Human Disaster

By Kai Parker

Your eyes are flooding
Salty streams of powerful emotions swirl together as you try to blink the damage away
Pain, anger, frustration, sorrow, and defeat
You open your mouth only to have your lips welcome in the warm, salty reminders of the hurt
Your hands go from tightly enclosed fists to open with shaking fingers
Subconsciously swaying side to side as if your soul is trying to escape
The sky reflects the sadness within the depths of your heart
As it begins to beat faster, the sky erupts with monstrous booms of thunder
Raindrops fall heavily to the earth, assaulting the soft terrain beneath them
The lightning flashing through the clouds is almost blinding
Even in your most vulnerable, destructive state I am still mesmerized by you
It’s not just your beauty or your mind that has me in awe
Your entire being is powerful
Does that make me selfish?

Maya’s Story

By Ruby Contreras
Malt House Pics 1 (1).jpgI will never forget the smell of her Oscar De La Renta perfume in the morning as I watched her unroll her hair and tease it out with a pick comb. She’d then seal her bright red curls with some Rave hairspray and put on the brightest colored lipsticks she’d buy from customers who sold Avon. I loved being in her comfy bed watching her tie her hand-sewn apron around her neatly starched uniform. No matter if it was a Mexican blouse, or hot pink Polo shirt, she always dressed it up with gold shrimp earrings and big flowers in her hair. We’d then walk a few blocks down Buena Vista Street. She’d hold my hand as I balanced myself on the curbs of people’s yards. I knew we were getting close when I’d start to smell the flowers from a Texas Mountain Laurel tree planted next door. This was an everyday thing, with the exception of her one day off, each summer.

Every day she’d greet everyone on her way in with a smile though some would not greet her back. She’d go straight to the employees’ station, check the schedule she’d made, and make sure everyone was there doing what they were supposed to be doing. As a child, I sometimes dreaded having to sit there all day until my mom got off work, but now as an adult, I realize how much they love me and wanted to make sure I was okay. When I worked there as a teen, there were times I did not make the efforts she did her entire life. I’d show up late and slack off, and when she punished me, I didn’t understand or appreciate it as much as I do now.

I’ve come to realize that if it wasn’t for that job, I along with many of my family and
friends, wouldn’t have gained so much knowledge and experience. It was a good job to start with considering we probably worked harder than we would have at any other restaurant. There were all kinds of people that came, most of which some might call ghetto. But this was OUR neighborhood, and we still managed to learn customer service and how to remain calm with irate people. We learned to clean, to defend ourselves as minorities, to spot a thief, and how to save money. We learned to make the most out of the smallest, ugliest things and stand up for our culture. For me the most important thing I learned was how much deeper this job meant to my grandma and how she built a life out of it.
Malt House Pics 2 (1).jpgMy grandma, Maria Gloria Ricondo, known to many as “grandma” or “Yaya” worked at the Malt House for over 50 years. Although, she eventually became a manager, she never stopped waitressing. Rain or shine, you’d find her there, between 11am and 5pm. All day on Fridays. She’d come home smelling like fried chicken and salsa. Before she sat down to watch the news, she’d pour herself a “guerita” in a glass. I’d fight to stay awake with her all night, but I couldn’t; and she’d still somehow managed to be up before me each day. I’d wake to the sound of her blow dryer and the smell of coffee. This was every day for her. Every Single Day! She’d do it again and again and rarely complained. She made a life at the Malt House, with no benefits. There was no salary, no bonuses, no paid time off, nothing. Yet, she still managed to become a homeowner, pay bills, buy vehicles, and we never lacked a thing. My mother, me and her other granddaughters are the bold women we are today because of her; because of this. “If you only knew how proud I am,” she’d say as tears welled up in her eyes, “Me, una mojadita de Monterrey. A waitress, raising such beautiful intelligent women. It’s an honor!”

Many may argue and say she was hard on them. Some may even call her mean. But no one but my family and I will ever understand how much she truly cared for her employees and why she pushed them as much as she did. My grandma could not, and still does not, comprehend laziness. She doesn’t understand it because even through her own hardships, she made a living.

My grandma did not have it easy growing up. She crossed over to the U.S. as a child and began working in cotton fields at a very young age. She cared for eight brothers and sisters as a teen and for her own two children as an adult. She lost her son way too soon and an awful divorce followed that. But no matter what life through her way, nothing kept her from work and caring for all of her family.

