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Lady Gaga Brings Cholas Back To Pop Culture – Like It Or Not

By Arturo R. García

As the marketing buzz controversy surrounding Lady Gaga’s new single grows, it should be pointed out that, as with arguably other aspects of her act, this is nothing new.

The lyrics in question in Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” center around an oddly-phrased call for self-empowerment:

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, Chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way

What sets Gaga’s use of the term apart, for now – there’s been no video released for “Born This Way,” though she will perform it at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 – is the direct use of the word Chola in the lyrics, as opposed to visual shorthand. And that’s where the controversy comes in: the word it’s derived from, Cholo, originated in the 16th century as a slur, similar to “mutt,” in both Perú and Mexico. But in the U.S., some would argue that they’re tied in with the Chicano identity and culture, following the lineage of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. Continue reading