Once Upon a Time in Sinaloa: Erick Galindo talks ‘Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez’
The writer, director, and podcast host spoke to AL DÍA about the podcast tracking the life, death and mystery surrounding the narcocorrido icon.
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The deaths of 2Pac and Biggie nearly 30 years ago, made them folk heroes whose stories became that of legend. Similar to Jim Morrison, or Kurt Kobain, their deaths revived people’s interest in them, their music, and attracted more fans to their work and life.
The same goes for the ‘King of Corridos,’ Chalino Sánchez, the legendary singer hailing from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, whose murder at the age of 31 has since remained a mystery, being subject to different theories, and whose music that has subsequently grown in popularity in the time since his death in 1992.
For fans before his death, he has remained, and for a new whole generation of fans, Sánchez is now a legend and a hero for many within the Latino community. His story is of a poor boy raised on a ranch who sang songs about urban legends, leading a life akin to that of Billy the Kid in the Wild West, with shootouts, romance, and death.
His life, the mysterious circumstances surrounding his murder, and much more is the subject of the popular podcast from Futuro and Sonoro Media, Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez.
Five-time Telly Award winner, writer, director, and co-host of Ídolo, alongside Alejandro Mendoza, Erick Galindo, spoke to AL DÍA about the show’s origins, the story and legend of Chalino, and its popularity.
Early Introduction to Chalino
The show’s origins stem from Galindo’s personal experience as a child in Paramount, California, where at one point, the singer lived just a few blocks away from his family home, and was a favorite among his family, specifically his older brother.
“He was a big deal to my brother and my cousin. I was very young but I knew who he was. He was the only famous Mexican that I knew in my small world that I was in,” said Galindo.
“The one thing that got my attention was I knew that he was from the neighborhood. Somebody that lives near us was successful in any way because we were struggling a lot. A lot of the people in my community were struggling,” he continued.
A “handshake deal”
Ídolo went through different phases before ultimately being the podcast we know today. For Galindo, it was a story that meant a lot to him and his community and he was looking for any way to get something made out of it. From a teleplay to an essay, the idea was a raw project that was worked on periodically for the better part of a decade.
“I was always trying to get people to really understand the importance of the story for me and my community,” Galindo said. “And it was always kind of an uphill battle.”
It was not until Galindo was telling a friend about trying to get the show made when he was referred to Marlon Bishop, current Vice President of Podcasts at Futuro Studios, about making a lifelong dream project, a reality.
Bishop was intrigued by the story of Chalino and the podcast idea brought forth by Galindo.
“We just had a handshake deal. I was like, let's do it. He tells me, you write it, you host it, you report it, and we can sell it and then hopefully get some resources to help you make it. That's basically how it went down,” he said.
The Legend of Chalino
The popularity of Chalino both before and after his death, at least among the community Galindo grew up in, was huge, and he credits people in his age group, now adults, who are determining pop culture.
It’s an aspect that Galindo says mainstream media will take a while before catching up.
“I do think millennials, Gen Z, the vast majority of them are Latino. We are the ones deciding what is the culture. Chalino was the thing that a lot of us knew from our parents, from our older siblings, or uncles, and we got to listen to the music,” he said.
The mystery behind his life and demise is one of much interest, mainly because there is very little known, or was even documented about him before or after his death.
In Galindo’s deep dive into Chalino’s life, he was able to piece together the story from interviews and visits with those close to the man or who had written about him, specifically a visit to Chalino’s home state of Sinaloa where Galindo met with a number of journalists, and relatives of the singer.
The podcast is one of the very few, if only, real pieces of media that gives a lot more personal insight into the late singer's life, a reason why Galindo thinks the podcast has been so successful.
“I think the reason the podcast was so successful was because most people knew of Chalino, they knew the music, but they didn't really know the story. Maybe they saw the memes, heard the rumors, ‘chisme,’ nobody knows,” he said.
The popularity of Idolo
Galindo is a writer, director, and showrunner who works on a lot of different stories. He’s recently been asked to speak to college kids and give advice. He said people always ask, how do you know a story is gonna be popular or successful? You cannot know, but all you can do is abide by the stories you like to tell.
“I tell stories that I want to hear, stories that I wish I could have seen, or heard or read when I was a kid, stories that maybe would have helped me not have to learn things the hard way. Stories that give dignity to the people that I grew up with,” he said.
The podcast’s success has also brought Galindo and the show fame and attention from across the U.S., and listeners all over the globe. At one point, it was charting in the top 100 of all countries, and number one in Mexico.
“I am surprised that people in Singapore are listening to people in Australia. It's mind blowing,” he said.
Strength in Latino culture
With Latino music, movies, and all other entertainments and aspects of culture being adopted widely even here in the U.S., for Galindo, it is an awesome trajectory that Latinos in media find themselves on, with so much more to come still.
“It's mind blowing. Because for people that have been trying to tell these stories for such a long time, it does feel very incipient. But it is great to see that we're the tip of the spear. This is the vanguard of what's to come,” he said.
“I'm ready to see movies, films, TV shows about people from my community in many nuanced ways so that whenever one story comes out, or one story gets canceled, it doesn't feel like it's the end of the world or it doesn't feel like it has to represent the entire community. I'm very honored to be a part of it and very honored to be alive during this moment.”
Listen to all eight episodes of Idolo here: https://www.futuromediagroup.org/chalinosanchez/.