Brujeria @ 910 Live|3/1/13
In 2010, Jan Brewer asserted that "our law enforcement agencies" had found decapitated bodies in the desert along the Arizona-Mexican border. Although undocumented immigration from Mexico does lead to deaths in that region, it turned out that the stories about mutilated bodies were unsubstantiated, another one of Brewer and company's fabrications about the immigration issue used to create paranoia rather than a level-headed discussion. Immigration is a complicated socio-economic issue. It can't be reduced to "they want to chop our heads off."
Los Angeles-based "Mextremist" death metal band Brujeria's music focuses on this issue, however they seem perfectly okay with decapitations.
The band's set last night was probably the most over-the-top subversion of Mexican/Latino/a identity I've ever seen. It wasn't like when I saw a Los Crudos reunion show in 2007, in which the band came off as angry but intelligent people who were passionate about their culture. Brujeria played a set of brutal caveman music while dressed like members of the Sinaloa cartel. It was a representation of everything that people like Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio fear about Mexican people. And it ruled.
Like the aforementioned Crudos, the majority of Brujeria's lyrics and stage banter are in Spanish. However, this wasn't an issue seeing as most of the people in attendance seemed to comprehend them and knew the lyrics by heart. Even a güero like myself could pick up on stuff: The band is all about smoking weed, killing things, and repping La Raza. I don't think that flew over anyone's heads.
Opening support generally fit in with Brujeria's brand of Mexican death metal. San Antonio's Piñata Protest were the least metal band on the bill, but the accordion-punk band had strong roots in Mexican folk music and it went over well with the crowd. L.A.'s Sangre played a set of metal that seemed classic, nü (in a good way), and modern all at once. The band seems to firmly believe that guitar solos and breakdowns can coexist peacefully. Tucson's Flying Donkey Punch brought their own brand of calculatedly tasteless, Suicidal Tendencies-influenced thrash. They, along with Godhunter, paint a portrait of Tucson for me as a city that doesn't care what you think.
While people didn't get too ignorant (slang term meaning "prone to mosh") to the opening bands, they did to Brujeria. But, they possibly got conscious as well. I am not going to completely present a band like Brujeria as the premier voice of resistance in such trying times for people of Latin American descent. They make music that people primarily run around in circles and push each other to. However, it's worth noting that the audience of the show last night wasn't just a bunch of white people indulging in Danny Trejo caricatures of Latinos. There was legitimate cultural awareness and pride as evidenced by the people in the front waving Mexican flags and all the people cheering when vocalist Juan Brujo gave shout-outs to all the people belonging to various Latin American nationalities in the house (including a "Fuck Castro!" when talking to the Cubans).
These people live in a state where the head of government is trying to portray them as a bunch of drug-peddling, head-chopping psychopaths in order to disempower them. Brujeria, with its own excessive and satirical death-metal aesthetic, illustrates that there is actually power that comes with people thinking you are going to decapitate them with a machete. That it is symbolic of a greater capacity to defy authority and stand up for oneself. In the '90s, the band regularly blasted Pete (or as they call him, "Pito") Wilson, the governor of California for his support of the ballot initiative Proposition 187, a piece of legislation that they perceived as racist. It wasn't just a silly schtick, but it was legitimate rage.
When the Latinos and Latinas moshing and singing along last night channel that rage into the political sphere and use it to fight the racist legislation of our times -- and it's clear that they will -- Jan Brewer has a lot more to worry about than some headless bodies in the desert.