Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cho & Lo: Two Vatos From The Barrio

Sometime in the mid-1980's one of my students
came to me with an idea for creating a couple
of barrio characters named "Cho and Lo" (Cholo),
for a Chicano radio program we were airing out of
The University of the Pacific, KUOP-FM. The
weekly program consisted of mostly music: Oldies,
Rancheras, Latin Jazz, and of course, dedications:
"for mi Ruca from tu Vato, Spider".

However, I began to include poetry, dramatic
readings and original skits, so the idea of a weekly
series of two locos from the barrio was perfect.
Little did we know that Cho & Lo would grow to
tremendous popularity in the community and that
what started out as 30 second skits, mostly locuras
and pendejadas, would become a sophisticated venue
with episodes "to be continued next week", for advocating
anti-gang, anti-drug messages and the importance of education.
We would in time add extras, music, and sound effects.

The next step was to produce episodes live for audiences,
so we would don some khakis, a pendelton, beanie or headband
and take it to the local jails, prisons and schools. People I meet
from this area still can recall our opening: "As the barrio turns
and the Menudo burns, we meet Cho & Lo", over the lyrics
of the song, "The Cisco Kid" by the group"WAR".

Some years later, a drunk driver would claim the life of
my partner "Cho" (Richard Zapata). Locals, and old-timers
often run into me and ask about Cho & Lo, whether I have any
recordings (I do), and stress how there is still a need for the messages
of the espisodes out in our community, for a new generation.

So I write this new episode kind of in Memoriam of my
pal, Richard and the good times we had writing and performing
the adventures of "Cho & Lo":

"Always Read The Label First"

Cho: Hey, Lo what do you call yourself anyway?
Lo: A vato, what else?
Cho: Na, I mean when people ask "what are you?"
Lo: Well, it depends.
Cho: Depends on what?
Lo: On what day it is, ese.
Cho: That don't make no sense, loco. Estas chiflas.
Lo: No, I have a different label, depending on what day it is. For example,
I call myself "Latino" on Mondays cuz' it's the first day of the week
and people have more respect for Hispanics.
Cho: Orale, so what do you call yourself on Tuesdays?
Lo: On Tuesdays I am a "Hispanic", still getting some respect from people
but not as much.
Cho: Ok, on Wednesdays what?
Lo: On Wednesday I call myself "Mexican-American", and that one is pretty
clean sounding too, and it sounds a little more "Mexican", you know? After
all my Jefitos came from Chihuahua.
Cho: Can't wait to hear what you call yourself on Thursdays.
Lo: Thursdays is my "American" day, but all my Anglo buddies call me a Mexican.
Fridays I call myself "Mexican", but my Mexican buddies say I am "American."
Cho: You can't win, ese. What do you do on Saturdays?
Lo: On Saturdays I let it all hang out and call myself a Chicano! Orale, I can do my
"radical" thing then and wear my khakis, my pendelton, and my headband.
Cho: Orale, but there's only one day left, what do you do on Sunday?
Lo: On Sundays I take a day of rest.
Cho: You ain't telling me you go to Mass?
Lo: Na. I'm just "human" on Sundays. But you know what day is the hardest for
me? Fridays, when I call myself "Mexican."
Cho: Why's that, homes?
Lo: Cuz' I can't speak no spanish vato, tu sabes?
Cho: Orale, but you can't speak "no English" either!!

1 comment:

ZAPATA said...

Brought tears and smiles to my face!!!! Rest in Peace Dad!!!

Gabriel Zapata