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La Gran Vida de Ramon "Chunky" Sanchez

Updated: Apr 28


A musician, songwriter and community activist, Ramón "Chunky" Sánchez has been a cultural icon in the Raza community of San Diego, California for many decades.


Sanchez was born Oct. 30, 1951, in Blythe, California to farm laborer parents. He and his brother learned to sing and play traditional music from their mother, a talented singer, and their uncles.


Both of his parents were farm laborers, and he himself worked in the fields, so Chunky learned early on in life about the struggles in the farm labor movement. He soon began to compose his own music, often with sociopolitical messages. He was frequently asked by César Chávez, to play at rallies and marches for the United Farm Workers Union.

A multi-talented musician, Chunky not only composed, but sang and played ten different instruments. Recruited along with other young farm laborers in 1969 to attend San Diego State University, Sanchez began performing with La Rondalla Amerindia de Aztlán, a popular musical group comprising both students and professors.


He later became the lead vocalist for the Mexican-Chicano folklore group Los Alacranes Mojados (The Wetback Scorpions). Chunky remarked about using the term “mojado” in the band’s name, telling a reporter; “We used that negative term among our own people. We tried to give it a positive connotation through the music. After a while, we cut the name down because it was too long, and besides that, we kinda like to joke around. People ask us, well, how come you’re not the Mojados anymore? I’d say, ‘cause we got amnesty!’”

Co-founded along with his brother Ricardo, The Alacranes recorded their first album in 1977. Using it as a platform to further Chicano civil rights and campesino labor efforts, his music has helped to define an era. Chunky's first original Raza hit “Chicano Park Samba” was a musical tribute to the famous Logan Heights Community Park takeover on April 22, 1970 in San Diego, California. Which has since been designated a national landmark!

Years later, Chicano Park Samba and Corrido del Bracero, were featured in a collection of "Songs of the Chicano Movement," that are preserved among the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States.


Órale, the Alacranes have two songs sitting alongside American folk music legends como Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Lead Belly! Chunky was also a 2013 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.


Paul Espinosa, an award-winning Filmmaker and Producer, is the President/CEO of Espinosa Productions, a film and video company specializing in documentary and dramatic films focused on the U.S.-Mexico border region. He has been involved with producing films for over 35 years and is Professor Emeritus in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University.

Professor Espinosa pieced together the story of Chunky's life, tracing how music carried him to the forefront of the Chicano civil rights movement. In an interview, Professor Espinosa said of Chunky, “He was somebody that I knew well.


Espinosa decided in 2011 that the world should know Chunky too. “I just felt his story was worth telling a larger audience.” Sadly, Chunky was never part of that audience. He saw only saw small clips of the film in production before he died in 2016, at the age of 64.


The finished film, ‘Singing Our Way to Freedom’ debuted in 2016. “I really want people to see the power of music in the larger social justice work that I believe needs to be done today,” Espinosa said.


If Chunky was sitting here with us today - locked down in our little corners of the world called home - I can almost hear him say, "Andale, ese are we gonna talk PuroChisme o cantar rolas de Aztlan, pues?"


Here is our humble tribute to Chunky. Inspired by, and sung-to-the-tune of

Tri-lingual Corrido” written by him and recorded by Los Alacranes Mojados in 1977. Our way, buey, to keep the musical voices of positive change alive among Raza!


Corrido de COVID-19


ESE HERMANO QUE NO ENTIENDES

Hey, my brother don’t you understand

NO IMPORTA DE DONDE VINO

Doesn’t matter where it came from

LET ME TELL YOU EN MI CANTO

Let me tell you in my song

LO QUE ES NUESTRO ENEMIGO

What is our enemy

MOVIENDO POR TODO EL MUNDO

Moving all around the world

TANTO MUERTO Y ENFERMADO

So many dead and sick

BUSCANDO LA SANACION

Looking for the cure

YA LLEGO LA REALIDAD

And now the reality is here

NO PODEMOS SALIR DE CASA

We can’t leave our homes

POR LECHUGA O CUALQUIER COSA

For lettuce or any one thing

YA NOS TIENEN ENCERRADOS

We are closed up inside

TAN PRONTO NOS CAMBIO LA VIDA

How suddenly our lives have changed

BUSCANDO-LECHE, PAN Y HUEVOS

Looking for milk, bread and eggs

Y LOS RICOS Y CABRONES

And the rich and selfish

ELLOS LLEVAN TODO PRIMERO

They take everything first

HASTA NO QUEDA NI, TOILET PAPER

To the point there’s not even, toilet paper

PRACTICANDO LA DISTANCIA

Practicing our distancing

MI AMOR DICE, NO TOUCHING PLZ

And my love says, “no touching plz”

PERO ME DIO UN CHORIZO SANDWICH

But she gave me a chorizo sandwich

QUEDAMOS, NETFLIX BINGE-WATCHING

And now we are “Netflix binge watching”

AL TRUMPADO NO DA IMPORTANCIA

This is not important to Trump

LE MOLESTA OIR LAS QUEJAS

It bothers him to hear the complaints

NO MAS QUIERE SER PODEROSO

He just wants to be the most powerful

SUS PALABRAS VALEN LA MIERDA

His words are worth shit

ENTENDEMOS QUE EN ESTE MUNDO

We understand that in this world

ESTA LLENO DE BUENA GENTE

There are many good people

LUCHANDO POR SEGUIR ADELANTE

Fighting to stay ahead

DEL PINCHE, CORONA VIRUS

Of this fucking corona virus

ESE HERMANO QUE NO ENTIENDES

Hey, my brother don't you understand?

COME AND SIT RIGHT HERE CONMIGO

Come and sit right here with me

LET ME TELL YOU EN MI CANTO

Let me tell you in my song

LO QUE ES NUESTRO ENEMIGO

What is our enemy


Stay tuned for the audio version of Corrrido de Covid-19 sung by Mensajes coming very soon...porque we have nothing else to do right now in el tiempo de social distancing!


Excerpts from:

https://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/los-alacranes/

https://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/ram%C3%B3n-chunky-s%C3%A1nchez

https://espinosaproductions.com/

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