Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Corrido of Chalino Sanchez: by Alejandra Espasande Bouza

Today marks 23 years since the murder of Chalino Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, turned L.A. icon, who composed and sang "corridos," a musical genre dominant in the rural areas that was looked down upon by Angelinos in a time when mariachi music was the preference. I was lucky to meet his widow Marisela last year. The tragedies this woman has surmounted make her one of the strongest persons I've ever met, and the opportunity to visit her house a great honor. Here is an article I wrote about why I consider Chalino's story, and that of his son Adan, important to Los Angeles history.
 — with Chalino Sanchez (1960 - 1992)Chalino SanchezChalino Sanchez el REY del Corrido,Chalino Sánchez Es El Rey and Adan Chalino Sanchez.

The Corrido of Chalino Sánchez:

Twenty years in the making, a concert in homage of the legendary singer and songwriter, May 18

By Alejandra Espasande Bouza
Published on LatinoLA: May 16, 2012
The <i>Corrido</i> of Chalino Sánchez:
The night of Tuesday, April 30, 2004, Angelenos were paralyzed in front of their TV sets with breaking news; aerial shots presented images of thousands of young men and women of Hispanic descent quickly assembling into the streets of Norwalk.

Due to the geographical location, and the racial profile of the crowd, the English-language TV Channels concluded that the event had to be some gang-related riot. In contrast, the Spanish-language channels reported something very different; the tumult was but the spontaneous expression of pain from part of the young Hispanic community toward the passing of a nineteen year old Mexican-American singer namedAdán Sánchez, whose body was being honored inside the "San Juan De Dios Church."

Eventually the English media took hold of the story as Joel Connable, reporter for KCAL-TV Ch. 9, explained that the presence of thousands was due to their desire to pay their last respects to a teen-idol. Connable went on to state that the deceased was the son of singerChalino Sánchez, who had been murdered in Sinaloa, a placed he described as known for the growth of marijuana and its drug cartels.

In previous months, the passing in California of President Ronald Reagan and actor Bob Hope had not caused such a stir. And thus the question: Who was this nineteen year old kid to cause this commotion? To understand what happened that night, it is imperative to understand the story of his father.


Rosalino Sánchez Félix was born in the state of Sinaloa on August 30 of 1960 from the union of Senorina Félix and Santos Sánchez; his first years were spent in the tranquility of the ranch Los Vasitos, in Culiacán, where he grew up in the company of seven brothers.

In 1965, Santos passed away leaving Senorina the sole head of the family. Four years later, Juanita, her only daughter, was allegedly raped by a neighbor from the area. The dishonor weighed on the family for some time, until 1975, when it is believed that Rosalino, the youngest brother, restored his sister's honor by killing her rapist. It is considered that this event was the reason that brought Rosalino to Los Angeles.

In the US Rosalino, who eventually went on to be called Chalino, began working in a series of jobs that ranged from the harvest of vegetables, the sale of cars, and the smuggling of illegal immigrants, a business he established with his brother Armando, who was later murdered in the "Hotel Rita" of Tijuana in 1984.

This tragedy inspires one of his earlier, if not the earliest, composition:

"En la ciudad de Tijuana, señores esto pasó,
murió un hombre de valor, un cobarde lo mató.
Sin darle tiempo de nada, siete balazos le dio.
Armando Sánchez tu nombre, pa siempre queda presente.
Tus amigos recordamos, que fuiste un hombre valiente."[/i]

Another corrido goes into more detail about the possible execution of a vengeance:

[i]"Al poco tiempo del crimen aquel cobarde cayó,
siendo una .45 la cual venganza cobró."

Also in 1984, Chalino married Marisela Vallejo, and had a son named Adán. During the following years his career as composer prospered with the patronage of a series of clients who wanted to be immortalized, or who wanted to immortalize those they loved, in the lyric of a corrido.

