On the 14th on this blog, the posting “Unnerving Chicano art: Vincent Valdez”, which looked at Valdez’s powerful and sometimes unsettling art, with digressions into other artists and musicians, and a passing mention of Cheech Marin, who’s nurturing a Chicano art movement (one of Valdez’s works was featured in an exhibition set up by Marin).
As background, I note that both Valdez and Marin proudly identify themselves as Chicanos, from Chicano neighborhoods (for Valdez, in San Antonio TX; for Marin, in Los Angeles).
After a note on the label Chicano/chicano, I’ll turn to Cheech Marin, with a digression on that nickname Cheech.
On the label. In my “chicano” posting on 4/28/13, I look at the etymology of the label (aspects of which are still unclear) and something of its history — from widespread disparaging uses, through a time of reclamation, eventually including uses of it in the names of academic programs (though some Mexican-Americans find it offensive). (In broad outline, this history is very similar to the history of the label queer.)
Basic stuff on Cheech Marin. From Wikipedia:
Richard Anthony “Cheech” Marin (born July 13, 1946) is an American comedian, actor, voice actor and writer who gained recognition as part of the comedy act Cheech & Chong during the 1970s and early 1980s with Tommy Chong, and as Don Johnson’s partner, Insp. Joe Dominguez, on Nash Bridges.
… Marin’s trademark is his characters’ strong Mexican accents; this is part of his comic persona, as he was born and raised in the United States [and in fact sounds like an Angeleno].
… Marin’s nickname “Cheech” is short for “chicharron”, a fried pork skin that is a popular snack in Mexican cuisine and a favorite of marijuana smokers afflicted with “the munchies”, and the nickname’s alliteration with Chong’s surname made “Cheech and Chong” an obvious choice for the name of the duo.
The nickname. It might strike you that pork rind is an odd nickname, but then chicharrones are a homey, much beloved food, and then there’s the pot-smoking connection, certainly relevant in Cheech Marin’s case. From Wikipedia:
Chicharrón … is a dish generally consisting of fried pork belly or fried pork rinds; chicharrón may also be made from chicken, mutton, or beef.
Chicharrón is popular in Andalusia, Spain, and in Latin America and other countries with Spanish influence. It is part of the traditional cuisines of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil (where it is called torresmo), Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guam, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and others.
Sources of chicharrones abound in LA., especially in East LA. The king of Mexican pork there seems to be Zamora Bros. Carnitas and Chicharrones, 4771 East Cesar E. Chavez Ave. in East LA:
News flash on the Los Angeles Eater site, by Euno Lee on 1/28/15, “Carnitas King Zamora Bros Continues to Rule East LA After 45 Years”:
The East Los Angeles based pork specialists will be in business for 45 years this spring, and they continue to stand fast to the traditions of late founder Chato Zamora.
Meanwhile, across the continent, in Miami, we have a huge population of people of Hispanic ancestry, with substantial numbers of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Mexican Latinos, and smaller numbers of others, but all of them devoted to chicharrones. So we get a posting on the Burger Beast site on 10/15/13 listing the “Top 5 Chicharrones In Miami” (in no particular order:
Luis Galindo’s Latin American (898 SW 57th Ave., West Miami), El Palacio de los Jugos (5721 W Flagler St., Miami), Los Chamos Food Truck, Los Bobos Cafeteria (5600 NW 79th Ave. Doral), El Mago De Las Fritas (5828 SW 8th St., West Miami)
A platter from Los Bobos:
Cheech and Chong. Pair a Mexican-American with a Chinese-Canadian, in a haze of pot smoke.
(Well, Chong and Cheech.)
Cheech & Chong are a Grammy Award–winning comedy duo [1971-85] consisting of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong who found a wide audience in the 1970s and 1980s for their films and stand-up routines, which were based on the hippie and free love era, and especially drug and counterculture movements, most notably their love for cannabis.
The duo met in Vancouver, British Columbia in the late 1960s. Chong was a Canadian citizen, and Cheech had moved there from Southern California to avoid the draft at the height of the Vietnam War. The pair performed stand-up shows, released many successful comedy record albums, and starred in a series of low-budget films.
… Their early success culminated with the release of their first feature-length movie, Up in Smoke, in 1978. It became something of a cult classic
You can watch part of a scene from Up in Smoke here. You might want to remember that the actors were shooting a movie, performing a script, and they had to do it stone cold sober. Not that they didn’t do weed otherwise.
Nash Bridges. From Wikipedia:
Nash Bridges was an American television police drama created by Carlton Cuse. The show starred Don Johnson and Cheech Marin as two Inspectors with the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit. The show ran for six seasons on CBS from March 29, 1996 to May 4, 2001 with a total of 122 episodes being produced.
I found the show immensely entertaining, with an excellent rapport between the two principal actors (they said so themselves) and, even better, a constant panorama of San Francisco scenes; the city gave the show basically unlimited access to sites in the city, and for a while the cast and crew of the show became one of the sights of the city.
Now go back to the Valdez posting and read about Marin’s career promoting Chicano art (he also speaks passionately about Chicano culture and Chicano rights).