60+ Daring Chicano Tattoo Ideas & a Bit of History Behind

The Chicano style
What is Chicano and how to understand it? We explained all the features of this style of tattoo and as a bonus, we found 60 delightful ideas to take note of.

The Chicano style is one of the most famous and popular in the art of tattooing. Even though it appeared only in the middle of the twentieth century, it is easily recognized today. Chicano is rightfully called one of the most famous styles around the world. 

No one to this day can say how the word “Chicano” translates. It is most commonly associated with the term “Mexicano” which indicates Mexican Americans. This is because for the first time tattoos in this direction were inflicted by gangs in Latin America. Then, for several decades, it was worn exclusively by members of the underworld. But the situation has changed. Since then, the tattoo has been used as a decoration for men, and women.

So, this style of tattoo originated on the streets of Los Angeles, not in the most favorable environment. However, its vibrant, expressive imagery and hooligan character have made it a cultural phenomenon and a popular style in artistic rather than criminal tattooing. And today we will tell you everything you need to know about this style of tattoo, as well as a selection of the best ideas for such tattoos.

What is the meaning of Chicano tattoos

Chicano tattoos

Religious themes prevail in Chicano tattoos. The traditional images are of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. Lucas. In addition, there are symbols — crosses, and angels. These tattoos emphasized the religiousness of the wearer, but also served as his amulet. 

Attractive women are adjacent to religious symbolism. Traditional Mexican sketches mention Saint Santissima, also known as the Saint of Death. But sometimes the members of the gang also tattooed images of beloved, dear to the heart ladies. Today, beautiful models from movies or magazines also appear on men’s shoulders.

Other themes include images of quotes and commemorative dates. The latter could denote the birthday of a child, the day a loved one died, etc.

An interesting offshoot is the tattoos, the subjects referring to the daily life of gangsters. These could be guns, cards, money, and drugs. Such body art began to appear later — in the seventies or eighties. At the same time among the subjects, Chicano appeared as a vivid image of the clown.

Nowadays, Chicano has lost its criminal essence, but it remains mostly masculine. Also, the style has long ceased to belong to only one ethnic group. Today it is a separate body painting artistic direction.

Where did the Chicano style come from

Chicano style

Chicano appeared back in the 1940s in the United States and several decades later became tightly associated with criminal Latin American gangs: it was in this environment and prisons that the first Mexican Chicano tattoos began to be inscribed. Even then the images that became traditional in the Chicano style began to take hold: women, skulls, religious symbols, and crosses on the fingers.

At the beginning of American society, people did not yet have equal rights and freedoms. Like many other ethnic groups, Chicanos were brutally persecuted because of their dark skin color and Catholic religion. They could only do the hardest and dirtiest jobs that paid pennies and so they lived very poorly. But they managed to preserve their culture to bring them to our time in their original form.

To survive, such people had to become criminals and form gangs. That’s when it was invented to use body art to denote belonging to a certain gang. Basically, Chicano tattoos were images of Jesus Christ, St. Lucas, and the Virgin Mary. Also, they could be various crosses and even entire phrases. These drawings most often told about the principles and moral values of the representatives of these gangs.

Now such tattoos no longer carry the semantic load, which they had before. In the 21st century, it is just a beautiful decoration, but it doesn’t matter that we can forget history. 

Masks and clowns in Chicano tattoos

Chicano masks tattoos are depicted in quite different variations: individually, on faces, on hands. In traditional Chicano tattoos they have the meaning “Laugh now, cry later”. This image refers to the classic symbol of theatrical masks of comedy and drama — the main features that a tattoo of a clown acquires.

The peculiarity is that it is the girls who are most often portrayed as “clowns,” and such a specific depiction is characteristic only of Chicano tattoos.

Skull tattoo ideas

In Mexican culture, the skull tattoo is a strong symbol of death. Death, on the other hand, is not perceived so tragically in Mexico. “Holy Death”, Santa Muerta is the strongest religious symbol, referring to the eternal memory of the ancestors, to the acceptance and eternal life in the other world.

