Saturday, January 20, 2018

Chalino Sanchez, the father of modern narco corrido, his history and death

Written by Otis B Fly-Wheel

Subject Matter: Chalino Sanchez
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required

Born Rosalino Sanchez in 1962 on a small ranch in Sinaloa named Las Flechas close to Culiacan and raised in Sanalona. He had seven brothers and one sister, Juana,  he was the youngest male sibling. Everyone in Mexico has a nickname and Rosalino was no different with various names being adopted by him at different stages in his life including his singing name of “Chalino”.

 Other names he had were Marcelino, El Pelavacas ( the cow skinner ), El Indio, Compa Chalino and El Valiente.El Valiente was a common name in this area of Sinaloa and was given to the rural tough guys who would shoot it out with as much relish as eating breakfast. Chalino started early with his criminal career, when Juan Quiroz lured away his sister as a concubine. Quiroz friend Hector El Chapo Perez  helped him, later boasting about it claiming that Juana was bad in bed and the kitchen, blemishing the good name of Juana, Chalino's sister. 

Chalino brooded about revenge but was not in a position to do anything about it for a few more years. They say revenge is a dish best served cold and 4 years later when he was 16,  Chalino shot and killed Hector El Chapo Perez at a Mexican Revolution party. There followed a shootout with Perez’s brothers. Chalino had warned Hector that he would kill him, saying " When I buy my first pistol I will shoot you in the chest with it". Chalino later even composed " Corrido de Rosalino" about the event:
He left his homeland
Because that's what destiny wanted
To defend his family
That's why Chalino fought

Chalino fled to the USA after his brother Armando had been involved in another shoot out and killed a local, and became just another undocumented worker, picking in the fields of California. Chalino had had enough of the bucolic living and moved into LA, the Inglewood neighbourhood trying small jobs but eventually becoming a Coyote, running illegals across the border. 

He soon found himself in prison in Tijuana serving eight months, after his brother Armando had been murdered, which prompted Chalino to write " Recordando a Armando Sanchez".
It was here in La Mesa prison that he began to develop his talent for writing narco-corridos. With his cousin Ismael on the guitar he wrote songs for prisoners for a small fee, his brother assures that all his corridor's were written in the bathroom, of all places. 

He realized that with small embellishments to their stories about how they overcame poor upbringing to become powerful sicario's with the power of life and death over their enemies, that the hard men of the narco world and their penchant for self aggrandizement, that he was onto a winner. He wrote one corrido entitled "Rigoberto Campos", who was actually a cousin of Manuel El Cochiloco Salcido, from the Guadalajara cartel:

They say he had been in prison
For being a drug dealer
And months after he left
They found him covered in blood
His arms had been chopped
By order of an opponent

Other narco traffickers were also dedicated corrido's by Chalino such as Ines Calderon and Javier Torres Felix, El JT, while modern day corrido's are written in a style to try to intimidate rivals, including gory details of dismemberment's and decapitations.

On his release from prison in Tijuana he returned to Califas, where the word had reached the streets that Chalino would write you a corrido in return for goods or money. His sense of style was from the border and mimicked that of the narco’s he wrote corrido’s for. Stetson, shirt, jeans, large belt buckle, cowboy boots and the trademark pistol in la cintura. He had been accepting jewellery for payment for corridos, so added gold chains and fancy modified pistols to his wardrobe.

He began selling his corridos on cassette tapes from swap meets and out of the trunk of his car, as he was virtually unknown at this time as a singer, but had been recording tracks with Los Amables del Norte.

This had appealed to many who respected the narco’s back in Sinaloa, and Cholo’s who didn’t even speak Spanish began to follow his music and dress like him. He was a trend visionary. His popularity began to rise and he was soon singing in nightclubs to packed audiences of young Hispanic males and their swooning girlfriends. He was receiving fifteen thousand dollars per performance.

His popularity would become his downfall. The machismo culture of the Hispanic males meant trouble for Chalino and a lot of narco-corrido singers after him. The girlfriend or wife who swooned over Chalino for his rugged good looks, charismatic personality and stage presence, and not particularly his voice, made their boyfriends or husbands jealous, and with hair trigger tempers something was bound to happen sooner or later.

