• Religion and superstition meet in Mexican markets. (SBS)Source: SBS
They might have ditched the caste system, but the nation is very much divided.
Shane Cubis

10 Oct 2017 - 9:52 AM  UPDATED 10 Oct 2017 - 9:52 AM

For the third instalment of this season of States of Undress, Hailey Gates heads to Mexico City for a fashion show... and an amazingly informative tour of some of the city’s many urban tribes. Back when it was under Spanish rule, Mexico had a strict caste system that divided people into 16 discrete groups based on the mix of European, African and Native American blood swimming in their veins. That complicated, granular way of organising people is long gone, but today you’ll find the locals corralling themselves into groups based on a shared identity that comes from surprising sources.

It might not surprise you to learn there’s an extensive subculture of punks in Mexico City, made up partially of construction workers who commute from rural areas to the city through the week and stop into bespoke hairdressing salons to get their mohawks did for a raucous outdoor gig. But it might surprise you to learn that not only do these violent, aggressive, glue-sniffing music fans consider each other family, looking after boys who’ve had a few too many cheeky ones, they also have an out-and-out war against the emos.

Which sounds funny, at first, until you learn the emos consider themselves a family, too – one that’s still protesting the 2008 bashing rampage that saw hundreds of their number beaten and bloodied. In Mexico, the emo lifestyle is heavily associated with being gay, which means they suffer more violence and persecution than your usual My Chemical Romance fan. “They hate us because we are hardcore,” one of their number tells Gates.

There are other musically inclined tribes – we also see RIP’s reggaeton designer, Rosa Pistola, in action – but some of the other ways Mexican people unite are more surprising to outsiders. We’re not talking about the hotted-up-bicycle-riding cholos who have been deported under Trump’s regime and now rule the streets of Neza City by reputation alone. We’re talking about sex workers who have united in (previously underground) worship of death saint Santa Muerte, because the police refuse to prosecute the open murder of their transgender colleagues. We’re talking about the “Lords and Ladies”, above-the-law rich kids who assault cops and are immortalised in the satirical Tumblr Mirrreybook.

Perhaps strangest of all to an outside audience, there’s the Godínez. Or, as we would know them here, nine-to-five office workers who make their own lunch. In Mexico, they are figures of fun, stereotyped by their love of Tupperware, work-to-rule clock-watching and, well, their desk jobs. There’s a whole array of memes about the Godínez, who are essentially an emergent middle class mocked by the people who appear on Mirrreybook.

Each of these groups tell Gates they consider their subculture to be a family, united by music, dress code, philosophy or way of life. Next time you’re on your morning commute, try to imagine seeing everyone else on that crowded train as family. That’s the Mexican way of life. 


Watch the Mexico episode of States of Undress now via SBS On Demand, with new episodes airing Thursday nights on SBS VICELAND:

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