Many people came and went from the Malt House. There were good days and there were horrible days. Busy and slow. It was open on holidays and closed by the health department for cleaning. People made a living outside soliciting. People dined and dashed. There was always something going on there, but through it all, one thing remained the same, the Malt House was her life and even on the worst days she loved it.

As years past, time took its toll on my grandmother. I noticed it was harder for her to carry out trays to her tables. I noticed her rubbing Bengay on her legs more often. I noticed her withering. But my grandma had so much pride, that she did not want to quit and let go. She pushed herself until she could not push anymore and it was then that I began to resent the Malt House. I couldn’t understand the amount of disrespect she was given after all she did and sacrificed. I couldn’t believe how people treated her and mocked her for not being as fast as she was 50 years ago. Most of all, I could not wrap my finger around the fact that after decades of being there and years of sweat, blood, and tears, her reliability, loyalty and soul being put into this place, she was left with nothing. No retirement, no goodbye party, no thank you, NOTHING. Not that she needed any of those things, but it still hurt me. I guess the only satisfaction I got was knowing that once she was gone it would crash and burn because no one cared for that place as she did. But now that it is actually happening, and now that I know those walls will be torn down and broken to pieces, I am realizing so is my heart.

I love my grandma so much it’s indescribable. The thought of her leaving this world makes me dizzy and I literally feel my insides crumbling at the thought. I know it’s inevitable, but her love will live forever in me and my memories of her will always be more than vivid. This is why the Malt House being demolished actually breaks my heart. No matter how many bad things happened there, I will always remember the good times. I enjoy passing by there because I picture my grandma in a bright red Mexican blouse, with a flower in her hair, clapping her hands and singing along with mariachis. I taste the fried chicken and fresh-squeezed lemonade. I remember so many things, and in all those things, I see my grandma. I wish they’d leave it there solely for that reason. When she’s gone, I want to be able to see it and picture her in there. I want to be able to go inside and imagine her there, working hard. This place is more than a landmark to me and my family, it’s history. Our childhoods and second home and its everything that made my grandma the amazing woman she is today.

I am not expecting for the City to call off the demolition. I can only hope that some miracle will happen and they do. But, I just want this city to know and hear her story before it’s gone. I don’t remember the bad things when I pass by there anymore regardless if the food was awful, as some might say, and there were rodents due to the owners’ lack of care. Instead, I remember being a child, eating a Fat Boy burger as I watched my grandma hustle to make her living. All I want is for people to know, how much history the Malt House holds for my grandma and most of the Westside neighborhood. These memories of her will live forever and ever within my family and I. She, a single Hispanic woman, deserves this recognition more than anyone I know.

He Used To Say

By Mirasol Cisneros

What is freedom to you?
I never understood what he meant
He would speak and his words were bent-
Freedom was him leaving at age nine
To a country whose soil he never felt before
Freedom was him learning to ask for
The language of the unknown
But what was freedom to me?
Freedom was a choice given
To me to speak and not be hidden
Freedom was a choice given
To me because he was forbidden
But at the end of the day,
He used to say
Freedom was a choice given.

Sala Del Sol

By Melissa Díaz

PERSONAJES: Marisol, Madre, Hija

Una sala del sol adornada con todo tipo de plantas y flores. Hay una pared de vidrio que divide el escenario rectangular en un diagonal. MARISOL, una mujer mayor con un collarín está sentada en una silla de ruedas situada justo en frente de la pared diagonal mirando hacia ‘afuera,’ o la esquina atrás. A su lado hay una mesa vieja, unas sillas, y una puerta. Afuera, es otoño, hay hojas de color naranja y café tiradas en el suelo.

MARISOL – Mija, quieta no traigas nada.

HIJA – (Desde adentro) Pero madre…

MARISOL – Pero nada, lo único que necesito es tu carita aquí para que te vea.

HIJA – (Sale y se pone a arreglar las sillas y la mesa) Si si, pero el doctor…

MARISOL – Nada nada, aquí siéntate aquí (Señala con la mano a la silla al lado de ella sin mover la cabeza del collarín)

HIJA – (Se sienta y disimuladamente mira a su reloj de pulsera)

MARISOL – (Mirando hacia fuera) Tienes prisa?

HIJA – (Confundida)  Como…no, no es nada.

MARISOL – No tienes calor, hija? Este sol es hermoso, pero abrazador. Me quitas la manta y la bufanda? (Señala al collarín)

HIJA: No te puedo quitar eso, pero pondré la manta aquí en la mesita si la necesitas. (Pausa para doblar la manta)

MARISOL – (Mirando fijamente afuera) Mira a todos los niños intentando recoger la fruta de ese árbol, como se ríen!

