Seeking peace among las tribus

Times Staff Writer

Suddenly, los emos are the talk of the town here.

For the uninitiated, emos are a category of black-clad teenagers known for their marked emotionalism -- thus, supposedly, the name -- and a sexually ambiguous style that combines the dark look of Goth with childlike touches of pink and other bright colors (think Tim Burton meets Hello Kitty).

In Mexico, emos appear to have been singled out for attack by other groups of youths recently, though the motives are unclear. The clashes, and reports of additional threats spread over the Internet, unnerved officials and put a spotlight on the Mexican variety of youth groups found the world over: punks, Goths, skaters and emos.

Mexico City’s leftist government called representatives of the various tribus, or tribes, to peacemaking sessions this week. And it sponsored a public gathering that was aimed at demonstrating that the city is big enough to accommodate all.


Against a backdrop of music by the Cure, the Doors and Manu Chao, representatives of the various youth strains, including one devoted to “Saint Death,” urged their brethren to open their minds and hearts, to respect, to let be.

No one mentioned turning on, tuning in or dropping out, but that was the vibe -- though with a lot of skin-tight black pants, spiked hair, chains and glorious eye shadow.

“People don’t accept us for who we are. They see something new or different from the rest of society and they think it’s bad,” said Frida, a 17-year-old emo, done up in black and peering from behind a thick mop of hair that covered most of her face.

This has been an uneasy month in Mexico for emos, who have been satirized elsewhere as overly sensitive depressives. In early March, more than two dozen people were arrested in the central Mexican city of Queretaro when attackers set upon emos in the main square. University officials in the coastal state of Colima scratched classes after a call for more attacks circulated on the Web.

Then in Mexico City, emos at a favored downtown hangout clashed with youths who showed up shouting threats. Some businesses shut their doors as police dispersed the crowd.

The incidents have spurred a flurry of coverage of emos in the Mexican news media. Newspaper websites have held online chats and posted youth commentary, prompting long exchanges by members of the various groups, including a self-described Goth who decried the aggression but complained that emos were copycats without a world view of their own.

After the air-clearing sessions this week, officials downplayed any broad tensions among the youth groups, pinning the blame instead on unspecified malefactors inspired to violence by the Internet.

But emos such as 18-year-old Andrea Velazquez aren’t so sure. (For a video clip of Velazquez discussing emos, see The Times’ La Plaza blog.) She said the hostility appeared to stem from a feeling among members of other groups that emos had ripped off their styles.


Velazquez, wearing dark jeans, swirl-patterned Converse sneakers, pink beads and a polka-dotted bow in her hair, conceded that the allegation might be true. But in the end, she asked, who is original?

“Often what offends us later becomes part of us,” she told the crowd at this week’s gathering. “It’s very simple: Respect me and you will be happy.”

Any gray-maned hippie taking in the scene would have been hard put to disagree.