Beyond The Locks with Alejandro Carillo

In Advocate by Pelo Suelto1 Comment

Going Deeper

Beyond The Locks is an interview series where we highlight men with long hair from different cultures and backgrounds. In these interviews we’ll hear these men’s perspectives and better understand what long hair means to them and their cultures.

Through these stories we hope to strengthen The Longhairs community, and inspire others to share their own.

Alejandro Carillo: A Longhaired Artisan, Musician & Entrepreneur

This edition of Beyond The Locks takes you on a spiritual journey with a story from the talented artisan and entrepreneur, Alejandro Carillo.

I met Alejandro through the folks at Siena Youth Center located in North Fair Oaks, California. Shy and quiet at first, Alejandro is an amazing storyteller, able to capture and paint moments in life with the power of his words. He has a creative aurora that shines in his artwork, musical talent and way of being.

As I arrived to his home to hear his story, he received me with brotherly love. It felt less like an interview and more of an exchange of longhair stories. After hearing his story we entered a shared music room filled with drums from different countries, a piano and other instruments. While he played on his guitar and sang, I gave him a beat on the drums. Here is what Alejandro shared with me about his long hair.

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When did you begin to grow your hair?

Right now I have dreadlocks. In Mexico we call them “rastas.” I started growing my hair out when I was 18 years old. In school, students were obligated to have a military haircut. Since I was a kid I liked having longer hair and liked to dye my hair. I even dyed my hair red.
 

What does long hair mean to you?

It is one of my favorite parts of my body. I have always thought long hair connects you to the universe. Our strands of hair act like antennas with the universe, it is very spiritual. I look at it as a connection to the brain, a connection which continues to grow.
 

What made you grow “rastas” or dreadlocks?

When I became an artisan, I got involved with the artisan community. Within the community, people came from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. There were numerous people with “rastas,” and seeing that inspired me. They had hair similar to mine, but they didn’t worry about combing and trying to make it look “nice.”
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Did you ever trim or cut your hair?

While growing my hair out for the first time I decided to give it a cut. I made a sacrifice, or in other words an offering. The offering was meant to give thanks to the world, to the universe. I was grateful for my beautiful life and I decided to shave it all off.

Not having my hair changed me. You lose a piece of your personality when you cut your hair. With long hair you tend to stand out more and get people’s attention. I grew it back, but this offering made me appreciate long hair and who I was.

In the Latino culture, people are closed-minded about long hair. You get categorized as a bad person, they assume you are going to do harm, and that you are a bad example to others. I am who I am, and having long hair or short hair will never define me as a person.

That is why I enjoy having long hair. I can be the example and break the stereotype by having people see me as a likeable person, a normal person. I wouldn’t want a person telling someone, “don’t hang around with Alejandro.” On the contrary, I want people to say “look at Alejandro, he is my friend,” and to promote the idea that you can have long hair and still become a policeman, a fireman, a priest, artist, etc.

 

How do you take care of your rastas?

Since I have long strands, I tie it up with one of my own locks. I take the strand and literally wrap it around my entire hair and tie it to keep it in place. On occasions while working with tools or gears, I rather tie it up.

Washing rastas isn’t easy either. The shampoos and soaps for normal hair breaks down differently for various types of hair. With locks, it is hard for the soap to completely dissolve and leave my locks completely dry. Just because the locks feels dry on the outside, doesn’t mean that it is dry on the inside. The rastas can build up and produce bacteria if you don’t dry it well.

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It hasn’t piqued my interest to find products for men. I use coconut oil. It is a disinfectant, it smells good, natural, and it’s overall great.

There is a lack of products for men and information about long hair. The Longhairs is the first company I have seen that offers products for men that doesn’t have to do with balding. It is about feeling good, smelling good and looking good.

How did you convert your hair from curly to rastas?

First, I was drinking some pulque (Mexican drink) in Mexico. I was going to buy some rocks to make jewelry, so I went to the artisan neighborhood.

A conversation sparked with this one dude who was also a traveler. He apparently knew some of my friends and my brother. His name was Benito, he had an attractive energy to him. He had given his wife rastas.

After talking for a bit and feeling the effects from all the pulque, I said “convert my entire hair into rastas.” He and his wife got to work and it took until nightfall. It was just us, the pulque and the stars. It was magical, a night I will not forget.

 

What did your family think of your rastas?

My parents said, “you looked fine, why did you do this?” My parents don’t like artisans, they don’t like how they look, nor how they live their lives. They look at them as vagabonds or people who don’t have anything to do.

One day I had the opportunity to introduce my parents to Benito and his wife. Surprisingly they got along very well. They asked questions, exchanged conversation and found some similarities.

That day my life changed. Since that day, something happened to me, I feel like I grew. The perspective of my life changed. In addition, my parent’s perspective changed as well.

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One thing that drives me is being able to show that having long hair doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. My mom now likes it. When we FaceTime she asks, “how long do you have it now? Show me!” She usually says, “wow it is longer than mine.” My dad on the other side says, “c'mon man return to being a man now. Cut your hair.” He still doesn’t approve.

