What do you get when you take a group of gangly teenagers with teased-out hair and black eyeliner? Emo kids who let out their emotions through Good Charlotte? Well, yes – but that’s not all; apparently what we in the States consider a common music subculture is being labeled an “urban tribe” in Mexico. Ethan Watters, who coined the term, defines an Urban Tribe as “an intricate community of young people who live and work together in various combinations, form regular rituals, and provide the support of an extended family.” Urban Tribes don’t just look alike, talk alike, and complain alike–they often have a political agenda, too.
So how do Emos in Mexico fit this description? More than just a group of people with similar tastes in music and fashion, they represent those brave enough to indulge in a little androgyny despite Mexico’s pervasive homophobia. On March 7 in Queretaro, three Emo kids in their usual hangout place were beaten down by a group of 800 or more “anti-emos” who organized the attack over an online forum. Soon after, similar attacks started taking place in Mexico City. The assailants are mainly punks or Goths, who claim that they hate the Emos because they copy the styles and music of other subcultures. Which begs the question: are the beatings really because of a cultural divide over femininity and homosexuality, or are these punks merely overzealous in their self-righteous attitudes of musical superiority? If it’s the latter, then bashing Emo kids accomplishes nothing more than giving them even more to bitch about. However, it appears that there really is a larger issue at stake. Not only are Emo kids clad in skinny jeans, but most of them also belong to the upper-middle class, whereas the assailants are typically from the lower-class and rougher neighborhoods. The Emo kids’ response to the violence, calling the police to watch over them while they march down the street with rainbow signs, only serves to heighten the socioeconomic divide.
A similar group in Chile who call themselves “Pokemons” is being attacked as well. Pokemons consist of middle-class teens, as young as 15, with a Harajuku-esque sense of fashion. But what really gives them an ultra-liberal homoerotic edge is their ritual of public orgies, called “ponceo.” This involves about a hundred kids in an open park, all performing random acts of fellatio and/or cunnilingus with multiple partners, disregarding gender. Newsweek’s article on the matter, “Rebels without a Cause,” claims that the Pokemons are not only breaking away from the old conservative and Catholic customs of Chile (where divorce was legalized only a few years ago and abortion is still illegal), but they represent, too, the spirit of economic neoliberalism enforced by the administration of General Pinochet. Although the Pokemons themselves say that they are mostly concerned with their image and sexual experimentation, something about their carefree attitudes symbolizes a movement against their parents’ staunch conservatism. Unaware of the power of their naivete and apathy towards politics, the Pokemons are stirring up a lot more political unrest than one would expect from a group of horny teenagers.
So what does it mean for the future of these androgynous subcultures spurting up in culturally-conservative countries? Perhaps, as in Mexico, homosexuals will see the violence as a way to protest for acceptance of the gay community. They may even pave the way for more liberal and diverse cultures in Latin America – like in the States, where the many different “urban tribes” do not face such contention and violence. Other than, of course, the Williamsburg hipsters versus the Park Slope yuppies. But surely their rivalry is nothing that can’t be resolved by a full-blown brawl in Brooklyn’s underground Pillow Fight League.