Happen it did at a gig in Coachella, Califas. Los Arcos night club was the venue. All was going well until Eduardo Gallegos an unemployed mechanic, out of his noggin on smack and booze, stepped up to the stage to request a song and opened fire at Chalino with a .25 pistol. He hit Chalino in the side, which prompted Chalino to draw his own 10mm pistol from his belt and the two began a shootout in the packed nightclub, with Chalino chasing Gallegos through the crowd. Seven people were shot in the exchange of gunfire, including a local man named Rene Carranza who bled to death on the way to the hospital.

Gallegos was wrestled to the floor by a bystander and shot in the mouth with his own pistol. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison! This widely reported event made Chalino famous south as well as north of the border. This was the stuff of his own corrido's, and made Chalino many, many, new fans.

He became a folk hero after this event back home in Sinaloa, and the offers came flooding in for him to appear in Culiacan as well as other Sinaloense towns. He accepted an offer on May 16th 1992, he returned to Sinaloa and Culiacan, on the promise of twenty thousand dollars for an appearance at Salon Buganvilias in La Presita near Culiacan.

After playing the full capacity gig which had gone down extremely well with the Sinaloense crowd, Chalino received a written death threat, passed by hand to him. Chalino left the venue. In tow were some of his immediate family, Espiridion and Francisco, his brothers, and cousin Carmelo Felix, with some adoring female fans.

Chalino’s vehicle was soon pulled over by several Chevrolet suburban Police cruisers, the Police elements left their vehicles and provided State Police identification. Chalino was told that he was required by “my commander”.

One could speculate at this time that Chalino knew the game was up as he was led away in one of the suburban’s. I feel safe in saying that false police ID’s and cloned police vehicles are a common ruse used by cartels to “lift” or kidnap people, including the Sinaloa cartel.

Sam Quinones in his book “True Tales from Another Mexico" in the chapter entitled “The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez” wrote that Chalino had begun in 1990 to clean up his corrido’s, where previously he would take the victims side when singing about a killing, and insult the victims opponent, often calling them cowards. As he had written about a lot of Sinaloense gangsters, there was a high likelihood that at some time this would return to bite him on the backside.

The area where he was kidnapped was no doubt Sinaloa cartel territory. Anybody taking liberties on their territory would be dealt with severely and there would have been thousands of “halcones” or hawks, which are lookouts, on duty in Culiacan to report on Police activity and the arrival of anyone who looked like they may be from another cartel. Chalinos family had received information that something bad would happen to Chalino if he returned to Culiacan.

Given this the Sinaloa cartel would have been aware of Chalino’s intention to enter the city to play the gig and at the time of his arrival, his movements within the city. Chalino would not have been kidnapped without their knowledge of what was happening.

As to their motives for kidnapping him, if they did that, could have been a jealous Lieutenant whose partner had become too fond of Chalino. Chalino certainly loved Sinaloa and the narco lifestyle that he spent so much time writing songs about.

Whomever kidnapped him, killed him. Chalino’s body was found north of Culiacan dumped in a irrigation ditch with the coup de grace, two bullets in the back of the head in the brain stem, another cartel signature, given that his hands and feet were bound and a blindfold was on his head. He had been tortured and severely beaten, and was only recognizable by his family members due to a small tattoo on the heel of one foot.

If we apply occam’s razor to this situation, and consider that the most likely outcome would probably be the truth, the killers of Chalino could have been El Chapo Perez family. Chalino had killed him after El Chapo Perez and associates had raped Chalino’s sister Juana. Blood feuds in Sinaloa can go on for generations, and I have no doubt that the Perez family would have wanted revenge on Chalino, even if many years had passed. Also that they may have been affiliated with or worked for the Sinaloa cartel themselves.

If not El Chapo Perez's family, the second most likely would be someone insulted in one of his many corrido's. Her certainly knew this could end badly, but being true to his character, I believe he just didn't give a damn, and decided he would face his fate whatever or whenever the end would come, just as he faced life. In his corrido, "La Muerte de Pelavaca", he wrote " for all those who live hard, a grave is ready".