To understand who the real chucos were, and how they came to be, or even what chuco means, you have to get into the history, the attitude, and of course, very much the talk that they expressed themselves with.
The Pachuco has gifted us modern day raza with the old aged calo talk; a talk that is continuously being re-invented, but still firmly understood by the average mexican or mexican-american from the lower barrios.
From that way of speaking we get slang like cola de raton, which today we more commonly refer to as brocha (Eng. Brush) in reference to a mostachon, a big thick brush like mustache; the kind you see in those pictures and images of chicano heroes like Emiliano Zapata or the arch-type vato loco from the varrio.
To simply label a chuco as a swaggo zoot suiter swinging to el tango all wango on the dance floor, would be a critical mistake. It would bury under falsehoods the true heart of a rebel tribe (raza).
El Pachuco has been popularized and glamorized under the spectacle of hollywood type folklore trying to sell it to the world as a latin boogie woogie mexican–american gang member. The pachuco under this type of looking under the microscope becomes the pinnacle of perdition according to the never-ending dope mainstream thinking.
It is well known that El Paso Texas has carried the moniker (el placaso) of El Chuco for at the very least, since the 1930s or 40s. And it is historically credited with having been the birthplace and the progenitor of the Pachuco gang style. But what is not so commonly known is that the true Paso (pass) was once known as El Paso Del Norte, the very one which in present times is the unequivocally city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico. The true El Paso was south of the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo as Mexicans call it), and not the present days El Paso. Later on in history, the town on the north shores of the river came to be known as such, but originally it was the Mexican side that carried the name of El Paso.
The names for these twin cities later took their modern form under their own respective modern era organized governments, but it was in Juarez that the “tirilones” (suspenders) first started out. It is said that from the Juarez barrios of La Chavena, La Mariscal, El Chamizal, El Tango (downtown), and other colonias, that from here the first chucos (tirilones) would cross over -the Puente Negro (Santa Fe rail road bridge) -heading over to El Paso’s Mexican barrios of La Chihuahuita, Magoffin, San Francisco, and El Segundo (The Second Ward). And it was when they would head over to El Paso that it was heard say “vas para el paso?” (are you heading to el paso?) Which soon after, in the technical simple terms of calo slang, it was shortened and simplified as – ‘vas pal paso?’ And el paso became passuco, as in the old pass – el ruco paso. Passuco then became pa’chuco in simpler terms. Here then, there it is, the birth and coinage of the name Pachuco.
But why if the first pachucos on the Mexican side were called tirilones, why would they then carry over and become chucos or pachucos on the American side? What does chuco mean? And how were the tirilones baptized with the moniker of chucos on the American side?
Chuco was already there before El Paso was baptized with the tag name; note also that pachuco had nothing to do with the City of Tears (Pachuca in the Mexican State of Hidalgo), but it does have a lot to do with the indian language and how the Aztecs, and then the Spanish, and later on the uppity Mexican elites applied derogatory terms for the poor lower class of peoples of the country.
The Aztecs called the Chichimeca people from the mostly un-conquered surrounding areas of their empire, “chuchos” (perros sucios y pordioseros), (dirty vagrant dogs). The Aztecs considered the wandering warrior tribes of the chichimecas as being from a lower class of inferior types of people – uncivilized and unruly.
Chuchos was short for Chichimecas
Chichimecas, Chuchumeca, Chuchurrios, Chuchurria, Chucheria, Chuclas, Chuclos, Choclos, Chuchos, Chucos. All of these names and terms became synonymous with the underclass.
Later the Spanish hierarchy would adopt the Aztec derogatory reference to the “chichimecas” and apply it to all Indians in general, and they referred to them using the same apodage of chuchos, but with the added inference of having a dark color, plus the connotation of being dirty.
After Mexican independence, the subsequent aristocracy of Criolos (Spanish Mexicans) continued to refer to the natives with the same, and then they even expanded it to include the masses of people in the barrios of the urban sprawls; hence la lengua india was introduced to the urban cosmos where it grew and took on more derogatory appendages.
