polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Cholombianos: An Urban Subculture in Mexico

by Natalia Echeverri

In the midst of notorious drug violence in northern Mexico, a peaceful but curious subculture has emerged in the city of Monterrey. Known as Colombianos, this group of Mexican urban youth is bound by a love of Colombian cumbia and vallenato music mixed with more local, mellow beats. This cultural borrowing mixed with proud localism has given birth not just to a new musical style, but also to a dance and a "look." Although this style borrows from hip-hop and reggaeton fashion, it is shockingly unique.

Vice Magazine, which recently published a complete article on the Mexican Colombianos subculture, names them Cholombianos and notes a stylistic similarity to the Norteño cholos fused with elements of hip-hop and reggaeton.

Aside from the more common baggy pants and plaid shirts, Colombianos often wear apparel with prints of religious imagery. Hung from their necks are large hand-painted banners displaying their names, neighborhoods, and favorite radio station. The most remarkable and original fashion statement is their hairstyles, usually characterized by long sideburns glued to their faces (sometimes even reaching their chins), plastered bangs, and most of the back of their heads shaved. They seem as extreme as mohawks must have looked in the 1980's.

Although it's easy to chuckle at the styles of these youths, it can also be imagined to be an early phase of a subculture like the steam punks and harajuku kids. The fact that a musical genre, a non-violent attitude, and a social status bind these kids gives this style an appeal to a wider audience.

Credits: Portraits by Stephan Ruiz for Vice. Group photo by Amanda Watkins.