Weapon (gun) tattoo ideas

The gun tattoo is a completely straightforward symbol. It refers us to the criminal past of Chicano tattoos, gangs, brute force, and danger. Gun tattoos also often feature a female image. Usually, a girl is holding a gun and is about to shoot.

Angels, saints, and Virgin Mary in Chicano tattoos

83% of Mexicans are devout Catholics, so religious symbols, especially angels, are often the subject of tattoos. They glorify saints, protect, express respect, and belong to a religion.

Roses tattoo ideas

In all cultures, roses symbolize love, life, and beauty. In Chicano, they are often combined with skulls, which gives together a lot of different interpretations.

It is also common to see roses tattooed next to beautiful girls, which are also often seen in Chicano subjects.

Chicano tattoo lettering ideas

Chicano tattoo inscriptions help add to the “message” and meaning of the story. Chicano tattoos often feature years, numbers, and prayers.

By the way, the Chicano style has significantly influenced the fashionable and successful modern lettering.

Compositions in Chicano tattoos

People who choose Chicano tattoos often prefer not to ink just one image, but to create a composition — and a large one. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if I said that tattoo sleeves are some of the most popular choices for the Chicano style. 

Large compositions often include the main symbols of the style — girls, guns, skulls, roses. Sometimes they are combined in the most unusual plots, and the tattoo comes out unique. Everyone can interpret it differently, and still will not guess what the owner wanted to say. 

Features and specifics of the style

Among the distinctive features of Chicano are:

  • Black color;
  • Careful lines of imagery;
  • Clear contours;
  • Pronounced shadows and penumbra;
  • A high level of contrast.

Together they create realistic illustrations.

Traditional tattoos are monochrome. But today they occur with some changes in design. Individual masters perform tattoos in red, blue, and green tones. But black still prevails in such a drawing.

Chicano-style tattoo is distinguished from all others by its peculiarities:

  • Images of beautiful girls whose faces are stylized as skulls, decorated with national patterns, etc.
  • Religion is one of the main themes of this style. Images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary predominate in the drawings, but in black shades.
  • The presence of inscriptions. The words and phrases are the messages of what is important in life, and laws that must be adhered to.
  • The use of motifs of Mexican culture, as this is their historical homeland.
  • Elements of street life.
Elements of street life.

Do women get Chicano tattoos?

Chicano is considered a distinctly masculine style of tattoo, and it used to be hardly seen on girls. Now society has changed, and there is no longer such a clear division into “masculine” and “feminine” both in tattoos and in other industries.

However, even now the preference for this style is more often given to men. Although even in our selection of Chicano tattoo ideas you can see several girls whose tattoos are beautiful and often bold. So the choice is up to you. If you like the Chicano style, it does not matter if you’re a girl or a guy — as long as you like what you do.

Do women get Chicano tattoos

Summary

Although Chicano is a rather young style of tattoo, it has a fascinating history that appeals to this style. If you decide to get such a tattoo, you probably know about its origins, and if not — better study, you will like it.

Among the traditional subjects in Chicano tattoos, the most frequent are images of women, roses, weapons, money, inscriptions, skulls, and, for sure, religious themes. Choose thoughtfully, because you are likely to get a rather large-sized tattoo, and it should please your eyes for years to come.

FAQ

💬What does a Chicano tattoo mean?

In Chicano tattoos, religious themes often prevail. The traditional images are of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. Lucas. Other symbols — crosses, angels. These tattoos emphasized the religiosity of the wearer, but also served as his amulet.

🤨Can you get a Chicano tattoo?

Of course, nowadays anyone can get a Chicano tattoo. It no longer means you belong to a gang (at least if you are not in Latin America). Now it’s just part of the art of tattooing.

❌What does the Chicano cross mean?

The Chicano or pachuco cross is usually applied between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Such tattoos are often used as part of the initiation ritual of new gang members (originally Chicano), as well as to demonstrate solidarity and loyalty.

⏳When did Chicano tattoos start?

Chicano appeared back in the 1940s in the United States and became tightly associated with criminal Latin American gangs several decades later. In this environment, the first Mexican Chicano tattoos began to appear in prisons.

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