His likeness can be found on T-shirts in California markets, and fans still hear his raspy voice singing the corridos, or Mexican ballads, that made Chalino Sánchez famous.
Decades after he was found shot to death at the age of 31, his appeal has only been compounded by a popular podcast that has revived interest in the “King of the Corrido.”
It was not easy to tell the story of Sánchez – full of music, corridos but also violent episodes – taking into account that he was shot in 1992 and that the few confirmed details about his death are full of contradictions.
But the journalists Erick Galindo and Alejandro Mendoza —authors and co-hosts of “Ídolo: La balada de Chalino Sánchez”— together with the production team of Future Studies Y Sonorous I found a way to tell the story and engage anyone who hits play.
the bilingual podcast It’s almost a year old, and since then the impact has been enormous.
“Ídolo” topped the podcast charts upon its release, and has been described as “a tribute to the many things Chalino paved the way for” by podcast the newsletter and as a series that “does not waste time getting hooked on the mystery surrounding his death” by the renowned Los Angeles LA Taco outlet.
“I think nobody imagined that it would be as big as it has been,” Galindo said in an interview with Noticias Telemundo. “It ended up being the No. 1 podcast in Mexico. … I remember looking at the charts and it was in the top 100 in every country. It’s still in the top 100 podcasts today, a year later, and people recognize me from the podcast. … They’re like, ‘Oh my God, you’re Erick Galindo!’”
The podcast, with a version in English and another in Spanish, has made it possible to connect with very different audiences, not only by nationality, but also by age. “It’s the first podcast my parents listened to,” Galindo said.
Even Sánchez’s wife, Marisela Vallejos Félix, told Galindo that she did not expect the podcast to be so popular.
Written by Galindo and Mendoza as if it were a thriller, the chapters investigate possible theories about the singer’s life and death. Sánchez was born and died in northern Mexico—in Culiacán, Sinaloa—but he was well known and continues to be very popular on the other side of the border, especially in Los Angeles, where he lived for several years and achieved his dream. to become a popular singer.
The result is an emotional story, set to music by an original “corrido” created especially for the podcast.
A podcast narrated by a pocho and a chilango
Galindo, whose family is from Culiacán, was born in the US and remembers how shocking Sánchez’s death was for him and his family.
In the case of his older brother, it was a literal shock: He had come home visibly shaken after learning that his favorite corrido singer had been shot and killed, according to the writer in the first episode of the podcast. She wanted to put a cassette of the artist’s hits into the family’s rickety tape recorder, but trying to pry out another jammed cassette with a screwdriver, she was shocked and passed out. When she was barely conscious again, he said between sobs: “They killed Chalino.”
The anecdote shows the deeply personal touch that he and Mendoza bring to the narrative, drawing on their own experiences, which ended up producing unique versions of the same story, each with completely original language and approach.
“We started to think it would be an exact translation from English to Spanish and vice versa… But when we started writing, we realized it wasn’t the same story,” Galindo said.
“If you listen to the two episodes, in English and in Spanish… you’ll see that the perspective is different,” said Galindo, “one is the perspective of a ‘pocho’ (Mexican-American slang) living in the United States and the other is that of a ‘chilango'” (referring to someone from Mexico). The Spanish one represents a view from the Mexican states of Jalisco, Michoacán and Sinaloa, which are epicenters of the war against drug cartels and much of the violence that is shaking the country.
The figure of Sánchez is an archetype for many Mexicans because of what he represents, Mendoza said, “a bit like the stereotype of the brave, brave man who goes ahead, who has a clear goal and is going to achieve it, who doesn’t leave someone behind and He had a dream and he fulfilled it.”
Sánchez represents the experiences of migrant men and women in the United States. She was born on a ranch in Culiacán, in the bosom of a traditional, poor and large Mexican family. His father died when he was only 6 years old and he had to learn to earn a living with his seven brothers.