HIJA – Pero mamá, esos no son niños, son casi de la edad de mi tío. Mira ese es Don Pedro el de la cantina.

MARISOL – Mira como brincan! Es como un juego. Que bonito el atardecer, que luz tan roja roja.

HIJA—(Incómoda) Quieres un poco de agua, mamá?

MARISOL – Te acuerdas cuando tu padre quebró esa vieja cuna?

HIJA – (Preocupada) Que?

MARISOL – Ay sí, yo la quería mucho, ahí dormías tú, y tu hermana, y yo, y mi madre. Pero ya se estaba cayendo. Si alguien más se durmiera allí, se quebraría sola! (Se ríe calladamente). Has visto a tu padre?

HIJA – (Despacio) Mamá, Padre ya no está aquí.

MARISOL – Ay hija no digas esas cosas. Ándale, dime a que hora llega tu padre, le tengo que preparar la comida porque ya sabes como se pone si…   

HIJA – (Levantando la voz) Y cómo harías eso? Ya madre tranquila no te preocupes. No te va a pasar nada, él ya no está aquí. (Toma la mano de su madre)

MARISOL – (Trae la mano de su hija hacia su cara para observarla). Que manos tan bonitas…sacaste a la familia de tu padre, sabes?

HIJA – (Mira hacia abajo y empieza a arreglar la mesa)

MARISOL – Mira, los niños intentan otra vez, ay se cayó uno, pobrecito. Mira, ese niñito que inteligente, trajo un palo para bajar la fruta.

HIJA – Amá ya te dije que no son niños.

MARISOL – Mira hija ya le quitaron muchas hojas al árbol con el palo. Finalmente se ve la fruta, que color tan lindo.

HIJA – No creo que…(Para de hablar y se fija cuidadosamente por el vidrio hacia fuera)

MARISOL – Porque la dejaron caer al piso? Ah mira lo están repartiendo con ese palo que trajeron. Que bruscos son, van a aplastar la fruta con ese palo.

HIJA – (Desesperada) Madre es un pajarito, uno de esos amarillos! No es fruta, lo están matando!

MARISOL – (Con ternura) No digas eso hija, es una fruta, a lo mejor tuvo unos cuantos insectitos y necesitaban quitárselos de la fruta.

HIJA – Ay no (Va hacia el vidrio y se voltea hacia su madre) Pero mamá tienes los ojos cerrados.

MARISOL – Es que el sol del atardecer se siente tan bonito hija, lo quiero disfrutar.


In The Cave of Me

By Leticia Urieta

In the cave of me, an enclosed chamber which is dank and musty since the passage tumbled closed, I am running my fingernails along the cracks, the crevices crusted over with sediment that has calcified and closed me off from the light that used to filter in and let things grow in the dark. Each pass of my finger, each scrape peels back more and more pieces of glassy sand and dark rock that makes a hole to the outside.

If I let in the light, wind might blow the passage closed again, might sweep away my work and set the cave to howling. I keep scraping, little by little, because rain follows wind, sunlight follows rain and both are needed to grow.

When the time comes, I will raise a glass and drink the cool rain water, holding the cup with blistered, bleeding fingers in a toast to the organisms that sprout in the thin beam of light. With more excavation it will get wider, wide enough to climb through. The cave will always be there long after I won’t need the sanctuary, as ancient as the spinal cord of the mountain or the base that is the feet, a safe haven in the storm for creatures to go in for the night.









An Interview with Bombon

How did you guys meet?

Angela: Jerico and Paloma have known each other since high school and I met them both through shows in San Pedro. Jerico’s previous band (Sleepover) had played a few house shows at my old place known as the 13th st house in Pedro.

Where are you all from?

Angela: Jerico and Paloma are from San Pedro.  Paloma was born in Mexico, but moved to San Pedro when she was a baby.  I grew up in Anaheim, but consider Pedro my home, since I have now been here for 10 years.

Erika: How long have you been involved with music/making music and making music together?

Angela: I have been playing music since the age of 13.  The girls and I have been together now for 5.5 wonderful years!

Paloma: I got a bass for my 15th bday but I didn’t really start playing until we formed Bombon

Erika: I remember when I first heard “¡Xicanista!” I was unbelievably excited. Not only because I had seen you guys live before, and had a feeling you could be Xicana’s, but didn’t feel like it was the right time to ask. Even though if I had known, then it would’ve been even more amazing. Since both of the Burger Festivals I saw you play at were mostly white. Sure Booger a go go was all female, but there was like 3 bands with known Latin@s. I think it’s actually very important to make it known that you are the minority in a scene. Especially because it gives people like me and teenagers like we were, hope. How is it to be involved with a scene like this when you can see a disconnect? 

