I have had the pleasure, once or twice of seeing Mexican punk shows. Today I went to the heart of the Mexican punk, metal, goth, ska and oi scenes: El Chopo.
Basically this is a weekly, free show and punk flea market put on by a collective who loves the music and the culture. In every respect it exhibits the horizontal organization of the best of punk culture. But it is also a little bit weird.
In some respects it felt like a third world Hot Topic. Hundreds of kids walked down a closed off section of road where vendors hawked everything from thigh-highs and fetish masks, to spiked bracelets and bomber jackets. In this sense it clashed pretty firmly with my ideas about punk music and culture. Buying a spiked jacket seems as un-punk as anything I can imagine, but maybe that's because when I got into the music, you couldn't buy the identity at the mall. But this wasn't exactly a mall and it's hard to situate these concerns in this context. It's possible that some of the merchandise was locally produced by collectives, but most of it really looked like sweatshop clothes-- but I'm not sure what that means for poor kids in a poor country. This might just be a judgement from a (relatively) rich punk who is writing this on an ipad (yuk).
I did talk to a few vendors, who carried some very DIY local bands, and they were telling me that much of what I love about the scene, the anarcho-punk consciousness, had disappeared. Which is too bad. Last time I went to a Mexican punk show it was during the Zapatista International Encuentro and the music, energy, and social awareness of the kids was without equal, like nothing I had ever seen in Europe and Gringolandia.
On the other hand, there was a very real beauty to this show. Most of the punk kids are incredibly poor, from harsh environments, and seeking solace in a scene and sound that draws on their sense of desperation. At least that was my impression from the few kids I talked to. And it was really lovely seeing young boys, trying to figure out how to dance, bang their heads, and learn the trappings and attitudes of this culture. They were a bit rough around the edges, looking to their friends for approval. The pit was more like US football practice than dancing, and many looked a bit worried about things getting out of hand. And I did feel some sense that there was a greater threat from some of the postures these kids take than in most shows I've been to. But then again, there is a lot more at stake for them than the the rich white kids I usually see shows with. They find power and belonging here that they don't have anywhere else. That's a lot to lose and it's fragile facade. But maybe some of that sense of threat is a latent racism on my part. Were they more menacing because they had dark skin and no money in their pockets? I can't really answer that. But it might have something to do with it. Or it could just be that my whiskey and coffees and the thin air went to my head a bit. Who knows.
I danced. Hung out. I marveled at the way this was a simulation of a 30 some odd year old movement that felt more authentic than most. And then I hopped on the subway to get lost in en el centro and find a nice cafe to eat and write a bit.
Then a old man shined my boots. And I thought how very un-punk of me.