A chucho became a chuco, a man of bad disposition; categorized as a dirty scoundrel, prone to drinking and alcoholism, of a continuous bad criminal thought process, and a slave to a lower carnal pleasures instinct. As such, el chuco became of use and adopted by even the people from the same barrios, and el chuco became the worse of the worse. A chuco became the boogie man of the barrio streets. He became the one who drinks a lot of mierda, a mariguano, a chueco (crooked one), a depravado (a depraved one). He became everything that a mother wished her children not to become, and warned them to steer clear of.
When at the height of the Mexican Revolution, when the throngs of lower caste people from the barrios escaped Mexico City and the urban areas of the country, and traveled north en-mass to the borderlands, the diaspora included among its hordes, a great many so-called chucos.
These chucos fused and blended together with the rural bandit types, the ragged mutts, the outlaws of el norte; they fused the urban working class bato with the romantic rural bandido, and together they sang la cucaracha and other ruffian mariguano ballads while climbed up on the rufo (the smoking freight train). And so the many outcasts of society who arrived at el paso del norte (ciudad juarez) soon became exposed to borderland survival. These bad youngsters who had formed the rank-and-file of many revolutionary armies, especially those of el centauro del norte (Pancho Villa’s army) became bolas de chucos en las calles (gangs of grimey street kids). And when these street kids would find ways of making money on the colonias and streets of the biggest and most populous border crossing of the American continent, they soon developed a taste for a style contrary to their long poor background upbringing.
They soon began to chuchear (chuquiar), to trap and to hunt; to make a living off the streets. They became like chuecos chicos rucos (old young crooks), vividores, chulos guapos (dandys), popular in their circulos de ambiente, gente de mucha occurencia (wiseguys), con actitud de lambusios (regionalist), knowing all the antros (dives & holes), present in all the reventones (parties) and rumbas (dances) of the city. And when they began to cross the border back and forth during the decade of the roaring twenties, they satisfied their longing for fine trapos (dress clothes), they enhanced their old hidden love for art and theater. They morphed the attitude of the lower classes of people from Mexico and glued it with the knowledge and modernized ways coming in and being brought in to El Paso by the hordes and tons of repatriates and deportees that the US was sending south from all over the land during the years of the great depression.
The cities of Juarez and El Paso swelled with the numbers of people being sent south, while at the same time with the people heading north in search of a better tomorrow. El Paso became like the illegal Ellis Island for Mexicans, as well as the Tombstone and Dodge City for the Americanos; the town became filled with vice; filled with the worse that both countries had to offer. Soon thereafter the gringos termed el paso as “el shit hole,” and the gabachos started calling the notorious Mexican people of el paso by the same name that the old Mexican oligarchy had called them ~> chuchos. But the gringos, in their english pronunciation ways could not get themselves to pronounce chucho correctly, and they pronounced it as chukuo -the shit hole, the place of bad people. So that’s how El Paso became known as el chuco -under the wordplay of chicano chuekadas.
But just like in everything else that the raza touches and incorporates into its world, el chuco became a badge of honor and pride. La raza took el chuco and transformed it into el pachuco; they called the Rio Grand Valley as el valluco, and Corpus Christy as corpitos. They called themselves Rucos (old horses), Tucos (night owls) and before not too long, Pachucos became vatos locos.
Chucos turned everything they came into contact with into a mutt; a mixture of language, dress, style, music, dance, culture and attitude; their warfare against the ruling class of elites became eternal. They became true rebels of society, an attitude on going ‘til this very day!
An so this is where the blend took place, a true Chicano style in all its ways; a little bit from here, a little bit from there. They took the language, attitude, roots and culture from Mexico, and mixed it with American fashion, dance and gangsterism; They gave it a twist, and lo and behold, they came out with a new stylized persona, unrecognizable from their chichimeca origins, if not for their underneath it all ways..,
Chuco has the traditional CH of chicanismo words, but it is only so because it has a long history of indian terms of endearment.
You see, in indian ways and in later Mexicanism ways of talk, everything derogatory can be made a term of endearment; for example a fatso (gordo) can affectionally be endeared as chonchito; and so el gordito chonchito becomes no longer derogatory, but an acceptable affectionate way to refer to a fluffy chunky spanky.
So, the bottom line is that El Chuco is basically the same as El Cholo in terms of being a derogatory term used by upper and mainstream society in referencing someone of low status and/or of an undesirable element; as in a “drunken Indian.”
To be continued…