Walking into Brooklyn Bazaar’s muggy basement during Latinx Punk Festival, you’d think you stepped into a time machine to punk’s heyday at CBGB’s or The Pyramid Club. There were sky-high mohawks, leather vests with illegible band logos, spiked collars, every single Doc Martens boot ever created – the whole nine yards.
Latinx Punk Fest took place over the course of three days this past weekend, with an all-ages crowd at the Brooklyn Bazaar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Bands from punk scenes across the country, Mexico, Colombia, and even Norway dominated the lineup, with a call for unity and solidarity amongst the multitude of cultures within the Latinx diaspora.
Aldo Hidalgo, the mastermind of the festival, floated through the venue, checking in with bands during load-in, taking on door duty, and working with security. His seemingly tough exterior melted away while enthusiastically greeting friends and welcoming showgoers to the venue. This wasn’t Hidalgo’s first rodeo – he’s been organizing hardcore punk shows across New York City for quite some time. During Sunday’s matinee Counter Culture panel, Hidalgo grabbed the mic and said, “Being able to do this – see everyone having a good time and being safe – was more than I could have ever hoped or ask for,” to raucous applause from the growing crowd.
We spoke to some punks in attendance on Saturday and Sunday to get a feel for what LPF and punk as a movement has to offer.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
“I hope the recent name change to ‘Latinx’ punk is a way to be more inclusive and aware of gender nonconformity. To me, the shift is openly questioning machismo and ‘Latinidad,’ which is a step in the right direction. Having more conversations about it, and having more femme bands, queer bands, or gender-nonconforming bands are ways we can really radicalize Latino punk.
Other mainstream festivals, from what I’ve noticed, are hella white and hella aggressive. As much as I love music, do I see myself being safe in these spaces? No, but that’s one of the risks we take by going outside, going to a show, [and] getting in a mosh pit. There’s always an element of danger. I’d say that those odds are so much higher at This is Hardcore or even New York’s Alright though. Punk is punk; aggression is aggression.
Has there been a resurgence of punk in New York City? It depends on what punk means to you. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I was in the skater gang culture. L.A. has a huge punk scene that I just wasn’t a part of because I didn’t have access to it. I’ve only experienced punk on the East Coast. I think here in New York City, information is so readily available thanks to social media. My friends of color who are into punk are like, ‘Yo, you should come through!’ So in a way, yes, I see more punk shows put together by queer people, more put together by POC, but I also see a division which I feel is growing. All these venues are closing, a lot of current venues are in bars, so there’s a lot of gatekeeping going on.
I just want punk as a movement to move forward. Let’s be more honest with each other; let’s be more proactive; let’s aggressively be more inclusive of one another.”
“I got into punk when I was a kid because I was really depressed. So, punk means a lot to me, and it’s the reason why I started the band Olor a Muerte. Some of our songs speak about mental health.
I think this festival is very important for the Latino community especially because in New York, we’re really divided. Every time you come to one of these fests, you get to see all your friends and it’s fun. It’s great to be able to express yourself around people who make you feel safe.
I moved to New York City from Venezuela five years ago, so I’m kind of new to punk shows here. The scene here is divided and I wish we could all go to shows and be together and it’s not realistic. I don’t think that problem is exclusive to New York though. In Venezuela, there isn’t a punk scene anymore. Everyone is moving. Immigration is a real issue right now. All my punk friends are all over the world.
We have a problem with machismo. Machismo is normalized, not just in the punk scene but in the Latino community. I don’t feel safe in that environment. We actually have a song talking about this called ‘Fuck Your Macho Behavior.’ Men just care about themselves; they don’t care about how you feel as a woman… it’s hard for us.”
“Latinx punk is carving out space from the general punk scene. It’s a deviation of the standard punk scene which is full of white, shitty bros.
I was just sitting there, watching a movie (My Buddha is Punk) where the subtitles were in Spanish and no one was bothered by that. I’ve never actually been in a space where the subtitles are Spanish and no one feels the need to ask for English or feel pressured to exist in a space so that everyone can understand them. That aspect of it creates a different kind of community.
I’ve been going to shows at CBGB’s and grew up in the punk scene in New York City, so a resurgence isn’t what I’d call it. I think that the overlap between queerness and punk has grown. I also think that has dictated the way that space is navigated, and by that I mean mosh pits… queerness brings in consent, which is a conversation often left out in the punk scene in general. So it’s not a resurgence but a reformation of the punk scene to create spaces where we’re more aware, not only about our cultural identities, but also aware of each other as individuals, how we’re all autonomous beings and what consent looks like in punk spaces.
