In July 2017, Michelle and Cecilia from the Chicana M(other)work Collective interviewed two Southern California-based and self-identified Chicana punk moms for our podcast. We had an exciting conversation about how a Chicana punk rock ethos informs their lives, their community work, and, most importantly, their mothering. As a complement to this episode, we asked them to share their testimonios on what a Chicana punk rock ethos has meant to them over the years.
My daughter first asked what I meant when I described something great as "punk rock" when she was 3. I couldn't explain it well - she was so little, and the concept was so much more than a simple adjective for me. Twenty years had passed since I was actively going to and organizing shows, trading records, books, and zines, and feeling a direct part of an active punk scene. It was after discovering other genres of resistance music - from places like Appalachia, Southern Mexico, and Colombia, after joining the "work force" as a non-profit and youth programs coordinator, and after graduating from law school (and now practicing) law.
Yet despite this distance in years, and all of the experiences and things in-between, I still opted for "punk rock" as the term I used to describe the baddest-ass people and things I came across. It made perfect sense to me - punk rock was how I came to activism, community, mutual aid, and the importance of intentional/created family. That experience in the deeply-DIY communities that punk rock was informed and inspired the way that I wanted to engage in the world. It still does.
As I beam with gratitude for my daughter and our natural and extended family and community, I've got to thank punk rock for its impact on our lives. Nothing could have replaced what I learned from being part of a community of people who actively fought for a better world while making our own. Now more than ever, "resistiendo felizmente" (thank you, Tragatelo!).
Alicia Rios Delgado, Ceci's beloved Abuelita, 1917-2016
Thank god for punk rock. I've been hearing people talk about college as the place and time when they were first politicized and I'm consistently shocked, because that seems so late to me.
Punk was my first teacher. It wasn't so much about the music for me -- although listening to music with overtly political and caustically oppositional lyrics was an education in itself. The culture surrounding punk in my adolescence was a liberatory force that set me on a path toward self-education from which I have never looked back.
Seeing bands playing loud punk rock in a suburban garage, making zines like someone in the world cared about what I had to say, holding secret art shows in basements, feeding hungry people in the park until the cops chased us away, organizing from a back room in whatever short-lived DIY community center was open. All of this became the start of my political education, the cohesion of my identity, and the template by which my expectations for social life and community was drawn.
Bringing a child into the world can be a controversial act in a culture so critical of the nuclear family, traditional gender roles, and the impact of capitalist overconsumption. There was no question in our minds, however, that my partner and I would raise our daughter according to the deeply held values of community, equity, mutual aid, freedom, and adventure that we have spent our lives cultivating. Unlike my own childhood, Inez's "normal" is to live with the extended family we've chosen to call our own, to question the things that others are told to accept unconditionally, to respect her own power, and to recognize her connection and responsibility to other beings. To make the world I want for my daughter and for everyone else's children, DIY punk taught me to quit asking for what we need and to create it ourselves.
Preparing for Smallidarity Event, 2017
"Punk empowered me in all kinds of ways; it gave me the confidence to claim my Chicana identity, to define it in my own terms and to refuse anyone the power to exclude me. Punk rock made me understand my power, not just as an individual but as part of a community." –
Terca. Atrasada. Sangrona. There has always been push back. Since I was little as far back as I remember, I have pushed back. I admittedly don't give myself enough credit but I'm seeing more and more my self-worth and value in being (and staying) angry at power structures. Whether at home, at school, at work, in the neighborhood and within personal relationships I've pushed back. It hasn't always been a success but "hasta la victoria siempre".
Sure, in middle school I was teased and ostracized by the 'rucas' in my neighborhood for being a 'school girl' and dressing 'funny'. I was accused of listening to 'that white boy punker shit' by the young macho 'carnales'. Those were lonely years in my youth. The predominately Mexican neighborhood I lived in scoffed at outside influence. It was oppressive but I kept on. Even if it meant alienating myself, I had to be true to myself. The lyrics in the music I was listening to, told me to forge on and value myself. Strangely enough, even as aggressive as the music sounds, it can be positive. "We don't want no war. We don't want no violence. We just want what's right. Some peace and love. Rock for light" --Bad Brains, 1990
Moving into my own as a young adult was liberating. Out of my family home I had an intrinsic notion of integrity in how I was going to move in the world. That's how I governed myself in private and public realms. Via my family’s strong core values and through my chosen influences via punks’ codification, I lived out my truth and found my tribe. "Somos chulas, no somos pendejas!" --Downtown Boys, 2017
As for the future, becoming a parent was a continuation of promoting and practicing my ideology. With a child, promoting hope and advancing change feels more possible. With my husband, we have the joint effort of promoting the fight for social justice to our son. The morning after 45 was elected, my son exclaimed to me, "Don't tell me that s$*t head is my president!"
I feel we're on the right track.
Música, Readings, and Resources
The following is a super short sampling of a few bands that we consider "punk rock," for various reasons, and that feature and/or include women (especially women of color). Most of these bands (except for Downtown Boys and Aye Nako) are not very recent/contemporary, but have made a tremendous impact on us and countless other kids throughout the years. Take a listen and we hope you will find something special in this music, just like we have.
X-Ray Spex*, Oh Bondage Up Yours
(*rest in peace, Poly Styrene, we love you.)
The Brat, Full EP, Attitudes (we should probably use one or 2 of the songs, but the whole EP is great)
Downtown Boys, Wave of History and Somos Chulos
Downtown Boys. Here's a video
The Bags, We Will Bury You
No Habrá Silencio
Kamala and the Karnivores, Love Like Murder
The Alley Cats, Too Much Junk/Give Me a Little Pain
the Gits*, Here's to Your Fuck, Live
(*rest in peace, Mia Zapata, we love you.)
The Slits, Typical Girls
Aye Nako, Nightcrawler
Finally, some additional reading and viewing! There are so many good zines, books, articles, and other writing, films, blogs, etc. about punk rock, motherhood, and POC folks, a few on our short list include:
Love & Rockets series, by Xaime (Jaime), Beto, and Mario Hernandez
Violence Girl by Alice Bag
Rad Families by Tomas Moniz
Any writing by Frida Kahlo, including:
Mas Alla de Los Gritos (Beyond the Screams) - seminal film on Latino punk rock, by Martín (Crudo) Sorrondequy
If you have stuff to share and/or are interested in more links, references, or suggestions, please drop a line to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!!
Torie, Ceci, and Mari in the 1990s