More than a month has passed since a mob of angry teens attacked three emo kids in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, setting off a wave of anti-emo (and, some say, homophobic) violence that spread from the capital of Mexico City to the border towns of Tijuana and Juarez.And in that time, the man who many blame for instigating the mobs — a popular television host named Kristoff, who had previously mocked emo kids and compared them to "prepubescent 15-year-old girls" who lead a "stupid and idiotic" lifestyle — has taken to the airwaves to publicly denounce the violence, calling the attackers "imbeciles" and hosting on-air forums aimed at healing the divide.
Last week, MTV News traveled to Mexico City to speak to those on both sides of that divide: the emo kids who say they're still being targeted by mobs and metal acts who are more than willing to keep the violence going. We also sat down with Kristoff himself, who, not surprisingly, claims that the entire situation was blown out of proportion by the international media, and that since the four incidents in early March, the attacks have all but stopped.
"The theme of that particular show was about finding out what is an emo. After a call, I gave my opinion in my own words. ... The context in general, for me, was that there is no movement," he told MTV News last week from Mexico City. "Emos can't define what it is to be emo music. To them, everything is emo — screamo, Joy Division, Bauhaus — so I said they confuse genres. And because most of the emos here are young girls, I said they like the group because of the lead singer. ... They said My Chemical Romance is emo, when Gerard Way said, 'I'm not emo.' Because he has black hair ... because they like him, he's emo. They classify whatever they like as emo. ... Everyone attacks me because of what I said, but nobody refutes my words.
"Maybe you didn't like what I said, maybe it seemed vulgar to you ... but what I was saying isn't a lie. Not here in Mexico. I never said, 'I hate them,' or, 'Don't dress that way, because its wrong,' I just expressed an opinion," he continued. "And I'd like to see a sociologist demonstrate how I was the one who incited [the violence]. I doubt that you'll find one person who will sit for the cameras and say that. Because the anti-emo movement doesn't exist. The anti-emo movement is something that came out of the Internet, and I don't know where it continues. Here in Mexico, it doesn't continue. Since the Querétaro incident, nothing else has happened there. Where is the violence continuing?"
But according to those on the front line, the violence is still very real — and very much a part of their daily life. Sugus and Lenny are a pair of emo kids from Mexico City who helped organize a peace march after the attacks there. During that march — and on subsequent occasions — they say they've been threatened by punkeros and heavy-metal fans, who view emos as easy targets. They both also appeared on one of Kristoff's on-air forums in the wake of the incident, and according to them, he is very much to blame for the entire situation.
"[Kristoff is] a person who doesn't respect anyone. He doesn't even respect himself. It doesn't matter to him to say that an emo is gay or if an anti-emo is crazy for beating an emo. He doesn't even know what he says," Sugus said. "We didn't have much to do on that program. I asked him for an apology, and he wouldn't give me one."
"On the day of the march, I walked ahead with a white flag of peace. And people at El Chopo [an area of Mexico City frequented by punks, metal fans and goths] started to throw bottles. They were yelling. ... The ones that attacked us said they didn't want us there," Lenny added. "We went there that day to get an answer on the motive. We never got one. We got to a conclusion that we didn't know why they were beating us. Maybe because they thought we looked like girls. And they feel like men to say, 'Those are little girls, they're gay and we need to beat them.' "
And that sentiment is rather unapologetically echoed by those who target emo kids — like members of SinRage, a metal band from Mexico City. According to them, it's the emos who are to blame, since they refuse to adapt to the constructs of Mexican society and that the threat of violence against them is only increasing by the day.
"Nobody really likes them because, well, Kristoff said it in his interview. He said that it was for little kids, little girls who are going through puberty. Every single one of us has gone through puberty. And every one of us works our way out of it. It seems like these guys don't want to. They just want to stay there," SinRage frontman Isaac says. "And I think that's the thing. In the Mexican culture, everybody works. You could be a construction worker, but you work and try to get yourself ahead. But the emo kids, it's like, I don't know, it's very 'argh' to just see a bunch of kids not do anything all day.
"And the silent march that they did here, I think it was a big 'kick me' sign," he continued. "Because you're telling everybody, 'Hey, don't hit me!' Well, what is everybody going to do? They're gonna come hit you."
"I think it's getting worse every day — and not because of metal bands or the punks. It's because of the emo guys, because of the things that they are doing and because of the things they are saying," added SinRage guitarist Abraham. "I think people are more pissed off. For instance, with the punk culture, they have to fight so people could respect the punks. And with the emo kids just sitting in the corner crying ... I think that's not fair. If you have to be in your own culture or do your movement, you have to gain respect. You don't have to take pieces of other cultures — tattoos or the black or hair from the punks — you have to be your own person."
So why does the threat of violence persist? And why are these different classes of kids — punks, goths, metalheads and emos — at war with one another? Well, according to Josh Kun, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications and the author of "Audiotopia: Music, Race and America" (which had a chapter dedicated to Mexican rock), the issue at the heart of all this is one of identity. In very simple terms, Mexican youth cling to the essence of what it means to be a punk or a metalhead — and they will fight to the bitter end to protect that identity from any and all infringement.
"In Mexico, rock culture has always been this super outlawed thing. ... Kids there attach themselves to a countercultural movement because it's about survival — it's an intensity we're not used to here in the States," he said. "In the '60s, rock was outlawed — you would be arrested if you were playing rock music in public, and your hair would be cut by the cops — and so there's always been this aura of it being 'rebel' music, and kids are drawn to that. To extremes.
"Punk has not been commoditized and mainstreamed to the extent it has here in the U.S., where something like 'emo' is in it's third or fourth wave, and there's nothing particularly 'alternative' about it," Kun continued. "In Mexico, it's still an underground identity, and it's taken to extremes. ... It's really striking how overly sexualized it is. Emo kids are so-called 'emo-sexuals' and punks are super-macho and straight. So when they fight, it's about identities."
And despite the rather glum predictions of those in the scene, Kun says there are already signs that emo kids are beginning to be accepted. He points to an instance in Tijuana, one of the sites of the original violence, where rather than attack emos, punkeros decided to embrace them, because it was the punk-rock thing to do.
"Basically, the punk leaders there came together and told all the other punks that violence was not the 'punk' thing to do," he explained. "They said that if you were a true punk, you'd learn to accept the emo kids, because they're different just like we are."