An outlaw turned singer
The podcast takes the listener into the controversy surrounding the late singer, including accounts of Sánchez’s involvement in more than one shooting, including an account of a shooting at a party in Culiacán when he was “just a short teenager,” as Mendoza recounts. in Spanish. , a fact that forces Sánchez to emigrate to California.
The he also shot the audience in the middle of a concert at the Plaza Los Arcos bar in Coachella, California, returning fire after being shot. He was not charged.
The podcast’s narrators deftly weave the most relevant events of Sánchez’s life with theories about his death: whether he was killed in revenge for the shooting at a party in Culiacán as a teenager, whether the cartels wanted him dead for the lyrics to his songs , it was due to a possible love triangle with a furious drug lord, or it was due to possible links with a drug trafficker, among other hypotheses. Each episode is dedicated to one of these theories, and together they masterfully narrate Sánchez’s cinematographic life.
Anecdotes and references to Sánchez’s songs and interviews with other legends of regional Mexican music, including a very brief interview outside a parking lot worthy of a movie script with Don Pedro Rivera, one of the pillars of the industry and father of Lupillo Rivera. and the late singer Jenni Rivera—complete the narrative and immerse the listener in the underworld of the music industry and drug culture.
“The Mexican regional genre is historically associated with drug trafficking and crime,” Mendoza said. It’s a complex relationship that stems from a relatively simple principle: Artists talk about what they know, so in a country overwhelmed by crime, it’s no surprise that songs about kingpins, kilos, and machine guns abound.
“The regional Mexican genre tells stories that happen in the country, and if the country is submerged in violence, there will be a chronicler who speaks it,” Mendoza said.
There is also humor, reflected in a scene from the second episode about how Sánchez and his future wife and mother of their two children, Marisela Vallejos Félix, met. It was Mendoza’s favorite anecdote.
Sanchez is driving through the streets of East Los Angeles and sees a woman he likes standing on the sidewalk getting wet in the rain. He then offers to give her a lift in her car, a gesture both gallant and arrogant.
For Mendoza, the scene says a lot about the two characters.
“I was exerting this image of power, like, ‘Hey, I have a car, I’m handsome, get in,’” he said. “And I love it because her response speaks of the character of the Mexican woman. … She said: ‘Okay, I’ll get on, but let me drive’, and she drove, but she did it so fast that Chalino himself got scared. And well, he liked that.”
Between shootings, love anecdotes and theories about an unsolved crime, the narrators take the listener by the hand through the story of Sánchez, until his last days.
After the artist’s involvement in the Coachella shooting while on stage, he catapulted to fame.
After the shooting, he was hospitalized in serious condition after receiving two bullet wounds. But a few months later, when he was barely recovering, he made a risky decision that put him on a deadly path: he returned to Culiacán to sing to his people the corridos that made him famous.
He arrived in Sinaloa to present what would be his last concert on May 16, 1992. The concert was sold out, the audience sang all the songs, and Sánchez was probably giving the performance of his life, podcasters explain. Amid the melee, he was approached by a man who handed him a note with a handwritten message, known in the singer’s fan circles as the “death note.”
What was written on that paper has never been revealed, but his composure changed when he read it. She tossed it to the ground and continued to play, as if nothing had happened.
Hours later, still at dawn, they found him dead in a canal. His wrists and ankles were bound and he had been shot twice in the back of the head.
As Galindo narrates on the podcast, Sánchez’s death seemed like the inevitable conclusion of his Wild West lifestyle. Rumors about why he was killed started immediately: that he had faked his death to escape a possible attack, that the Mexican or US government killed him, that he was a secret hit man for the cartels and got what he deserved. .
Since Sánchez’s death, canciones rancheras sung in a shrill, off-key voice but with deep passion have gone from being liked by a select few to becoming the most important musical genre in Mexico. With this, the figure of Chalino has become a true pop icon.
An earlier version of this story was first published on Noticias Telemundo.