By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Viera's own story is about as improbable as Chalino's. A graduate of Paramount High, in 1995 Viera was working for a courier company when one night he was drinking with some friends at El Parral. At their urging and because the club was almost empty, Viera got up to sing with the house band. Abel Orozco, looking for a new Chalino, figured Viera's raw style would do. He recorded his first album the next month - and 14 more by the time he was 22. Viera, who took the stage name El Gavilancillo (The Little Hawk), became that wonderful urban-immigrant anomaly: a young man who listened to rap and made a living singing polkas about Mexican drug smugglers (though, as with Chalino, Viera's biggest hit was a radio-safe love song).
"When I was in junior high and my dad would play the banda music, I'd be like, 'Turn it down. My friends are going to hear.' Now it's the other way around," he said. "I'm turning it up, and my parents are turning it down. When I was younger, I was ashamed of Mexican music. Now I know who I am. I'm not afraid of my race."
His goal was to be "as big as Vicente Fernandez," the great Mexican ranchera singer.
He never got the chance. Last April, Viera and his fiancee were in the parking lot of a Denny's restaurant in Bellflower. A tall, thin young man approached them, pulled a pistol from his shirt and fired several times into Viera, who died in the parking lot. His fiancee was unharmed. Viera was a well-known ladies' man - he even kept a scrapbook filled with photographs of himself with an array of young, beautiful women, and he'd had children by three of them. Many suspect the shooter to be a jealous boyfriend, friend or brother of one of Viera's ex-girlfriends, but so far the case remains unsolved.
What had been implicit in Chalino's music turned explicit and extreme in the torrent of "corridos pesados," or drug corridos, emerging out of the small L.A. labels. Singers posed with massive weaponry. On his album Mi Oficio Es Matar (Killing Is My Business), Jesus Palma shouldered a bazooka. Singers who had never done many narcocorridos found they had to sing a few if they wanted to sell records. Recently, one company even released an Alvin and the Chipmunks-style album of corridos for children.