The Mexican Emo Wars Pegged as "androgynous suicidial misfits" in their black eye-liner and tight jeans, Mexican emos face homophobic slurs as well as criticism for their supposed "lack of ideology." They are united by music.

The Mexican Emo Wars

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MADELEINE BRAND, host: Back now with Day to Day we reported earlier about drug cartels battling it out in Mexico. Well, it's not just them. Teen subcultures associated with different kinds of music are fighting too. Kids who identify themselves as emos are under attack from other youth gangs. Michael O'Boyle reports from Mexico City.

MICHAEL O'BOYLE: Emo bashing first erupted in March in the conservative provincial capital of Queretaro. Online insults morphed into an Internet chain letter that spurred a sort of pogrom against youths identified as emos. Hundreds of youths local media branded metal heads and skaters, descended on a plaza that was a favorite hang out of Queretaro's emos, looking to beat up any kid in tight black jeans and eyeliner they could find.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

O'BOYLE: As heard in this video shot on the scene, they found some, a life raft for the uninitiated. Emos, in addition to the jeans and eyeliner, like long floppy black bangs covering part of their eyes. They favor a type of music branded emo, originally short for emotional hardcore punk rock. Here in Mexico, as elsewhere, emos have been stereotyped as androgynous suicidal misfits. Their numbers have been growing in the last couple of years and now they've become a target. After breaking out in Queretaro, emo bashing spread to other cities.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

O'BOYLE: This was one recent standoff here in Mexico City. On one side of the street are a gang of emo kids decked out in black, with purple and red striped shirts, shouting "tolerance" in unison.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

O'BOYLE: Opposite them and being held back by squads of police in anti-riot gear, are crowds of spike haired punks, skinheads in T-shirts and suspenders and goths draped in black velvet.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

O'BOYLE: This isn't a culture, they shout, expressing their chief complaint with the mostly adolescent emos. Punks, goths and skinheads, with their fashion, music taste and ideology, have been around longer. Emos are the newest post-industrial urban tribe trying to find a space in this city of more than 20 million and they aren't welcome to David Losada (ph), an 18-year-old skinhead who was part of the anti-emo crowd.

Mr. DAVID LOSADA (Anti-emo Demonstrator, Mexico City): (Through Translator) We're against these guys because they just got here and just their style. They don't have any ideology. Besides, they are all bisexual. We're all punks and anarchists here so we aren't homophobic but these guys make me sick.

O'BOYLE: So far the emo bashing hasn't amounted to any serious violence but the mayor of Mexico City has deployed scored of riot police to the streets several times to diffuse potential rumbles, while human rights groups, even up to the UN representative here have expressed concern. Underlying the conflict some see unresolved issues of money, class and sexuality. Many of Mexico's emos are identified with the wealthier classes. In Mexico's wide divide between rich and poor this sparks resentment, says Daniel Hernandez (ph), a journalist and blogger who is writing a book about Mexico City's fervent youth culture.

Mr. DANIEL HERNANDEZ (Journalist): I think there's a sort of lower class backlash against middle and upper class, and I think it's a homophobia issue, it's very strong.

O'BOYLE: But Hernandes says the episodes also could be seen as part of the growing pains of a globalized Mexico.

Mr. ENANDES: I think this is just kind of a manifestation of the reality here that Mexico is an urban, intense society, and part of that means sort of entering the 21st century and sort of adapting to globalization. That Mexican culture, "traditional Mexican culture" in quotes is eroding, but that also means that Mexico is sort of coming onto the playing field of the other mega cities in the first world.

(Soundbite of people talking Spanish)

O'BOYLE: And the scene here at Cafe Bizzaro attest to Mexico City's changing social landscape, it's a hangout for the 20 to 30 something indie crowd.

Ms. AGNELLA BRAVO (Mexican-American Goth): What really upsets me is that people think I'm emo.

O'BOYLE: Mexican American Agnella Bravo (ph) is dressed in black and sports some wicked tattoos. She's been part of different urban scenes in Mexico for 17 years, since she arrived from the U.S. West Coast as a little goth girl. On a recent day, a group of skaters and emos hang out at the Glorieta of Insurgentes. It's a wide, circular, concrete plaza in the heart of the capital, outside one of its subway stops and it's emo central. Kids come from all over the city to hang out, meet other emo kids and find out where's the party.

Amunda Cacias (ph), known as gatito or kitty, has commuted in two hours from one of the densely populated suburbs on the outskirts of Mexico City. New to the emo scene, he says he was pleased to discover others like himself.

Ms. AMUNDA CACIAS: (Through Translator) Where I live, there really isn't anything like this. If I go out in the street dressed up, they throw the stuff up.

O'BOYLE: 18-year-old Pamela Perez (ph) has been on the scene for a few years. She thinks the media circus surrounding Mexico's emos may have a bright side.

Ms. PAMELA PEREZ: (Through Translator) Maybe things will get better. Before people were staring at us, who were like, what are you? At least maybe they will recognize what we are.

O'BOYLE: She says at least now maybe people will grow more accepting. Even if they do keep looking at her weird, she says. In the end, she doesn't care what they think as she heads off to a club to rock on. For NPR news I'm Michael O'Boyle in Mexico City.

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