Mexico wakes up today with problems that it already had in the 1980s and 1990s: youth unemployment, state violence, corruption and hunger. Handfuls of young people then emerged from clandestine holes on the outskirts of the cities; they were dressed in black leather and metallic rivets, pins in the skin, chains around their necks; Huge painted crests grew on their heads and their military boots defied the asphalt. Punks shouted to the skies around the world, blasting their loudspeakers, writhing on stage and smashing their spray slogan against the walls of those godless cities: ‘There’s no future, let’s do it ourselves’. Some of those rebels today defend the same causes, they have become doctors, cultural managers, artisans or policemen. Others, many, died young, like El Iti, at 37 years old, a great character raised in Nezahualcóyotl, on dirt streets where rebellious music was prohibited by censorship. A book in which he speaks in the first person, in interviews made by Carles Feixa in 1991, today recalls his life and that of an entire movement that has been transformed in Mexico, but he is still very much alive: The Iti and his band. punk shit, edited by ned. “The fucking noise”, as he said, has not died.
Francisco Valle Carreño played the drums, composed, wrote poetry and who knows how many other things. He created. They called him El Iti, the sound of the initials of the most famous alien at the time, the one who was lost on Earth and was looking for a phone to call home: ET, the Steven Spielberg phenomenon that hit the screens of a planet that was just beginning to go global. Without social networks, the punks knew how to build their own all over the world, television or ordinary mail was enough to send cassette tapes from one side of the ocean to the other. Al Iti, who already suffered from juvenile diabetes, was taken away by medical negligence, according to his sister Veronica: “They infected him with tuberculosis in the hospital and he died on Christmas Eve 2004 ″. Fuck Christmas Eve and Christmas, he would have said.
His charisma grew and the Shits of the city insisted on keeping his memory: a small forum with cement stands wore his graffiti image in Nezahualcóyotl, and in 2014 a plaque was unveiled commemorating the 10th anniversary of his death. To enter there you have to clear a trench of junk, the sidewalks continue to raise dust and grow thorny weeds. And what’s worse, the City Council decided a few years ago that the mural with his image was no longer a story, they took the brush and covered it with a children’s drawing. The ceramic plate with the name of Valle Carreño was covered in black. But it takes more than a pot of paint to hide an entire local legend.
The Catalan anthropologist Carles Feixa once again walks through those streets of Nezahualcóyotl that he reached in the 1990s from Mexico City after several meters and dilapidated buses that cost a few pesos, but El Iti and his fellow students did not even have to pay for that, They offered the driver a cheaper price without having to issue the ticket that left proof of payment: everyone won. Feixa recorded hours of conversation with that long-haired, formal and brilliant kid in the studios, who began his story with the lives of his grandparents and the cristero wars in Mexico, with Zapata and Pancho Villa, continued with a mechanical father and a mother who loves work. house that gave four brothers, a litter that he inaugurated. Later would come the “fucking noise”, the gigs that they themselves organized in the absence of official support of any kind, the tianguis (flea markets in Spain) of vinyl and thumbtacks (studs in Mexico), the safety pins (little safety pins in Mexico).
Nezahualcóyotl was then the typical dormitory town that grew on the outskirts of the Mexican capital with no more order than that decided by those who came to live there. Today there are huge bags of misery and a crime that prints chapters of blood and corruption almost weekly. The cultural center where Feixa’s book is being presented has set up the amphitheater with blue chairs, but there is no connection to the sound and the table on the podium no longer exists: “Those from the previous administration took it away when their term ended, here the things are like that,” says Pablo Hernández, Rotten, one of El Iti’s colleagues. In the bathrooms, the plumber forgot to plug the huge hole he left in the ceiling when he fixed the pipes and there is no toilet paper. Without being punk they make you want to shout to the sky.
This city, which sarcastically renamed Neza York, was the heart of the Mexican punk movement. The field was fertile: working class, social repression, lack of leisure for young people, lack of services, drugs and cellars that hid the music of the police. In those clubs the night opened every afternoon and there all the shits of the city ended up. Pablo says, Rotten, that they were called that because they went to the huge dump that was on the outskirts to collect the clothes that served as their war uniform. Digging through that rubbish they created an entire aesthetic that adorned Herejía, Los Gérmenes y el Podrido, Afaxia, Ruido 7, Viuda Negra or Colectivo Caótico, where El Iti broke up the night with his drumsticks. Three films left evidence of that suburban and rebellious life: shitty saturday, no one is innocent Y The net, there is no future.
