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When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet…

20 March 2008

When I first wrote this on Sunday, for posting on Thursday afternoon, I depended on “mainstream media” coverage, which made me think this was just a difference of opinion over style. As of Wednesday night (19 March) it was being reported as such in the only U.S. coverage I’ve seen… from Idolator. I still don’t understand what’s going on, but, after looking at alternative sources — anti-emo websites, sports papers and the gay press, this appears to be a more serious incident than I realized. As with all things Mexican, the truth is never pure and seldom simple. Anyone with better information is welcome to comment. I’ll try to revise this before it posts on Thursday, but between my moving, and trying to make sense of what’s going on, this may be posted unfinished. I’ll just keep working on it, and let it automatically post on Thursday…

Los Emos tangled with los Punketos last week… and after punches were thrown, los Granaderos were called out to keep the two warring parties … joined by los Metalicos and los Goths … apart (at la Angel). Los Krishnas appeared on the scene to serenade all factions.

WTF???? I have enough trouble telling one faction from another within the PRD to try fathoming the nuances of Mexico City’s “tribus urban” … youth groups (“gang” is probably too loaded a word).

Los punketos, as their name suggests, take their cues from the punk rock movement. I thought Punk died along with Sid Vicious, but in Mexico older styles sometimes last well beyond their expiration date. Los Krishnas I can’t figure out… maybe second generation Dead Heads?

The rumble with los emos –short for “emotional” (their style seems more that of los Goths —who despite their attempts to look like Aztec vampires were kinda sweet, harmless folks). An e-mail from Queretero describes them as “the kids who dress in Abercrombie and Fitch knockoffs and wear a lot of hair gel.” In other words, about half of all Mexican teenagers. The “Urban Dictionary” is a bit snarkier, defining “emo” as a:

Genre of softcore punk music that integrates unenthusiastic melodramatic 17 year olds who dont smile, high pitched overwrought lyrics and inaudible guitar rifts with tight wool sweaters, tighter jeans, itchy scarfs (even in the summer), ripped chucks with favorite bands signature, black square rimmed glasses, and ebony greasy unwashed hair that is required to cover at least 3/5 ths of the face at an angle.

The problem, according to one punketo, is that the”emos” are guilty of “cultural theft” from the punketos. , El Universal‘s report suggested that’s all there was to the fracas — kids staking out not so much a “turf” on the landscape as a style and sensibility.

There are some key differences: going by dueling youtube videos, the emos wear their hair combed down over their foreheads, los punketos wear it sticking up. Oh, and los emos are gay friendly, or — to use a word that was a cliche five minutes after it was coined — “metrosexual”.

This is where the thing goes from being a semi-humorous fight over style to something with a sinister substance.

Sergay Scouting News says the attack was a well-organized “hunt” for emos … and gays. Scouting News also reports that los punketos were joined by a porro (basically a futbol fan club, but sometimes a gang of “rowdies-for-hire”, as with English football fan clubs) representing the UNAM Pumas , and possibly Mexican skinheads.

The fight ranged from Metro Insurgentes to la Angel, which is the de facto “gay ghetto”. It’s not unusual to see young kids from the suburbs or the campo just hanging … well… “out.”

In Queretero, there was a well-organized (via email and text-messaging) attack on los emos at the Plaza des Armes on 7 March. Some comments to an even-handed report on the Mexican blog, “Un trabajo sucio” (dealing mostly with pop culture and music) justify the anti-emo attacks on the grounds that the emos are “maricones”. Of course, comments on blogs do not always reflect general opinion, or even reflect the beliefs of the blogger.

On the other hand, Diario de Querataro describes the attackers as “Fresas” (literally “strawberries,” but figuratively “upper class twits”) — which suggests some kind of “class stuggle”. I don’t know enough about Mexican youth culture to make a guess one way or the other, but have noticed that the anti-emo spokeskids seem to speak and dress more like “juniors” than the “naco” emos. (A humorous take on naco and fresa fashion sensibilities — and language — is here).

Televisa, local newspapers and Sergay have different estimates, ranging from a few hundred to a thousand youths involved. There were also rumbles in Durango and Cuidad Guzman (Jalisco) on 15 March (the day of the Mexico City attack) and at least one anti-emo organizer in Sinoloa who puts out a “hotmail” address for more those interested in joining the anti-emos.

