By Alex Zaragoza
“I look like this every single day. It’s mostly about feeling classy and good about yourself,” says Mia Alvarado-Ruffier, a 32-year-old Chicana sitting at South Park’s Whistle Stop Bar for “Sleepwalking,” a lowrider oldies night. Around her, Latino men and women dressed in perfectly pressed jeans and 1940s-style coifs sway to Brenton Wood’s “Oogum Boogum” while sipping on beer.
Her dark, curly hair, parted in the middle, falls down past her shoulders and is adorned with a bright red flower above her right ear. Alvarado-Ruffier’s face is powdered pale with two thin, black brows arched over her eyes. Her lips are colored a dark maroon red, popping out like an old movie star’s.
“Oogum oogum, boogum boogum / boogum now baby you’re castin’ your spell on me.”
Alvarado-Ruffier is part of a subculture within the Latino community that melds Mexican iconography, beliefs and history with classic Americana. She is a Chicana rockabilly.
The subculture isn’t new. Mexican-Americans have been combing pomade through their hair and shimmying to Little Richard since the early days of rock ’n’ roll. But in its modern form, it emerged in the early 2000s, says Nicholas F. Centino, a doctoral candidate at UC Santa Barbara who’s been studying the rockabilly scene within Southern California’s Chicano community.
The look of a Chicano rockabilly is distinct. For men, it’s loose-fit khakis or jeans ironed and cuffed, a pair of clean Converse All-Stars or boots, a crisp plaid shirt buttoned to the neck, hair greased back in a pompadour and arms covered in traditional tattoos and tattoos that honor their Mexican heritage.
The women emulate stars of Mexican and American cinema. They curl their hair into soft victory rolls and wear Bettie Page bangs, never forgetting to add a flower to their ’do. Some wear soft red lipstick and cat-eye makeup; others pencil their brows thin and use tons of black liner and dark lipstick to create a stark, dramatic look. They also stick to a dark palette—tight black dresses and tops and dark-wash, cuffed skinny jeans.
“All those design elements come from the mid-century,” Centino explains. “They have always been present in Chicano culture. If you look at the rockabilly scene worldwide, the people draw from those American icons, like Bettie Page and James Dean. I think with Latinos and Chicanos, we look to our own icons.”
Source: San Diego City Beat