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An online store is using Latino humor — and gaining fans

“We try to touch on things that are funny and sincere. I think that resonates with people," says House of Chingasos founder Carlos Ugalde.
House of Chingasos creates t-shirts and merchandise inspired by Latino culture.
House of Chingasos creates T-shirts and merchandise inspired by Latino culture.Courtesy House of Chingasos

An online shop is standing out for its use of funny and unconventional phrases that resonate with many Latinos, and it's gaining a fan base on social media.

The House of Chingasos focuses on tailoring their designs to reflect the joys of being Latino — with sayings from sweet childhood rhymes to sarcastic takes on how Latinos are seen.

“We try to touch on things that are funny and sincere. I think that resonates with people — they go, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember chingasos!’” Carlos Ugalde, 49, told NBC News. Chingasos is slang for a beating or going to blows with someone, although it can mean a harsher curse word to some.

Graphic T-shirts designed by House of Chingasos.
Graphic T-shirts designed by House of Chingasos.Courtesy House of Chingasos

One T-shirt reads “Cafecito Y Chisme” (coffee and gossip), while a woman's T-shirt reads "Tamale Squad," with "La jefa" (female boss) underneath. A man's T-shirt reads "Menudo wrecking machine," a reference to a popular dish made with tripe.

Another item refers to "colita de rana," which literally means frog's tail but is really known as part of a Spanish-language nursery rhyme to console children after they've been hurt or when they're sick. "Sana, sana, colita de rana (Heal, heal, little frog's tail ...)," the rhyme starts.

“It pulls on the heartstrings and people connect with that," Ugalde said about some of his phrases.

Another T-shirt makes a political point — reading "I only look illegal," with the phrase #Deportracism underneath the stark phrase.

The Las Vegas-based store has nearly 117,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, where they often share memes that Latinos can relate to. The actor Mario Lopez and Oscar De La Hoya, the former professional boxer, have become fans of the store's shirts.

And as its audience continues to increase, so does House of Chingasos' revenue. The business saw over $1.9 million in profit last year, despite the financial impact of the pandemic.

Ugalde said the success came after his first failure, a store selling products for cat lovers. Although he isn't a cat fan himself, he figured he could design products for those who were — but it flopped.

Born in Bolivia, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 8 months old. His mother is partly Mexican, and without a strong Bolivian community around him, he closely identified with Southern California's Latino and Mexican culture.

Growing up, he watched his father, who had been a civil engineer in Bolivia, work low-wage jobs while he learned English. His father eventually started his own advertising agency.

Ugalde said his father's success inspired his entrepreneurial spirit, and tired of seeing “taco and tequila” taglines mainly used in Latino merchandise, he decided to create his own brand and make it more meaningful.

“Seeing families all wearing a shirt during the holidays, or just seeing something they got as a gift that reminds them of their mother — those things are so great to me," Ugalde said. "It really makes everything worthwhile and special."

As for what he wants others to take away from his story, it’s that his success is attainable.

“I thought after my first failure that people who make money like this must have some special connections or talent. I came to realize that’s not the case," he said.

“If you have passion behind something you’re doing and you actually put some work behind it," Ugalde said, adding, "If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

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