Angela: I feel honored to have been part of Burger-a-Go-go’s line-up for the past two years.  I (personally) didn’t feel any separation having played a festival like that, if not, I felt connected to other fellow musicians for being part of an event that celebrates music by female fronted artists.  I do believe it is important to be proud of where your roots are based-on, but we also have to remember to appreciate our differences and celebrate not separate them.  I’m proud to be Latina I can only be me.

Paloma: I also felt honored to be apart of Burger-a-Go-go too. I saw it as a melting pot, there were people of all backgrounds there and that’s what I liked about it. I like seeing that at shows. Of course I’m proud of my heritage, but I love seeing people united and celebrating music together. I also think we make a Latina stand with our band name and having a lot of our lyrics in Spanish!

Erika: What inspired the song “¡Xicanista!”? 

Angela: Our song ¡Xicanista! Was partly inspired due to Trump’s political campaign brought on by sexist and racial tactics.

Paloma: I was intrigued with the Xicanista movement after reading Alice Bags book “Violence Girl” a couple years ago, which I connected to a lot. Going through my own experiences as an Immigrant child being raised in the U.S, and finally dealing with all the silly steps of becoming a citizen as an adult, just to have the same rights as all my friends that I grew up with. I was inspired by that and making a stand with our own feminist anthem, when we wrote the song

Erika: Who are the musicians who inspire you? Not only well known and popular, but those connected to your upbringing? 

Angela:  Kristy Wallace from The Cramps had initially inspired me to play music, but my grandfather was the first person that had encouraged me to pick up the guitar.  Every time I went to my grandparents’ house my grandfather would tell me stories of this “younger days” during the 60s. He would tell me about the blues bands and jam sessions during his time living in Texas.  Till this day, he reminisces about playing in a band and continues to motivate me.

Paloma: I was mesmerized by Punk when I first heard it. I identified with it and wanted to be a punker so bad haha. I loved Black flag, Minutemen, The Slits, The Cramps, anything BilIy Childish!! I mean the list goes on! But I as I got older Bikini Kill, Holly Golightly and Thee Headcoatees really inspired me to want to be in a kick ass girl power band!

Erika: What would you to say for the only punk xicana in the crowd? 

Angela: It’s easy to forget who you are… Asi que no quemes las tortillas!

Paloma: Be who you are, be proud of your roots and rock it girl!


Se acabó: on realizing that you maybe can’t with your ‘scene’ anymore

By Jamie, Sin Vergüenza

“Don’t feel bad for wanting community or family. Get rid of the ppl who will destroy you in the name of that.”

– Lenee V via her twitter account, @dopegirlfresh, 2/17/15


*all names have been changed

“Well, that’s subculture,” Lucy* said, or rather, typed. She’d messaged me over tumblr that evening, after I’d published a short post where I’d written that a conversation from earlier that day had triggered my “ ‘I’m gonna be friendless and alone for my whole life because I couldn’t get any of the queer feminist punks here to like me, much less want me around’ intrusive thoughts.” I’d written about this anxiety before. Lucy had contacted me afterwards on one other occasion.

Lucy is a well-known zine writer, illustrator, and journalist at a long-running popular music magazine. We’d met five years ago while volunteering at our local girls’ rock camp, gotten acquainted while chatting at shows and over social media, and had spent some time together during group hangs. I liked her because she was engaging, talented, and driven, an outspoken critic of male and white supremacy in punk, and a staunch defender of assault and abuse survivors. She also happened to be a fellow light-skinned Latin@ and wlw, one of the very few I’d met at shows in my city. I both enjoyed and felt deeply grateful for her work, and I admired her as a person. I never thought we were ‘friends’, exactly, but I was never bothered by this. I was happy to see her around at zine events and shows and to trade puns and gifs with her over the internet.

That night, talking over tumblr, Lucy pressed me to elaborate on what I’d written. She said that she was confused that I was feeling unwelcome in our local queer feminist punk scene because she’d reached out to me previously. I tried to explain that I had been manipulated and in some cases emotionally abused by several different young queer women we knew. She asked who I was referring to. But since she knew all of the abusers and apologists I was referring to, I figured it would just make me more vulnerable and cause her more stress if I named names, so I refused. She asked me when these incidents occurred, and when I said that some of them had happened a few years ago, she said that people change and grow up. I struggled to explain that I just didn’t feel good around these people anymore, because so many of them had tried to minimize or outright ignore my experiences.

