“Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles”

from "Cholo Writing"

photo from "Cholo Writing"

Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles”

by Francois Chastanet with forward by Chaz Bojorquez.

This book gives Mexican-American ‘cholo’ writing its proper recognition and respect as “the oldest form of name graffiti of the 20th century.” Focusing on L.A. ‘cholo” writing styles from an aesthetic point of view, evident long before the explosion of tags and pieces of the early 1970’s.

Cover of "Cholo Writing"

Cover of "Cholo Writing"

Cholo writing is the oldest form of graffiti in the 20th century, evident in Los Angeles long before the appearance of tags and pieces in the early 1970s New York.  It is a Mexican American phenomenom with a unique aesthetic based on blackletter typography, used for street bombing by the latino gangs. In the 1970s, Californian citizen Howard Gribble photographed examples of Latino gang graffiti over a wide geographic area in order to encompass a larger variety of styles, with the simultaneous idea of portraying Los Angeles. More than 30 years later, French typographer Francois Chastanet travelled to the same neighborhoods to photograph the inscriptions of today. (English text in this edition, also available in Swedish)

go to www.dokument.org for more info and to order

16 thoughts on ““Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles”

  1. Ooooh, thats cool!

    And so true. Even the act of “getting up”, the foundation of graffiti that is often thought of as being a NYC/Philly development was first performed by cholos. The more higher more risky areas of bridges they were able to reach (on the undersides, mostly in the LA and Arroyo Seco rivers), the more status and permanence their monikers achieved.

    This book will be on my shelf soon enough, I only wish I couldve contacted the author whilehe was here to give hima lay of the land.

  2. There’s actually a very early text than this on gangster writing in Los Angeles. I can’t remember the title, but it was published by a small LA-based publisher in the late 50’s and goes into extreme detail on the typographic relationship between cholo writing and various typographic fonts – essentially arguing that cholo writing is an elaborate, coded script that’s used by a subculture as a sophisticated form of “insider” communication. I own a copy but it’s been on a “too long” lend to a writer buddy of mine, and I have a feeling I might never see it again.

  3. There is another book that came out in ’72, titled “Los Angeles Barrio Calligraphy”, that is super-rare. It contains many pictures of placas from various neighborhoods and attempts to explain the origins of the styles.

  4. Slowrider – that’s the book I was talking about. I totally recognize the title – I guess I was off on my date of publication.

  5. “jacked” a copy from the library. LOL. Now there’s a common ghetto caper. Going to the library and stealing books. Frankly, a book being stolen from a library would be a small price for getting cholos into the library to begin with.

  6. Chaz Bojorquez painted the “Cholo Skulls” along the 10 freeway in the 70’s – I remember seeing them as a kid. I vaguely remember one of those Eye on LA segments interviewing Chaz and showing his skull paintings.

    Geez I’m getting old…

  7. Right on! I am the Founding Art Director for Low Rider. Magazine, and THE originator of the LRM logotype used then and since on the cover, keychains, peachies, gorras (caps), etc, and on walls and buildings throughout the planet. I incorporated grafitti into the first issue in my illustrations, and I continue to use various cholo and restyled old english scripts and combos in my ‘zine Low Rider Times and its companion and insert section entitled Hate Crime Review, a political parody and political-hit type publication with LOTS of excellent grafica, and no small amount of social criticism, aimed at my own raza as well . Pachuco and cholo scripts and tags, murals, are inspiring and informative and a political turn-on, and, therefor repressed, but inspiring nevertheless. But I am not a cultural nationalist, and in fact, those are the corrupt and corrrupting dullards that I out in my ‘zine. Your site is much appreciated. Saludos.

  8. Thanks, Ritzy, for the welcome. Let me know if it’s ok to shoot you a couple of pages to look at. I think you’ll like them.

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