Planning For The People Y Qué? From Advocacy Planners To Hardcore PunksRoundup
tags: Chicago, music, urban history, Mexican American history, Latino/a history
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Punk fliers are planning documents. Not the official kind produced by city planning departments, of course, nor the grassroots plans by neighborhood activists resisting investment capital and gentrification. But these fliers contain a planning schema all the same, creatively interpolating the built environment for the staging of DIY shows and consciousness-raising.
During the 1990s, those who came across a flier for a hardcore show in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood were most likely introduced to Los Crudos—the community’s most important hardcore punk band—and to a generative local youth culture that bridged music and social issues. Punk fliers directed attendees to go to addresses and otherwise familiar coordinates in the neighborhood: a corner store, a family’s basement, a cultural center where punk shows were held. Instructions were given: enter through the side door of a church’s basement, find the empty warehouse near the railway viaduct, show up to the laundromat at a certain time. What attendees found were bands performing immensely fast and loudly amplified music. Neighborhood punk shows in the predominantly Mexican, working class neighborhood utilized commercial, residential, and community spaces for exchange, forums, and awareness-raising for issues affecting the local community—immigration hostilities, gang violence, housing insecurity, and gentrification. In short, these “plans” directed observers and congregants not only to where the music was happening but, more importantly, to enter into an unanchored urban commons for the distribution of information, education, and action.
It might be helpful to briefly describe the history of hardcore punk and Los Crudos’s place in this history. To be sure, by the start of the 1990s when Los Crudos began, punk was an “old” genre by many metrics, having turned mainstream since its initial grittier underground emergence in the late 1970s. The more aggressive hardcore scenes that arose across the United States in the early 1980s offered plenty of teenage angst, biting social commentary, and empowered countless youth to involve themselves in do-it-yourself projects through music, forming bands, starting independent record labels, and making zines. But hardcore’s resonance waned by the start of the George H. W. Bush years, and the music hardly carried the fire and urgency of the earlier Ronald Reagan era. That is, until Los Crudos emerged in 1991. In the face of the corporatization of punk rock and a Caucasian-centric hardcore scene, the all-Latino hardcore band from Pilsen arose to scream about issues where previously there had been silence. Los Crudos opted to sing in Spanish to connect with the communities they came from in Mexican Chicago. They sang about Latinos/as and Latin America from the point of view of immigrants, the working class, the abused, and the marginalized. In the process, they created a space for Latino youth to feel that DIY punk and hardcore was for them, too. Los Crudos’s sole anthem in English was called “That’s Right Motherfuckers We’re That Spic Band,” an ode to doubling-down on—or perhaps reclaiming—the otherness they represented when they played outside of their communities. Despite the somewhat racial and ethnic diversity that existed in the punk world since its beginnings, no other band was amplifying the Latino/a/x experience through punk the way Los Crudos did. Period. Full stop.
Los Crudos and other Latino punk and hardcore youth from the predominantly Mexican communities of Pilsen and Little Village in Chicago made a concerted effort to organize do-it-yourself punk and hardcore shows in the thick of an immigrant, Spanish-speaking, working-class area. It was a rejection of the big-name rock clubs in favor of locality and community. Punk and hardcore were hardly the typical soundtrack of Pilsen, but Latino youth felt it crucial that punk be retooled in the service of their community to reflect on the political economy and deindustrial conditions in their neighborhoods that made them more vulnerable to displacement.