Growing up, I’ve always had a peculiar taste in music in comparison to my peers. I went to an inner-city middle school with a Black and Latino majority. While most kids listened to rap, reggaeton, and RnB, I listened to Indie, Alternative, and Rock music. I was also Latino, but because of these interests, I usually got labeled as the “white boy.” This was a label given to me by relatives, as well, who usually favored banda and corridos as opposed to punk and emo. To them, my taste was considered “white.” This used to be something I was self-conscious about, but through my internship, I have really realized how inaccurate they were.
You see, in all honesty, I feel my most connected with other Latinos when I’m in some haphazardly assembled getup, sweating, and screaming at a rock concert. That’s because in Chicago, a lot of the rock concerts I go to usually have a significant amount of Latinos in the audience, with some coming from places as far as Mexico City to come to see their favorite acts. When figuring out who to book for company venues, a colleague and I had a conversation about demographics of Chicago as it relates to music. Bands that we particularly look for are things to attract Emos and Indie Kids. When I asked who usually makes up those groups, she said Whites, but also Latinos (almost equal). We had a further conversation about this one night when we worked at an Emo Prom for work. She’s also Mexican, but identifies as emo, whereas I’m more indie. We talked about our own experiences and realized that the assumption that rock is just a “white” thing was unsound. With her upbringing in the suburbs, she knew a lot of emo kids who went by last names such as Rosado, Perez, and Lopez. Meanwhile, in the city, I talked about the latest indie release with kids whose last names were Gutierrez, Alvarado, and Reyes.
I think what’s interesting is our sense of solidarity with each other. A lot of us grew up with parents who had very old-fashioned views on how children are to carry themselves, and music for us was used to escape a rigid upbringing. As a boy, I wasn’t allowed to be express sadness, so I used music from bands such as The XX to help me express it in privacy. For a female friend that I knew, she always felt pressured to act “lady-like,” by the women in her life, and listened to pop punk while she moshed in her room while cutting up all her clothes.
For us, rock, indie, and alternative music were means of rebelling. In our homelands and in America, our communities have these tight norms surrounding what it means to be an upright citizen. In the eyes of our elders, we are to blindly obey our parents, the Church, and our teachers. When hanging up posters, moshing, smudging on eyeliner, badly singing along to Arctic Monkeys, or going to a local concert, we feel a sense of agency that is not normally found.
A meme that I found that more or less summarizes how I feel about Emo Music as it relates to Latino (particularly Mexican) identity