I also found a reference to an attack on emos at a blog called “Moviemento Anti Emosexual Inc.” to an emo-punketo confrontation at an Iron Maiden concert in Monterrey. Noticias de Oaxaca reports rumors of an planned anti-emo action for this coming Saturday (22 March)

From what I can tell, Moviemento Anti Emosexual, Inc.” is the main propaganda organ for the anti-emo crowd (this is a “high tech lynching” — or, rather lynch-mob. This talking head doesn’t shy away from using the term:

That website — laced as it is with obscenity and slang far beyond my ability to translate (HELP!) — suggests the anti-emos are motivated as much by more than homophobia:

[My first attempts at translating suggest the anti-emos justify their attacks on the grounds that the emos are not politically motivated — do not protest the rise in DF bus fares, or the Colombian rocket attack on Ecuador, which killed several Mexican students… and that the emos are “gay”. Suggestions given by the site range from the merely cruel — “throw gum in their hair” and “send spam to their blogs and “myspace” pages — to the violent.]

How Kristoff, the Russian born Polish punk rock DJ on Mexican TV fits into this, I don’t know. On the one hand, he attacks the emos for being “gay” and on the other, the punks for being anti-free expression. In the first video, he makes light of the “gay” stereotype, but in the second, he condemns the attacks in no uncertain terms:

Whether the anti-emos are part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” I can’t say. But there are politicians on the right who seem to be in sympathy with the anti-emos. PAN politician Gerardo Hernández Gutiérrez, the Alcade (Mayor) of Celeya, is calling for the emos to be “relocated” from his city’s downtown… because they might give the city a bad image.

By contrast, in the PRD-run Federal District, jefe de Gobierno Marcelo Ebrard, ordered the police to protect the emos. Police commissioner (Secretary of Public Security) Joel Ortega was quoted as saying this was a civil rights matter.

Class and gender-roles seem to figure more in this than hair or musical style. Beyond that, I’ll need more information.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 March 2008 1:39 pm

    I am often confused between the goths and the emos (the latter of which, a friend of mine says, buy pre-assembled outfits for $30.00 from Hot Topic.)
    My understanding of the emos comes from two sources: Morrissey’s lyrics and a T-shirt that says “I wish my lawn was emo so it would cut itself.”
    I am still befuddled. What are all these young kids on about?

  2. 23 March 2008 8:58 pm

    Well, if it’s any help, I’m 18 and live in Mexico City, and my bf is from Queretaro.

    The thing with Quereatro is that it’s small and has a high count of rich/preppy kids, so most of the emos there, it seems, are born from bored “fresas” who need to feel a little different. Which makes the class issue a little weird – according to the kids I know there, the average-class kids were the ones who organized the mob thingy.

    At least, that’s the idea I have, it could be completely wrong.

    If it’s any help, I can help you translate any obscenity-ridden blog entries you’d like. Public school really enriches your vocabulary. 🙂

  3. Alejandro Ruiz permalink
    25 March 2008 8:31 am

    Ok, emo in mexico is nothing but mall emo culture from the US.

    It has nothing to do with the historical emo movement, from like say….Minor Threat. Which was a punk band, who decided to sing about more than politics and angers.

    Theres also screamo, which sounds oddly a lot more like Minor Threat than so called emo bands.

    Somehow, this got co-opted by MTV and Hot Topic to push the new look. Suffice it to say, 99% of emo kids couldn’t really name Minor Threat if their life depended on it. Or my personal favorite band…At the Drive-In. Which I’d argue whether they’re emo or not.

    But emo, has become a four letter word in most circles and goddamnit. The punks are no different….mexican goths are just a sad bunch. It’s like reverse blackface…

    But anyway, Mod vs Rockers is basically the same as Punks vs Emos in Mexico City.
    I wonder if a Quadrophenia will come from this…or at least a Warriors.

    Goddamnit, I wish I was there to see this go down and capture it with my camera. Nothing like this happens in the US anymore. For good reason, but still….I noticed that subcultures matter so much more to Mexican city kids. Perhaps, because for a lot of them…that’s all they have…like street gangs in the US or football firms in the UK.


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