My brother is the complete opposite from me. We are both great people, he has a family, a great career, but he is the sharp, clean cut type. He looks like a TV personality, always sharp and gets his beard cut in a certain way, maintaining straight hair lines, and he likes wearing a suit.

I believe straight, clean lines make short hairs feel good. For short hairs, this is a confirmation that they look good.

I don’t need a confirmation, I feel real good and I like being different too. I don’t like to fit into a certain box. I am the only person in my family who stands out and is rebellious.

 

How do you maintain your rastas? Why do you continue having rastas?

My girlfriend Carmela helps me crochet my dreads. By using a crochet hook you make new rastas or reinforce already existing rastas. After that, you don’t have to worry about brushing your hair. You just wake up and boom let's go to work.

When looking at the ancient scenery of the aztecs, you see evidence of long hair. They too had dreadlocks and were proud of their hair. Their hair was used to show power and status. I want to share that attribute within me as well. I continue to have long hair to preserve the pride of my race.

 

Has anyone else bothered you about your hair?

My grandmother bothered me one time. We were at my uncles’ party and I had arrived from work. Entering the room, I was still in my artisan clothes. My grandmother pulled next to me while I was eating and asked me if we could have a serious conversation.

“What’s up grandma, what happened?” I said.

“Now, when are you actually going to work?” she asked.

I thought, “damn, but I just came back from work.” Out loud I replied, “I came from selling my art, is everything ok? Do you need money?”

“No no, when are you going to work? You have a girlfriend, you have to be responsible and you have to turn into a man. You need to have a serious job,” my grandmother said.

“But I have a job grandma, I like my work and what I do,” I replied.

“No no, find a real job. Like your brother, like Beto, be like Beto,” insisted my grandmother.

This is all due to just how I looked.

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Where does your rebellion come from?

Being rebellious is what drives me to continue having long hair. I like to be rebellious, but I like to be a rebel with a cause.

I have my principles that lie behind my rastas. My bad experiences came from going to school. I had been growing my hair out because I thought, “What are they going to do, they can’t tell me what to do.”

However, I went to a catholic school. Arriving to school one day they grabbed me and cut my hair. They ended up yelling at my parents in public. So from this I had this distaste for people who force others to be a certain way.

This is where my rebellious ways came from. I am happy to see schools in certain areas give the students more freedom. In Mexico however, schools are still strict, if you have long hair you aren’t given an education.

 

What is your experience like in California compared to Mexico?

In California it’s normal to see people with dreadlocks or long hair. Hippies, rockers, and open minded folks. People tell me how good I look. I get compliments like, “wow how awesome your hair looks, great job.”

In Mexico, I am exotic and I get stared at. The police sees you on the street and they start bothering you. They’ll ask you questions, wanting to know who you are and what your story is.

When I went on a trip through Central America, on every bus stop I was taken off the bus to be questioned. They have the perception that longhairs are criminals. It is a stupid idea, if you are a criminal you wouldn’t want to get people's attention. It doesn’t make sense why as a criminal you would grow your hair out.

I am used to it now, and I like to provoke people. I am certain of who I am so I am not intimidated by things like the fact that police can question me. They are not going to rob my freedom of expression.

I live with this stigma. The police here in California don’t bother me, here they probably have a better understanding of who may be a criminal based on a person's response. Here you live in peace, you aren’t weird.

 

Are you going to cut your hair?

No. I want to grow my hair out until it reaches my feet. This is the second time I am rocking dreads. If it wasn’t for long hair I wouldn’t have had dreads. If it wasn’t for dreads I don’t think I would have found this spiritual experience and my enlightened path. I really think these are antennas, they enlighten you and give you an extra sensory.

 

Stay Connected

Having a rebellious attitude and wanting to break stereotypes is what pushes Alejandro to keep his hair long. His story shows us how through his hair, he feels connected to the world around him while also celebrating his ancestry as a proud Mexican with dreadlocks.

This has been one of my favorite folks to interview. With Alejandro that night, I was definitely more connected with the universe than ever.

La Onda Vibe

Both Alejandro and his wife Carmela work together to make and sell beautiful jewelry and other household items. Follow La Onda Vibe here:

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What’s It Like Having Dreadlocks?

Glad you asked. Dive deeper into the dreads with our original three-part series featuring Danny Ramirez, The Journey to Dreads.

El Pelo Suelto

Steven “El Pelo Suelto” Jimenez is a latino software engineer from Long Island, NY, relocated to the California Bay Area for a job opportunity in the Silicon Valley. You can find him either nose-deep in a book or lost listening to hip-hop, funk, or salsa. Read his longhair story, Road to Long Hair.

Comments

  1. don’t forget that dread is impossible to detangle; it is a no return way, and much old hairyrastas finish by doing Saint Baldrick before growing out their natural hair
    other no returns: a perm or a bleaching colour

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