Cheech & The American Dream

Richard Marin has had a pretty good run playing “the Hispanic guy” in Hollywood. Better known as Cheech (short for chicharrón [chee-chah-RROHN], a dubious pork product perfect for marijuana smokers with a wicked case of the, ahem, munchies.), Marin has been perfecting his craft for nearly 35 years.

 

 

His work in the Cheech & Chong series is legendary. He was great as Romeo the caddie in Kevin Costner’s Tin Cup. His voiceover as Ramone in Pixar’s Cars franchise is minor, but excellent. Even his career footnotes are awesome….

 

 

Remember The Golden Palace? It was The Golden Girls spin-off that had Blanche and the girls buying a hotel. Cheech was the chef. Don Cheadle was the hotel manager. Brilliant!

 

Cheech, Cheadle, Betty White, Estelle Getty plus the opening diddy of “Thank You for Being a Friend”…. How did this thing only last one season? Locura Pura!

 

 

 

 

Anyway – over the years Cheech has transitioned from testing positive to being positive.

 

Despite his thick accent which is more contrived than natural, Cheech is reportedly less-than-fluent in Spanish. Marin was born in LA. His father was a police officer, his mother a secretary. He went to college at what is now Cal State Northridge.

 

Cheech is living the American Dream. From a distance, Marin’s story is not that different from Brad Pitt’s or George Clooney’s. OK – maybe a really long distancia, but hear me out….

 

They all had a passion for acting. They all pursued it. They all caught a break somewhere. They were likable. They were consistent. Then they became famous and the flywheel picked up speed…. Famoso > Más Work > Más famoso > Más Work…. and then you wake up one day in Nash Bridges.

 

 

Yeah, there are millions of little details (Aniston v. Jolie, Ocean’s 11, Tommy Chong, et al.) we’re skipping, but the narrative arc is the same. In short, it’s the American Dream.

 

This is why when I read Cheech’s candid thoughts on Hispanics in America and their American Dream, I found myself nodding in agreement. In light of everything that is going on in America today, maybe the story of America 2012 is not unfolding exactly how we would have scripted it. But on the jobsite and in everyday life… we’re in this together.

 

 

Here is Cheech:

To me Hispanic immigration is like lava flow. You can stand in front of it and try to block it with walls and Minutemen or you can try to channel it in positive directions. I want my kids to be both proud Hispanics and proud Americans. 

One big problem is that we have been excluded from the fabric of America when in fact we’re one of the main threads. If you took out the Hispanic influence from American society none of the West would have names and there’d be nothing good to eat in restaurants. Immigration is saving small towns from extinction. It’s the single most powerful new voice in American culture. Salsa is already more popular than ketchup. 

It may not be unfolding exactly how we would like it, but I think it’s all going to work out. We have to keep a positive attitude. 

 

 

As the political rhetoric builds in the coming months about Immigration (and any other topic that has pundits yelling at each other), be sure to check the political banter against your own personal experiences – on the jobsite or anywhere else.

 

Be like Cheech.

Keep a positive attitude.

It’ll all work out.

 

 

Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry. Cheech’s quote is from Geraldo Rivera’s book, His PanicHartmann’s review of this book will arrive in September.

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