Lucy was unmoved. “Well, fine then. I hope you find people who you can be friends with then, Jamie,” she snapped. She said that she needed to go to bed and signed off abruptly. I’m pretty sure she unfollowed me on a lot of sites the following day. I haven’t talked to her or seen her since.

It hurt, but it didn’t entirely surprise me. It felt like the latest in a long string of similar confrontations and uncomfortable conversations with many of the self-identified feminist punks I know. It felt, in some way, like the final straw, like a bell signaling what might really be the end of my time in punk subculture. I sighed, and tried to accept it.

Truthfully, I never fully ‘identified with’ punk, or believed I’d fit into the subculture. I think there are 2 major reasons for this, the first of which is that I was raised in a loving but very strict household. My mom and my abuela raised me to be kind and respectful, to get good grades, go to college, and have a good, lucrative career as a lawyer or journalist, to put my family first, and to be calm and agreeable and to dress simply and modestly. My first exposure to punk was through a documentary about the history of rock music that my mother bought for me when I was 11 years old. I was immediately drawn to The Clash and to The Ramones, and I was able to get into their music, but I just couldn’t see myself with green hair or a safety pin in my face. And while my mom might have eventually gotten over me getting pierced or dying my hair without her permission, so long as I stayed in school, we never would have heard the end of it from my abuela.

The other reason I couldn’t see myself as a punk was that I couldn’t really see myself as part of any friend group or subculture. I was painfully introverted even as a kid.  I was already lugging around baggage from my parents’ divorce, my dad’s emotionally abusive behaviors, and the racial and class dynamics of his relationship with my mom.  My mom and I lived with my abuela in a quiet, very middle-working middle class suburb far from the Bronx housing project where my mother had grown up. We didn’t have a car, and we didn’t know any of my (mostly white) classmates or their parents, and my abuela didn’t encourage us to try and make friends. I spent my afternoons with my grandparents, and I spent my weekends with my dad, who lived in a different town. I didn’t socialize very much with any of the other kids I knew, and it didn’t occur to anyone that that might be necessary for my development. I always felt like an outsider around my classmates, and even though I’m technically an adult now, I still haven’t managed to shake that feeling.

That’s the thing about punk subculture, though: it seems like a place where people who don’t fit in are accepted and even celebrated. When I finally saw an opportunity to be involved in punk – it happened relatively late in my life, while I was home for the summer from grad school, doing that volunteer work at the girls’ rock camp – I grabbed it. I’d been listening to feminist punk since the 9th grade, when a girl at my high school made me a mix tape with a lot of well known (and overwhelmingly white) riot grrrl bands on it. When I finally found young women who were starting bands, making zines, and putting on shows and benefits through rock camp, I decided to finally unlearn my self-consciousness and feelings of mild inadequacy and join in. It was hard at first, but I doggedly kept on showing up at my fellow volunteers’ shows. I went to their events, I bought their records and zines, and I made myself talk to them, even though I didn’t think they would want to be friends with me. I devoted myself to supporting their art and activism, and tried not to worry too much about how I’d never look as cool as they did.

I had already been writing for a long time, so I started a blog, where I wrote about gender and sometimes race in punk, and documented what my new social group was doing. Their work felt important, and hearing other young queer women talk and sing about problems like domestic violence, the prison industrial complex, and gentrification made me feel like less of an alien. I’d found other people who were worrying about the same sorts of things I’d been worrying about for what felt like my whole life, and it was a huge relief. It took me a long time to feel comfortable at queer feminist punk things, partly because I was away at school for most of the year. But I showed up as often as I could, and I blogged about my friends’ bands and zines several times a week, even while I was at school. It took a couple of years, but I did eventually start to relax, and feel like I’d been somewhat accepted by my feminist punk peers.

But just as going to shows and hanging out with my friends and acquaintances from rock camp was starting to feel natural-ish to me, an unexpected death happened in my family. My stepfather, who was one of the only men I’d ever fully trusted, died after a short illness, while I was at school. I was devastated, and I felt deeply alone. I came back home, and for a long time, I tried to act as if nothing had changed. I went to even more shows and tried to blog even more, and I didn’t really tell any of my feminist punk friends what had happened. It felt like I still didn’t know them well enough, and like it would be inappropriate to expect them to support me through something so huge and life-altering.  So I threw myself even harder into subcultural happenings. I tried to cope with my loss by being as active in feminist punk things as I could be, under the circumstances.