“The policemen did not like our outfits, they stopped us at every moment, but there were many of us and when we went out into the streets, people stepped aside as we passed, so we felt empowered, in those moments the fear was theirs,” he summarizes with brilliance who was the girlfriend of the drummer for years, Margarita Mares, who today still dresses in black and has a musician son who gives the key to where that whole movement has gone: post-punk, trash core, progressive rock. Margarita listened then The Front Line, on Stereo Joven 101.7, pure punk. He still has the tape he recorded when the Eskorbuto played on the radio and he knows well the Kortatu, Siniestro Total or La Polla Récord, who played at the Blanquita theater with the El Iti group as opening act.
“The social and cultural impact of all that has been impressive in both urban and rural areas of Mexico,” begins Maritza Urteaga, professor at the National School of Anthropology and History. “You can’t see them, but you can still feel them.” Perhaps that old-fashioned scare aesthetic of black leathers and colored hair is no longer so present, but the attitude of the kids persists, says this specialist whose line of research has focused on young people and contemporary societies. “In Mexico there is still an attitude against the hegemonic political system, where basic needs are still fought for. It is very well seen among young feminists, for example, how the collectives are organized and shout in the streets, in the marches, the solidarity camps, the Zapatista movement, in the underground rock scene. Many of these groups have become cultural movements that go to rural towns, to indigenous villages, that are pained by migration and claim their pre-Hispanic language. They are contestants. In Chiapas there are unequivocal expressions that stem from that punk seed, with lyrics that speak of unemployment, labor informality, repression.”
For Urteaga, the breeding ground in which punk developed has not changed in many areas of Mexico, “it is going from bad to worse”, and that is the reason why this musical and social movement is in good health in this country, which now has pioneering cultural manifestations in a world ruled by the Anglo-Saxons in the eighties. “Even in some reggaetons, only in some, there are those challenging lyrics. The punks who are already big continue putting together their concerts, their chatter with the kids, in cities or towns. They set up their cultural and musical days and then they pack up and leave. But there they have left that seed, that way of being of the punks. There is an underground contagion, but they are no longer rat gangs stuck in their neighborhoods, now they relate and organize themselves in another way, ”he says.
Reasons to hit the glass are not lacking in Mexico and misogyny is one of them, thousands of deaths of women a year. Impossible not to glimpse between the feminist collectives and the much maligned black bloc the punk aesthetics and rebellion. Where is the State?, they keep asking themselves. And the answer hasn’t changed: let’s do it ourselves. “That’s punk,” ditch Urteaga.
In the early morning hours of El Iti, Neza York still smelled of fish and slime that came from Lake Texcoco, which was later dissected to build the famous airport that never was. Night was fading and the boy continued his studies. “He was a wonderful student, when he died he was at the university studying Psychology, I think, those papers are out there…”. His sister Veronica tries to describe the character that forged the drummer’s charisma, enhanced by a young death: “He was sociable and noble, he didn’t care about money… the brothers helped him make those cutouts for his collages, we played fights … we always ended up drunk”. A year before El Iti died, who also called himself Ome Tochtli, as god of intelligent children as the spirit of pulque, his sister Verónica became a police officer. “How horrible to see my little sister in the police, but if you like it, I’m proud of you, she told me.” He wanted to write a book with what she was telling him about her experiences in the armed forces. “But it couldn’t be done anymore, we couldn’t do it together anymore.”
El Rotten arrives today at the forum dedicated to his friend Francisco Valle, vandalized by the Administration with black paint. He appears in a blue plaid shirt, but inside, next to the skin, is the punk shirt. By day it’s Pablo Hernández, by night, Rotten. He complains about the conditions of his people, about the corruption of those who govern and those who replace them, about the cultural centers that do not have the minimum conditions. Beneath the black shirt is the beach. “I think that punk is still alive, and it has become a collector’s item, too. The digital roll has helped a lot, the new generations embraced the movement and have taken it up again with more vigor”. Rotten works in a cultural house and sells tools for maintenance in the tianguis, those markets that are also spaces for informal employment and protest. In El Chopo, near the museum that bears the same name in CDMX, all the Shits that remain in the capital and its surroundings still gather on Saturdays. It is “a focus of infection”, as the drummer defined it, seeking to combine meanings. There they sell vinyl and studded leather, all kinds of chatter; brings together the old nostalgia and the rage that does not stop in Mexico.
subscribe here to newsletter of EL PAÍS Mexico and receive all the informative keys of the current affairs of this country