Don Tosti on “Latin Eyes” a San Francisco news show, 2002.
Video courtesy of the excellent Proyecto Pachuco collecting oral histories of Pachuco culture for a future book and documentary.
Even before Julio’s excellent post on the value of urban language, I’d been thinking about the ephemeral variations of Los Angeles accents. When I was growing up, the typical (or stereotypical) Eastside Chicano accent was similar to the dialog you’d find in a Cheech and Chong movie. The words themselves are a mixture of CalÃ³ (derived from Gitano CalÃ³ and indigenous words), English, archaic Spanish and dashes of African-American vernacular. The accenting comes from Northern Mexico and their version of Spanish with it’s high and low, somewhat sing song tonal variations – regularly sounding as if a question is always being asked.
Don Tosti is a good example of this early way of speaking Chicano CalÃ³. Born In El Paso, Texas and then moving to the Eastside when he was fifteen, he brought this unique argot with him. At Roosevelt High School I’m sure he found numerous others from El Paso who were also conversing in this cool, “Pachuco” slang. This patois has lived on in the Eastside until now, although the accents and the vernacular are quickly changing. Maybe it’s due to increased immigration from the central and southern parts of Mexico and from Central America. Or it could be the ever present influence of the global media and their official representations of urban lifestyles. It’s important though to capture this language before it’s gone, a project I’m currently working on.
I’m grateful to Don Tosti for recording his delightful dialect in-between the verses of his songs. It’s obvious that his Pachuco culture was integral to his music. The excellent documentary above explains more.
Many members of my family and many of my neighbors still speak a version of Chicano CalÃ³. Even many of the college educated folks will slip back into it after awhile. One of my favorite speakers is Shorty, a 94 year old Chicano who is now living in South San Gabriel. You can listen to him speak in this clip.