When you see Chuco walking down the street, he projects a “don’t mess with me” toughness that extends beyond the tattoos that cover his body. It’s in his walk and even the glare that’s fierce enough to project through his darkened sunglasses. But once you speak with him, you become aware of a calmness, almost peacefulness, to the man. It’s a rare dichotomy that immediately draws one in.
Chuco, short for Pachuco (which is slang for a Zoot Suiter, the Chicanos with the baggy pants and chain from the 40’s), was born and raised in Lockeford, a small town in the agricultural central valley of California. Though he grew up in the 70’s when tattoos were much less common, he always felt that tattoos were something of a birthright and that he’d be putting them on someday since his father was a tattoo artist.
Tattoos were just one part of growing up. Crime and gang banging were the principle elements of his youth. As a result, he “dusted off the ’90’s incarcerated.” His most aggressive tattoo, the “FTW” (for Fuck the World) came about during his teens when he was angry at the world and filled with disfunction from his upbringing. Back then tattoos were rare so putting it on his face was one “helluva statement.”
The gang life lost its importance however, once he began to raise a family. His wife and kids - he has four now - became the focus of his life and he took to it with all the seriousness with which he formerly administered his gang life. Though his priorities changed, leaving the gang was not easy. Traditionally, to exit the gang is an “impossibility that’s sometimes fatal.” Because of his family ties however and his previous unswerving commitment to the gang’s principles, he walked out the same way he walked in, with respect.
Since he had a criminal record and no shortage of formidable tattoos, reentering society was not easy. He worked in a variety of jobs, from working machinery to digging ditches to delivering pizza. Going from a position of respect and authority to handing out pizzas with a goofy uniform was humbling - but it helped him to shed his negativity and stand up on his own two feet without the support of the gang and his homies.
Today, he’s an internationally traveled tattoo artist whose client base includes soccer moms and people from all walks of life. He’s a happy go lucky guy who feels blessed and grateful for everything that’s happened in his life, including his tough criminal past. His experiences have shaped him into the thriving man that he is today, tattoos and all.