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Deja vu all over again… or, “First as farce, then as…”

1 September 2012

In the spring of 2008, there was a weird — and largely inexplicable — series of organized assaults on “emos” … followers of a musical trend snarkily (and all too accurately) defined in the “Urban Dictionary” 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.

In other words, a peer group for morose teenagers.  That emos define themselves as exquisitely sensitive and adopted a gender neutral clothing style was initially overlooked.  Early media reports claimed the emos were being attacked by punks.

The late Marxist writer John Ross chalked the whole things up to the class struggle:  assuming the emos are children of the bourgeois, while the punks see themselves as heirs to the working class.  While punk rock tends to have political overtones — specifically anarchism — its adherents are not necessarily of working class origins, nor are the punkers known for organized violence (they are anarchists, after all… but organized enough to put out a manifesto defending the Emos ).

Sergay, the largest circulation GLBT publication in Mexico, reported that while there were some punks in the mob that attacked emos at Insurgentes Metro Station in the Zona Rosa, the attacks were:

… a well-organized “hunt” for emos … and gays. [Sergay] 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.

And, as harassment of emos spread around the country, it became increasingly clear that neither musical style nor working class resentment was as much the rationale for violence as was the perception of homosexuality, or at least effeminacy.  Russian-emigre Televisa VJ, Kristoff, was widely condemned for  an anti-emo tirade, laced with references to gay stereotypes which called for violence against the teenager rebels without a cause(since removed from their website) .  When television news crews interviewed supposed anti-emo youths,  it was obvious they were NOT the working class punks, but more what Mexicans call “fresas”… upper class youths easily identifiable not just by their clothing, but by the pronounced different accent used by upper class kids (a humorous look at “fresa” speech here).

Specifically, it appeared the attackers were RIGHT-WING youth groups… something that didn’t start to sink in until April, when Francisco Mejía in Milenio, and others, began to notice the ties between the anti-emos and neo-fascists.

It appears John Ross was right… although not for the reasons he thought.  The emos were the targets in a class struggle, but it wasn’t the working class against the bourgeois, but the self-styled “casta divina” against nonconformists.

I am only rehashing the now half-forgotten great emo pogram of 2008 to introduce what appears to be a repeat… or rather, an escalation, of the class struggle… this time the targets being “reggaetoneros”, fans of the Panamanian hip-hop reggae fusion reggaeton style of music.

Unlike the case with the emos, who were the victims of violence, and it appears that reggaetoneros have occasionally been troublemakers, or — much more likely to be idenified as working class kids, more likely to be blamed for violence — there are similarities between the two groups.

Both are seen as blurring traditional sexual roles.  But where the mos went in for basic black, but the more working class reggeatoneros tend to be more colorful:

Mexican reggaetoneros of both sexes tend to tweeze their eyebrows and wear skin-tight, neon-colored pants, loud jewelry, thick-framed eyeglasses and bedazzled baseball caps worn sideways.

And their assailants are organized in much the same fashion:

reggaetoneros gathering at the Chabacano metro station were assaulted by a group of young men who had planned their attack on Facebook. Surveillance cameras caught more than a dozen young men kicking a prone reggaetonero and whipping him with their belts.

The Facebook page was one of at least a dozen launched in the last year that urges people to kill or beat up reggaetoneros. YouTube videos ridicule reggaeton music and the way its fans dress.

Many of the attackers are members of porros, descendants of informal student groups created by the government in the 1960s to quell student uprisings. Today, they have transformed themselves into youth gangs that operate out of high schools and universities, where authorities have limited powers to enter.

(AP, via ABC News)

I admit I didn’t much pay attention to the original reports in the Mexican media, but as I recall, this started with reggaetoneros being accused of vandalism and rounded up by the police.  The kids complained of police brutality, and of being targeted for their appearance, when it was only a couple of individuals who were involved in vandalism at a Metro station… Insurgentes, as a matter of fact, where we were initially told there had been fights between emos and punks, as it just so happens.
One got the sense from Mejía’s article back in the 23 April 2008 Milenio that the anit-emo attacks wee simply a “training exercise” for the right wing.  The skinheads talked about attending meetings in Polanco (not the usual haunts of the working class) and elsewhere:

The skinheads meet daily for training, mostly on the east side of the city, for directed study of Hitler’s writings, the Cristero struggle in Mexico and other texts on “re-awaked National Socialism.” They hold the ideology of a “pure race.”

“Pure race” is of course nonsensical in Mexico, but need I point out, that the reggaetoneros, besides their “flaming” disregard for traditional gender display, are adopting a “racially impure” Afrro-Latino musical and cultural style?  And, maybe it isn’t in the Cristero tradition, but Mercadian Friar and reggaeton star Fray Richard,  might disagree that it’s anti-Catholic.

Why now, though? Mexico City just overwhelming returned a Social Democratic local government, and it may be that the far right feels isolated and needs a scapegoat to either focus its energies on (and give its base a social cause to unite them), or it wants to embarrass the incoming Mancera administration. With the capital — and its ruling party — expected to be the focus of resistance to the incoming conservative and pro-clerical PRI administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (not known for his support for sexual minorities or dissent), there would be an incentive for the far right to create mischief.

 

*****

Mexican Reggaeton appears to be a fairly minor musical style… the videos that I’ve reviewed are minimalist… maybe a picture of the CD cover, or the band members cutting in and out… about on par with the production values for Nahuatl Death Metal … as much an indication as any that reggaetoneros are not seen as a particularly important consumer group, meaning they’re both poor and not enough of an audience to warrant slick productions.  But enough to give the right wing a focus for their antics.

“Tocate Toa”, Bape

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