Having grown up in a world full of drugs, violence, and poverty. Rosalino Sanchez Felix better known as “Chalino” Sanchez was surrounded by danger his entire life, but one day he found his calling. He turned another route which would be the ability to make music. The legacy and the impact he left behind was major. However, the lifestyle that he continued to live eventually caught up with Chalino. His musical career only lasted for four years and didn’t get to enjoy his fame for long. He was eventually murdered which till this day still remains a mystery.
Chalino Sanchez was born on August 30th, 1960 in the rough rugged streets of Las Flechas in Sinaloa, Mexico. He was the youngest of his 7 sibling’s and only had 1 sister. Chalino only had three years of schooling and by the time he was 4 years of age his father had passed away. According to Quinones, when Chalino was 11 years old his only sister Juana had been raped by a group of young men. One of the men was “El Chapo” Perez and was known around town as a “valiente” which means tough guy. (Pg. 13) Quinones, also states that 4 years later when Chalino was 15 he went to a party honoring November 20th, the day that the Mexican Revolution began, at a local elementary school. Chalino seen “El Chapo” Perez with his two brothers at the party and without saying a word he pulled out a gun and began shooting “El Chapo” Perez to death. He began to shoot it out with his brothers and eventually left the place. (Pg. 13) Chalino hid out for a few weeks until he migrated to Oregon before he finally settled in Los Angeles.
Now having settled in Los Angeles Chalino still had connections in Mexico and one of those connections was his brother Armando Sanchez. According to Wald, Chalino did whatever he had to do to work which included smuggling drugs, crossing people from the border, and semi legitimate work with his brother Armando. (No Page) Even when he escaped from Mexico he could not escape the dangerous life that continued to follow him. According to Wald, in 1984 when Chalino was only 24, his brother Armando was killed at a hotel in the city of Tijuana, Mexico. Shortly after Chalino would be sentenced 8 months in prison for all of the petty crimes he had committed. (No page) Being locked in prison is not the best thing for somebody but in Chalino’s case it turned out to be perfect.
While in prison Chalino was not alone. According to Quinones, He was with his cousin Ismael Sanchez who played the guitar. There was also other musicians from Sinaloa who had done serious crimes such as murder, drug smuggling, etc. All the men wanted to hear the crimes they did but in a song format. Chalino took his first shot at writing a corrido for the men. He even wrote about his brother and titled the song “Armando Sanchez” (Pg. 14) when he was released from prison he continued to deal drugs, commit crimes, and wash cars. Word started to spread around that Chalino had a great ability to write stories. According to Wald, drug dealers continued to ask him to write about their stories and eventually wanted them to be performed by bands. Chalino would later find a group but didn’t like how the lyrics were being delivered, he then figured he would sing them himself. In 1987 he then met a studio owner by the name of Angel Parra he would advise him instead of doing songs to just do a proper run of 300 Cassettes (No Page). He would then become a professional singer.
The type of music that Chalino put out was not your average Rancheras, Romanticas, or Mariachi type of style. He would sing about real life situations such as hardships, oppression, and death. It was very unique some people did not prefer his music but for others it was as if they gravitated to it and were able to relate about what he sang about. Everyone who felt as if they did not have a say in society felt as if Chalino was the one who was speaking out for them. Although he was criticized for his voice, according to Wald, Chalino said “I don’t sing, I bark!” which turned out to be a great asset for him his voice was flat which made it unique, when you heard his songs play you knew who it was (No page).
Fame & Success
According to Quinones, in 1989 Chalino formed RR Records and was now hustling his cassettes full-time at bakeries, swap meets, and car washes. In 1990 he convinced his friend Parra to let him play at a night club called “El Parral” which became a huge success, so many people wanted to see Chalino play, that by 8:00 they would need to shut the doors because they reached maximum capacity. Club owners then wanted to book Chalino because of the crowds he drew (Pg. 19). His music was now being heard from Las Vegas, California, Mexico and even his hometown in Sinaloa. Chalino started to clean up his music a bit and drew away from writing about the violence and what helped his notoriety. According to Quinones, on January 20th 1992 Chalino performed at Coachella in Palm Springs, California. He performed to the Latin crowd and the night seemed well but violence always seemed to be a part of Chalino’s life. A man names Eduardo Gallegos went up on stage and shot Chalino on his side but that didn’t stop Chalino as he pulled out his pistol and began firing back. 6 people were injured and Eduardo was sent to jail. The event made ABC News and after that his fame skyrocketed and was now a star (Pg. 19&20). His song “Nieves De Enero” became a hit and got radio play but radio stations did not play his notorious music. He signed with Musart Records and according to Wald, the deal was worth 350,000 Pesos which at the time was worth $115,000. Everyone was playing Chalinos music, people who were Mexican but did not speak it wanted to know more after they listened to the songs and people who only listened to rap music were now playing his music (No Page). 4 Months later he would play his last gig.
On May 15th 1992 Chalino Sanchez finally returned to Mexico to play his last gig at the Salon Bugambilias in Culican, Sinaloa which was a huge success. As always danger was in the area, and after the concert according to King, he left with some relatives when they got stopped by an armed Chevrolet. They told Chalino that their commander needed to see him, he then got into the car with the armed men. On May 16th 1992 at the age of 31 Chalino Sanchez was found murdered with two gunshot wounds in the back of his head (Pg.326). His death was on the news in Mexico and in the United States, but his death still remains a mystery and no one knows for sure why he was killed.
Chalino Sanchez’s career may have only lasted for a short while but he is the influence on many people which includes Los Plebes Del Rancho, T3R Elemento, and Gerardo Ortiz. Not just musicians he inspired but also immigrants and showed them that you can make something out of nothing. He had to grow up fast by his surrounding and the things that were happening in his life. His voice still lives on and will always be considered “El Rey Del Corridos”.
Quinones, Sam. True Tales from Another Mexico the Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino, and the Bronx. Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2011.
I used this resource because it had a lot of knowledge about the man I was doing the research about and had a lot of facts and valid points about his life, career, and death. It gave me a lot of information which I used for this research essay. Sam Quinones interviewed many relatives, close friends, and managers who knew Chalino Sanchez and people who spent time with him and knew him the best.
King, John. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
King, John was another Author who wrote an incredible book about Latin culture and also music about different varieties of artists. Chalino Sanchez was one of the people he talked about that had a big influence on people who listened to corridos. He gave great information about how he got into the music industry and the people who helped guide him with his career.
Wald, Elijah. Narcocorrido: a Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas. Rayo, 2002.
Elijah Wald was another great author who talked about the lifestyle that Chalino was living and how he migrated from Mexico to the United States. He also explained why he had to move, he also got deeper and told his audience what kind of crimes Chalino was committing and how he got sent to prison. This gave me great information and helped me with this research report.
“Photo.” Soy Grupero, www.soygrupero.com.mx/principal/chalino-sanchez-en-el-senor-de-los-cielos/attachment/photo/.