Besides more awareness around consent and each of us being autonomous beings, punk can move forward when people stop using punk and its aggressive nature as an excuse to be a shitty person. That just makes you a shitty punk!”
“‘Latinx’ is a new concept for me. I never thought of the word Latino having a gender bias. I am Latino, but never identified myself as one because I always felt like it was just something you needed to put on paper. Using ‘Latinx’ is a cool way to include everyone regardless of our origins, who we are, or how we identify ourselves.
The greatest thing about this festival is that there are no promoters and no sponsors. It’s done completely DIY. Local New York City bands have contributed so much into this, in terms of time and money – bands like Eskrofula who organized an event to support this festival. The people that really made this happen are the people who come to this festival and support the bands. Without their support, this wouldn’t be anything. That’s the biggest difference – other mainstream festivals are catered for the bands rather than the people who come to watch them perform.
I’ve been organizing shows for 10 years and New York City is funny. Just when you think things are dying out, all of a sudden there’s this sense of euphoria; things just start happening again and it blows up. I feel like we’ve had the Latino scene but it’s always been small and intertwined with the white scene. Because we had infrastructure like ABC No Rio and The Swamp, we didn’t want to make things exclusive, we just wanted to bring bands from different scenes to come together and play. That also brought in a lot of problems, like sexism and other things you find in our society. It felt like it just magnified in our small scenes.”
“Latinx punk means people from all different backgrounds coming together to find their community among misfits. It’s all the weirdos coming together. There’s an added underlying thing in common that we all come from these different cultures that have dealt with some form of colonization or genocide. We now find ourselves coming together to something that helps heals us, which for me is punk. Punk is healing.
This festival is different. The second you walk in, you get hugs. You’re with family, friends, people you haven’t seen since the last show. There’s a family feeling the second you walk in. And then, the attitude of everyone in the audience. We’re not there to be angry and fuck shit up; we’re there because we want to support artists in our community. With bigger hardcore fests, people go to see a band that they know, punch people in the face, and do shitty shit.
Punk has always been here. Maybe because of social media, people are becoming more aware and connected, but punk is inherently New York City. Everything about it is punk. There’s always going to be an underground scene.
I’m from Brooklyn, born and raised, but my mom is Mexican and my dad is from El Salvador. They never taught me about punk in their countries, so I was introduced to it here and had to backtrack to find Latinx bands. I still would love more suggestions on where to find them or who to check out ‘cause that’s how we stay updated on who’s who. In terms of how it’s changed, it’s becoming more inclusive towards POC, queer folks. We’ve always been weird, and that weird umbrella has always included people of color and queers. Before there was so much misogyny in punk, and there’s a lot of that in the Latinx punk. A lot of the dudes here could definitely use some sensitivity training. But back then, it was more widely accepted that men could just be straight up assholes, whereas now there’s more calling out of people.
I want to see more femme bands in the future. All-femme bands, femme-fronted bands…I mean we had Las Ratas en Zelo today and they are just one of my idols in New York. They were one of the first fully femme bands I’ve seen live and it just blew me away. That is what makes people wanna be part of the scene, because of representation. I’d like more representation for black and brown femmes. Punk is a very angry genre, but we could continue to work together to build community and help each other out, take care of each other.”
“Latinx punk represents the collective expression of Latinx folx existing post-colonization. It is expressing ourselves under capitalism, under imperialism, racism, sexism, [and] homophobia – a revolution against Western norms.
I do think there’s been a resurgence in the punk scene. I think the punk scene aligns itself with major social uprisings. I think many POC are rightfully enraged with white nationalism peaking internationally. We’re tired of dictators, systematic oppression, [and] the rich. People that didn’t have outlets to express this anger are seeking them out, people not feeling safe are looking for spaces, people are seeking music and subcultures that aligns with their anger and need to be free.
I think with gentrification, we see many white folks infiltrating punk spaces and events centered around POC. Also, I think it’s hard for a punk venue in itself not be a part of gentrification. This reflects in the lack of alternative venues in poor communities in the city, like The Bronx or deep in Brooklyn.
I would like to see less gatekeepers upholding elitist ideals of what punk should be, sound, and act like. I would like to see more community outreach in the hood. I would like us educate even those who view punk folks as weirdos. A large part of punk culture belongs to people of color and I would like to see that erased history taught. I’d like to see all POC enjoying punk music and welcome in the scene.”