In his book "La Revolucion Mexicana a traves de los corridos populares," Armando de Maria y Campos stated that the corrido. composers of the revolutionary period were poets whose lyrics exalted "the agrarian, the miner, the worker, the sinarquist, the cristero or the communist." In contrast, in the Los Angeles of the 1980's, the corrido of Chalino reflected a more contemporary reality by narrating the triumphs and tragedies of the heroes and villains of the narco lifestyle.

In 1987, Chalino began to perform in front of audiences. Early videotape of his presentations show a charismatic performer that commanded the stage not through arrogance but a humble demeanor that contrasted with the heavy lyric of his songs. His ragged voice had a marked Sinaloan accent, and his on stage presence made him a true showman. He combined the typical macho-man Sinaloan hat and boots with the elegance of an opulent gold watches and rings.

The Spanish-language radio stations and record labels of the time looked down upon promoting the corrido genre which was considered lacking of commercial value; this circumstance brought about the establishment of independent record labels that included Chalino's "RR - Rosalino Records," Pedro Rivera's "Cintas Acuario," and Abel Orozco "Discos Linda."

In spite of the tumult of a life busy with recording sessions and performances at private parties and night clubs, Chalino had managed to solidify a stable life with Marisela and their now two children, Adán and Cynthia.

By 1990 his songs permeated the interest of young Mexican Americans who began paying attention to lyrics they found similar to those of rap music. Suddenly, those who once had been ashamed of the culture and music of their parents, even avoiding to speak Spanish, embraced the corrido and began wearing Sinaloan style hats and boots. This transformation was known as the "Chalinomania" and was cemented with the adoption of the quebraditadance style.

Chalino's career kept on ascending. He combined performances at the two major night clubs, El Parral and El Farallón, with bookings that took him to other US cities, and Mexico. In January of 1992, Chalino was hired to make a presentation at a club in Coachella; during his performance Eduardo Gallegos, a member of the audience, began shooting at the performer who also defended himself. Gallegos ended up with fifteen years of prison and Chalino, who was wounded, consolidated an image of fearlessness which went in hand with the character of his corrido.

Soon after this incident he was offered to make a presentation in his native Sinaloa for an estimated twenty thousand dollars. Though this had not been the first time he would perform in his native state, his wife asked him not to go, advice Chalino ignored.

A videotape recorded the night of May 15th in the "Salón Las Bugambilias" of Culiacán shows Chalino dressed in a grey suit with white hat and the company of five señoritas Tecate who walk him on stage where he starts to sing the theme that would immortalize him forever in the memory of his public; a composition by Mario Molina Montes titled "Las nieves de enero / The snows of January."

"Ha llegado el momento
chatita del alma de hablar sin mentiras
Espere mucho tiempo pa ver si cambiabas
Y tú ni me miras

Al principio dijiste que ya que vinieran
las nieves de Enero
Ir a ver a la virgen y luego casarnos
Seria lo primero

Ya se fueron las nieves de Enero y
Llegaron las flores de Mayo
ya lo vez me aguantado a lo macho y
mi amargo dolor me lo cayo

Ya se fueron las flores y llego el invierno
Y tú ni me miras
Es por eso te digo que llego el momento
De hablar sin mentiras

Al principio dijiste que ya que vinieran
las nieves de Enero
Ir a ver a la virgen y luego casarnos
Seria lo primero

No soporto ya mas tus mentiras
Esta espera se me esta destrozando
Al mirar que han pasado los años y
No pienso morirme esperando

Ya se fueron las nieves de Enero ya
Llegaron las flores de Mayo
ya lo vez me aguantado a lo macho y
mi amargo dolor me lo cayo."

As the audience sings-along, Chalino gives them a salute, and approaches some of his fans to listen to their requests; in the company of the group "Los amables del norte," under a mix of fog and lights, and the rhythm of his accordionist Nacho Hernández, Chalino exclaims:"Viva Sinaloa!"

The two words carried the emotion and pride of the immigrant that returns to his birthplace in triumph; but in Sinaloa aside from success, Chalino had cultivated enemies and it is believed that the large amount he was offered for his presentation was the hook for the execution of a revenge.

