Cholo Universe


The cholo subculture of the southwestern United States has gone viral. The cars, fashion, and music associated with urban Mexican-American culture have spread to Brazil, Thailand, Japan, and New Zealand. (New York Times)

Use our resources to learn how globalization has made the “Cholo Universe.”

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

NGS Picture Id:277709
Mexican Americans pose with a customized lowrider in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1980.
Photograph by Gordon Gahan, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas:




  • Read our encyclopedic entry on globalization. Do students think the spreading of cholo culture is an example of globalization? Why?
    • It’s a perfect example, hitting almost all the major subheadings of the entry. Have students brainstorm how Brazilian, Japanese, or Maori expressions of cholo culture address these issues:
      • history: A history of colonization  and cultural mixing permeates Brazilian and Maori societies (less so Japan).
      • communication: The internet and social media have made many cultural markers familiar to those outside the culture itself.
      • travel: The article details how travel to Japan, where the cholo culture had already taken root, inspired interest among Brazilians.
      • popular culture: Aspects of the cholo subculture adopted by Brazilian, Japanese, or Maori are almost entirely related to pop culture, and not the political identity often associated with the larger Chicano movement in the U.S.
      • economy: Many Brazilians’ initial interest in cholo culture came as they traveled to Japan for work in the 1990s. As the Japanese economy cooled and Brazil’s heated up in the 2000s, these workers returned with an interest in Japanese culture—which at that point included cholo cultural markers.


  • Cultural appropriation is the process or phenomenon of one culture adopting the cultural markers of another. Cultural appropriation is a difficult issue, as it can be a sign of respect or mockery, as well as a genuine interest in the culture being appropriated. The cholo cultures expressed in Brazil, Japan, and New Zealand are examples of cultural appropriation. Can students think of other examples of cultural appropriation?
    • Consult some of the cultural markers listed above, such as music, fashion, or food. How have non-native cultures appropriated some (or aspects of some) of these cultural markers?


  • Read our activity “Cultural Identity of the Lost Boys,” which addresses how a group of Sudanese boys adjusted to life in the United States. How are the Sudanese cultural markers expressed by the Lost Boys distinct from the cultural markers expressed by Brazilian or Japanese “cholos”?
    • In one instance (cholo) the culture is migrating. In the other, people (the Lost Boys) are migrating. The “cholo” cultures of Brazil, Japan, and New Zealand are adopting cultural markers from outside their own society. The Lost Boys bring Sudanese cultural markers with them as they immigrate to a new area.


  • Read our activity “Cultural Diversity in the United States,” which outlines how the U.S. is in many ways “becoming the first country in history that is literally made up of every part of the world.” The activity discusses the metaphors of the melting pot, salad bowl, and kaleidoscope. How do students think globalization has changed or influenced these ideas? Do they think Sao Paulo, Brazil, (profiled in the article on international cholo culture) is a melting pot? Is Tokyo?



New York Times: Lowrider Culture Spreads to Brazil and Beyond

Nat Geo: What is globalization?

Los Angeles Times: Who is a Chicano? And what is it the Chicanos want?


4 thoughts on “Cholo Universe

  1. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you should write more on this issue, it may not be
    a taboo matter but usually folks don’t discuss such topics.

    To the next! Cheers!!

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