Less than six months after my stepdad’s passing, my friend Gia*, another rock camp volunteer, talked me into starting a band with her. Actually, it started when we formed a one-night only Bikini Kill cover band for an ‘anti-Valentine’s day’ benefit being organized by some friends. One of her former bandmates, Reve, and her friend Ian filled out our lineup. We rehearsed weekly, worked really, really hard, and closed the show with what turned out to be a killer set that got us a lot of compliments. It felt amazingly rewarding, and so when Gia invited me over to start writing original songs after the benefit, I was in. A couple of her old bandmates, both white dudes, played with us as well.  I would become best friends with one of them, Guy, for a while.

Gia was very different during our post-benefit rehearsals, though. She was adamant about using basslines she’d written with her previous band, the one Reve was in, though Reve was never in our current project. When I raised questions or concerns about what we were working on, she would dismiss me. “Don’t worry about it,” she’d snap. When I tried to step up and take on more responsibilities in the band, she would look at me skeptically and say, “Well…we’ll see.” When she and Guy made a decision about one of the songs we were working on and I asked them to not make decisions without me, she said that I was overreacting. When I tried to push back against her and call her out for being dismissive and hurtful – and it did hurt me and make me anxious when she’d exclude me and ignore my feelings – she would remind me that these were her songs; she might just have to finish them, on her own, and then burn the tapes to get ‘closure’ (or something…) from that previous band. When I opened my mouth to say that this was another clear manipulation, she shrugged gently, and said, “I’m just trying to be transparent.” In retrospect, I should have insisted on not using any of her previous material, but I was already caught in the cycle of trying to meet her demands and keep her happy.

She had me over for an extra songwriting session, and convinced that even though we were all friends, Guy wasn’t really right for our project, and then talked him into excusing himself from the band. She told me secrets about why her previous band, with Reve, fell apart, and told me lies she’d told to Reve about the entire fiasco. I realized the next time I hung out with Reve what a terrible position Gia’s secrets had put me in.

Over the next few months, Gia and I wrote, and I worked hard on my own at becoming a better riff writer. (She didn’t make me a better guitarist though. She just made me better, or ‘better’ at ripping off Greg Ginn/Black Flag.) She continued to remind me, on a weekly basis, that this was really her project, that she might just end at any moment, and I responded by working even harder. We met with a succession of potential bandmates, all of obnoxiously condescending white guys. During those months, my other, non-punk friends from college started to tell me that I seemed unhappy. When I told them that I was committed to getting the band going, and that I was just trying to keep Gia from giving up on the whole thing, they didn’t waste any time on trying to set me straight. “You’re always really upset after your rehearsals – the shit she’s doing isn’t right!” my friend Manuela insisted. When Gia did eventually just ‘pull the plug’ a few months later, after a particularly bad ‘jam session’ with two particularly annoying dudes, my oldest friend Syd said, “Well, thank christ that’s all over.” It was harsh, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was over, and if nothing else, at least I was free of Gia.

The experience effectively put me off the whole being-in-a-band thing. I didn’t feel much like blogging about music either, so instead I turned back to my studies. Even though I didn’t want to be in a band anymore, or at least not with anyone like Gia, I still believed in feminist punk practices and using of identity politics in art. Gia had turned me on to Limp Wrist and Condenada; I wound up falling so in love with Latin and Spanish-language hardcore that I decided to study it for school, and to write my final thesis about  a well-known Latin@ hardcore band from the 1990s.

It’s been a few years, and by now, the experience with Gia feels like it was the beginning of the end. I’m still committed to learning about punk, and especially to figuring out respectful and ethical ways to of collecting and assembling peoples’ knowledge. I’m deeply critical of punk subculture, but I still believe it to be a meaningful human creation worthy of careful, systematic study. (There are also broader questions to be asked, I think, about whether academic study can ever be ethical – I’m still working on figuring out that, too.)

Over the years, I’ve observed the same patterns of behavior. Various young women, most but not all of them white, have used the same techniques that Gia used. ‘Friends’ in the feminist punk and zine communities have complimented my creative work, requested my input or effort on one of their projects (the white girls never mention any kind of compensation, btw), developed personal relationships through the work – and then proceeded to ignore my needs and/or feelings. They demanded my complete vulnerability, and they burdened me with their secrets and traumas, which I wanted to know about, but wasn’t always equipped to hear about. When I didn’t feel comfortable with something, didn’t want to talk, or didn’t want to see certain people who had hurt me, that wasn’t important – I was expected to listen, show up, to do whatever was asked of me.  I tried to figure out how to set limits, how to talk about reciprocity, how to get what I needed from my friendships. It never really seemed to work though, no matter how hard I tried.

