“Pelones y Matones”: Chicano Cholos Perform for a Punitive Audience

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Indiana University Press


In this paper, we argue that cholo style is one dominant response to racial stigmatization, class subordination, and criminalization. Specifically, we examine the function that bald heads, baggy clothes, and visible tattoos play in the lives of Chicano male youth.5 We argue that through cholo style, gang-associated Chicano youth perform a resistance that defies race and class-based marginalization, in the process developing a perilous sense of masculinity. In this way, race, class, and gender intersect to determine the performance of resistance and pleasure-seeking that cholos embrace. Margaret L. Anderson and Patricia Hill Collins argue that race, class, and gender are interconnected in a continuum that she calls the matrix of domination: “race, class, and gender are fundamental axes in society and, as such, are critical to understanding people’s lives, institutional systems, contemporary social issues, and the possibilities of social change.”6 In this chapter, we examine the role that race, class, and gender play in cholo style.

The quotes and experiences presented in this paper are collected from thirty-two individual interviews, twelve focus group sessions, and ethnographic observations conducted in the street, a continuation school, and a community center over a fourteen-month research period, from September 2007 to November 2008. We started our project by recruiting students from a continuation high school for interviews about their experiences in the school system. To supplement the interviews, we also conducted observations at the school to examine how the students interacted with the staff and each other in the classroom. Most of these students had been expelled from the city’s school district and many of them were currently reporting to or had recently been required to report to probation officers. Some of the members of the predominately Chicano/a student body had varying levels of gang affiliation, and almost all of them embodied some degree of a cholo/a identity performance.

Chapter of

Performing the US Latina and Latino Borderlands


Arturo J. Aldama
Chela Sandoval
Peter J. García


Reprinted as Rios, Victor and Patrick Lopez-Aguado. 2016. Resistance Through Style: Mexican American Youths Performing Against Marginalisation. Vestoj: The Journal of Sartorial Matters. 7: 27-38.

Reprinted as Rios, Victor and Patrick Lopez-Aguado. 2017. “Cultural Misframing” in Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth, p. 75-95. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press