Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.
Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, I can attest that the city has been home to a loyal Morrissey fan base since the time of The Smiths. You could see them hanging out in the same pulgas and puesteros where others were looking for bootleg punk cassettes, trash-metal T-shirts, and música colombiana –the underground scenes of the early 1990s. In my trips to Mexico City, during college, Mozz was also there, peeking from a poster or a CD pirata in El Chopo, a street market that has been a rock milestone in Mexico for years.
By the mid 2000’s, when the Anglo music media discovered Morrissey’s hardcore Hispanic followers in LA, it really startled some gringos. Maybe those who see the entire Latino community of the planet as one single, folk-music-singing people? From NY to LA, Dallas, and the UK, a handful of articles treated the phenomenon as a curiosity. They couldn’t understand why Hispanics found his lyrics so appealing, as if teenage angst was exclusively ‘a white thing.’ But the combination of heart-felt lyrics and a sentimental male voice has deep roots in Hispanic music –take, for example, the tangos and boleros. The Hispanic world has always welcomed crooners, regardless of their origins. Otherwise, why would Spain give Leonard Cohen the “Prince of Asturias Award” for literature?
This is not the first mix of Irish blood and Hispanic sensibility in history either. We go back to the time of the San Patricios, the Irish battalion that abandoned the American army to fight on Mexico’s side during the Mexican-American War (look it up!) Hispanics embrace our own difference, and are experts in finding core affinities with others who do so. And Morrissey’s poetic lyrics and outsider attitude are truly borderline Latin –just ask Mexico, Guadalajara and Monterrey, where he’s touring this month.