My observation is that subcultures in general, and punk in particular, have built in ‘boundary issues’. In subcultures, the only boundary that matters is the one between those in the group, and everyone else. Within the subculture, punks perpetuate not only oppressive racist, sexist, classist attitudes, but also rape and abuse culture. I tried to tell a few different feminist punks about what had happened with Gia, and with other young women who had hurt me. None of them seemed to understand why I was hurt or upset. When I tried to tell Reve, she literally said, “Well, I decided that I don’t really care about how Gia is. Because, I just really want to be in a band.” I stopped trying to tell other ‘feminist punks’ how I felt, because no one wants to be a tattletale, right? I didn’t want to alienate anyone. But not being able to say what I was feeling definitely impeded my ability to conduct relationships. It felt like I couldn’t win or make friends I felt I could trust either way.

Ultimately, subcultures don’t exist to provide support to participants. They exist to reproduce themselves through cultural items like records, zines, and visual art. The most productive members usually are the most powerful and most popular within the subculture or local scene – and so, it makes more sense to keep creating than to stop to listen to someone’s feelings. It also makes more sense to keep working with the most powerful people in a subculture than to hold them accountable for abusing or assaulting another person.

And though I still believe in punk by Latin@ artists and other marginalized peoples, at this point, it seems to me like even the most successful non-white, non-straight , non-cis punks can’t really do much about this. In particular, punks of color who are critical of whiteness and abuse culture in punk, who have worked hard and gained large followings, still have to work with venues, labels, publications, and other entities run by punks who might not care about making punk more inclusive or safe for marginalized people. Socially aware, queer, race and gender conscious punk can feel like a lifeline, but the punks who make it still have to navigate a very white and white-identified subculture. It would appear that they often have to make compromises, and work with people who perpetuate abuse and oppression, to be able to continue to work. The system is sturdy, and it’s hard to subvert it.

So. That night when Lucy told me, “Well, that’s subculture,” I knew exactly what she meant. I didn’t even disagree with her. But it felt like a justification for how I’d been treated, and that felt disappointing, especially coming from her.

Lately, it feels like I’m on something of an extended indefinite hiatus from punk subculture. I’m trying to spend more time with friends outside the subculture and my family. I feel less inclined to seek out or spend time even with the ‘feminist’ punks I know, not just (‘just’) because of the abuse and lack of accountability, and not just because of my apparent boundary issues, but also because as I get older and more critical, I find it more impossible to ignore the constant migroaggressions and the casual racism, ableism, classism, nativism, and transmisogyny that seem to be an inescapable part of white feminism.

At the same time, I find myself spending a lot more time thinking about punk and subculture. I kind of have to think about it for my schoolwork, but I spend most of my time wondering about other people who have been harmed in punk and feminist punk scenes. I think the most about other young punks of color, and I wonder if writing pieces like this one might help another ‘niña buena’ (or ‘good’, ‘respectable’ girl from any culture) who’s trying to figure herself out, avoid shitty abusive racist punks, and balance her need for friends with similar cultural and political interests with school, work, family, and her health. It’s not easy. We need all the inspiration and motivation we can find.

I hope that all the young punks of color out there are benefitting from punk, or whatever subculture they’re into. I genuinely hope that they’re having a better time than I did, that they’ll be successful, in punk, or wherever they end up – we’re all looking for ways to make our lives feel full and meaningful, and punk really works for some of us.

As for me, I’m not sure how or how much I’ll be able to participate in punk in the future. I wonder if I was overreacting or being overly sensitive all those times I felt my boundaries were being trampled. I try to figure out how to do better, and wonder if I’ll ever feel like I have friends that I can really trust. Either way, my general plan is to not ever let anyone, punk or not, take advantage of my desire for community or friendship, or keep me from looking out for anyone else who seems vulnerable.

Como Un Grano De Maíz

By Sam Coronado

maiz-SamuelCoronado (1).JPG

Como un grano de maíz,
stripped of its hull,
soy yo.

I am inside of the inside,
a tejanx within a xicanx,
a field of sky
beneath the stars.

All at once,
I belong everywhere &
to no one.

Pero con mi subcultura,
como el grano beneath the hull,
the root of the huisache,
mesquite, y nopal
planted firmly in this
sacred, radioactive earth,
soy yo.

