial Latin America, 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. Other terms (mestizo, castizo, etc.) were used to denote other ratios of smaller or greater Spanish-to-Amerindian ancestry.
The word “xolotl” (pronounced “cholotl”) is an Aztec word which means dog. It is from this meaning that the word “cholo” developed its negative connotation, taking on a similar meaning to “mutt” as applied to humans.
Cholo as an English-language term dates at least to 1851 when it was used by Herman Melville in Moby Dick referring to a Spanish speaking sailor, possibly derived from the Windward Islands 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.
In modern usage in the United States, the term “cholo” usually indicates a person of Mexican or Mexican-American descent, who is associated with a particular Southwestern culture. The term is used in Caló slang, but it in turn has infiltrated into mainstream American English use, specifically in association with American youth movements such as the “lowrider” subculture, or the hip hop scene in general. The word is sometimes associated with Hispanic gang culture, especially in popular media, but the origin and history of the modern usage is somewhat complex.
Race And Class
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.