Following his departure from "Las Bugambilias," when on his way through the
Culiacán-Los Mochis roadway, his vehicle was intercepted by men dressed as Federales who took him, leaving behind one of his brothers and two women who accompanied them. Hours later, during the dawn of May 16, 1992, his mutilated body was found next to an irrigation channel with two bullets in the head.

The body of Chalino was buried next to the resting place of his father and brother in a pantheon close to Los Vasitos ranch in Culiacán. In the US, his widow Marisela Vallejo organized a requiem mass on his memory that took place on June 21 at the Iglesia Santa Martha in Huntington Park.

In Los Angeles the news of his murder spread like dynamite, and instantly Chalino turned into a legend. But contrary to the many legends of Mexican culture, the legend of Chalino was born in Los Angeles where his recordings gained him posthumous record sales.

Months later the torch of Chalino was passed on to his son, who at barely eight years old made his musical debut at El Farallón night club. Years later, in an interview produced by Sony Studios, Adán Sánchez stated: "I chose to follow my father's career because I don't like to leave things unfinished. I felt that my Dad left an open road; a career that was not concluded and I wanted to continue through that road."

Adan "Chalino" Sánchez went on to establish what became a solid career with a youthful repertory of romantic themes, some of which served to honor the memory of his father. It is no surprise that he gained the following of young Mexican Americans, but also the endearment of the parents and grandparents who had been fans of his father.

One of his most solicited songs was a composition by Antonio Aguilar titled "Que falta me hace mi padre / How much I need my father."

"Que falta me hace mi padre a cada paso que doy,
Ya mi Dios se lo llevo, cuan solita esta mi madre,
Recorrimos tantas veces, caminos y más caminos.
Éramos inseparables, casi como dos amigos,
Que falta me hace mi padre, ya no lo tengo conmigo.
Ay apa, como me sigues haciendo falta...
¡Y arriba Chalino Sanchez! oiga."

In 2002, Adán graduated from Paramount High School and began to fully focus on his career. In March of 2004, at only nineteen years, he became the first Mexican regional music artist to perform at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

In an interview conducted by journalist and Chalino expert Sam Quiñones, Adán stated, "A lot of people, young and old, come up to me and tell me, 'I liked your dad and I like you now.' I'm just doing my own thing, trying to follow him by doing my own thing. Making sure he'd be proud of me." A month later, on Saturday April 27 of 2004, during a tour in Sinaloa the car that transported Adán had a flat tire, and toppled, causing his instant death. This is the official version given by witnesses that were present inside the car during the accident, including a representative of the singer.

The news consternated the Mexican American community of Los Angeles; those who knew about his story and that of is father were perplexed at the tragedy of it all; those who didn't know him made a stop to understand why the city had come to a halt with the death of this young man.

For the second time Marisela Vallejo organized a funerary mass which took place on Tuesday, April 30. While the inside of the church was full to capacity thousands of fans began pouring into the vicinity. It was then that the media outlets began sending helicopters. The doors of the church were closed and the mass had to come to an early ending by request of the police which had trouble in managing the crowd.

Then the helicopter cameras captured the moment when a vehicle transported the body of Adán outside of the church; surrounded by thousands of fans, between cries and tears, the crowd began throwing flowers in their last goodbye.

The general outcry of such tragedy was mainly manifested through the blasting of their music all over the city. which could be heard emanating from the inside of passing cars, or the many kitchens of L.A. restaurants. It should not be forgotten that in a matter of days theCelaya bakery - with the help of neighbors - turned an exterior wall into a mural that served as a shrine with the painted image of Chalino and Adán.

And then the question, why did the passing of Adán cause such a convulsion?

If the murder of Chalino had been a painful blow to his audience, the emergence of his son in the music arena had become a consolation, and a symbol of the continuation of his legacy. His accidental death was just too unbearable. A double tragedy of Greek proportions. And then, there is the dynamic of the father and son relationship which linked together multi-generational audiences that found a common interest in their music and story. It is for this reason that their music legacy is preserved in the everyday life of a city that remembers them with pride and respect.

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