Pero Like…

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By Renae Ingram

I am a Xicana with Apache and Yaqui heritage. I have never had any ties to Mexico, except for the fact that my home state of California used to be Mexico. I have only been to cities tourists flock to, never to el rancho or the parts that aren’t used in advertisements for cruises and off shore excursions. I learned Spanish in college and from watching Dr. Nancy on ¿Quién Tiene La Razón?, not from my parents or grandparents. And though I adore and respect her, I don’t pray to La Virgen, I pray to her son. I’m different from what society expects the norm to be.

Growing up, I knew I was different from my classmates, though I would essentially be placed in the same grouping as them when it was time to bubble in my ethnicity on any standardized test. We were the same, but different. Their daddies, uncles, and ninos wore cowboy hats, boots, and big, gold belt buckles with eagles on them. The men in my life wore button up shirts and the occasional pendleton buttoned all the way up to the top, Raider hats, Dodger jerseys, and Nike’s. But they both got emotional when listening to corridos and their stare could drive their partners wild. We were the same, but different. Their moms and tias and ninas had their hair in trenzas or buns. The women in my life had perms, they dyed their hair a lighter color and ratted their hair, they drew on their eyebrows. But they both loved and disciplined hard and could cook up a mean meal. We were the same, but different. We both had gold bracelets on our wrists and brought burritos to school for lunch, but they spoke Spanish, and I didn’t.

I majored in Spanish to reclaim a language that perhaps my great-great grandparents knew. My maiden name was Garcia and I felt held to a societal standard to know Spanish, even though it was rarely a part of my socialization. I also minored in Mexican-American studies and while talking to one of my professors I said, “I don’t feel like I have a culture. I’m different, I don’t have the same experiences as the rest of the people in my class, I’m Chicana, it’s just a watered-down version of being Mexican and I feel like everyone sees me as white-washed.” Her response changed my life because it changed how I would identify and express my Xicanisma. She said, “You do have a culture, Chicana culture isn’t a watered down version or cheapened version of being Mexican, it is a culture all within itself. Sure, it stems from having Mexican heritage, but Chicano culture is it’s own culture.” I felt liberated. I realized, no one was better than the other and though one may stem from the other, they were completely separate with a plethora of similarities and a multitude of differences.

All of a sudden, it clicked in my mind. Breakfast was sometimes eggs over easy with beans, hash browns, avocado, salsa, and a flour tortilla but regularly it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The music to my adolescence was Motown music, Santana, and Malo. Every now and then, my dad would play Los Tigres Del Norte and translate for me and I would feel connected to something I seldom experienced. I could get mines dancing to hip-hip but for some reason, by body knew what to do to music that was only played at family parties in Long Beach.

I have seldom encountered or interacted with a person of Mexican heritage that doesn’t have a negative facial reaction when I tell them that I identify as “Xicana”. I formerly was a Spanish teacher at an elementary school and a lady was telling me about the annual party her mom’s town throws. She named a state in Mexico and she said, “Do you know where that is?” I said, “I know the name but I’m not familiar with it.” She then asked, “Where are you from?” I just responded with, “I’m Xicana, from here,” and she said, “Oh, so you have no idea.” Hmmm, I have no idea why my origin and the origin of my ancestors is a key role in determining how much I “should” know about a country that is foreign to me. It gets exhausting, continually having how you identify be generalized and downplayed by ignorant individuals who think being “Xicana” is a negative thing. I’ve told people time and time again, “Mis antepasados vivían en esta tierra antes de la llegaba de cualquier colono. Tengo sangre indigena, sangre Apache, soy de aqui, ni de allá, como mis padres y mis abuelos.” They still don’t get it. But I’m supposed to be well versed on Mexican history and geography, having not been born there or having lived there for an extended period of time. And I’m supposed to be okay with the fact that my heritage is seen as a pocha version of another culture, instead of a culture on its very own.

It gets easier as time goes on. I don’t take as much offense to people’s sneers or negative facial expressions. I realize their distaste of who I am is fueled by ignorance and fear, by the sole fact that I’m different. I look and speak differently because I identify differently…because I am different! My culture is not a subculture, it is a culture rooted in soul, resistance, swagger, familia, and loyalty. My Xicanisma is beautiful, passionate, resilient, and sexy…and I wouldn’t change my experience for nothing. I rep my heritage and my history to the fullest and though it may hurt from time to time when it isn’t valued, no one can take away my Xicanisma…nadie.