Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I saw him walking in his baby blue suit, I immediately recognized the dancer in him – the Mambo move in his hips, his Danzon step, his sense of swing as he walked amongst the hundreds of people rushing past.

Pachuco Nereidas and I had agreed to meet after I encountered him in the Los Angeles dance hall of Mexico City. I was intrigued by the sub-culture of men like him, who are known as “Pachucos”. Their elegant attire, their passion for dancing, and their gentlemanly behavior reminded me of myself when I was a teenager back in Cali, Colombia.

Dancing is part of everyday life, especially in Cali. We would get dressed in tailor-made flares and shirts, and go to a dance hall every Saturday night with a group of friends.

We behaved like real gentlemen towards the ladies and they loved it. Those were the times when you would send girls messages on “esquelas”, little colored cards sometimes in the shape of hearts, to invite them to go out or come to a dance.

Some say that “Pachuco” comes from the Nahuatl word “Pachoacan”, which means “place where one rules.” Maybe that was an important statement to make for the Mexican migrants who are supposed to have popularized this movement, while living in the racist and hostile environment of segregated Los Angeles neighborhoods in the 1930s and 40s.