Rage and Fury: Photos of Mexico’s Anarcho-Punk Scene
Photographer Freddie Miller travels to the Guerrero neighbourhood in Mexico City. There, he captures the surroundings and lcoal figures of the area’s thriving emo and anarcho-punk scene.
Rock, anarcho-punk and emo. These may seem like subcultures of decades past that are continually reformulated by new bands, but in one particular region of Mexico City there's a thriving underground scene, where these genres are flourishing against the mainstream. Escaping the wintry cold of the UK by travelling to the Guerrero neighbourhood in Mexico City, photographer Freddie Miller turns his lens to a bustling marketplace that's become a hub for these subcultures to convene.
There, he experiences how different generations are connected together through their pride of this bubbling underground space. In his photos, parasols shield rails of band t-shirts from the sun; portraits are taken of market sellers and local members within the scene. Garments are adorned with rows of pins and badges; heavily customised denim hangs on the graffiti'd walls outside in the streets.
We caught up with Miller to chat about his travels and this marketplace that's become the epicentre of subcultures in Mexico City. Aside from his works, Miller talks about why he chose to travel to Mexico, and his time spent on a Zapotec mezcal plantation.
What was the reason for the trip?
I’ve always been drawn to Mexico’s rich culture, its colours, liveliness and sense of celebration. I wanted to experience this and also skip a bit of February in London, which is my least favourite month!
Which part of town did travel to?
It’s on Aldama Street in the Guerrero neighbourhood, near downtown.
Was this your first time in Mexico City? What were your first impressions?
It was my first time. The sheer scale of the city is really stunning. Flying in you just see a sprawling urban mass that seems to go on forever. The streets are beautiful as well. Grand, old architecture with huge trees, vines and singing birds; murals and signs painted with rich colours; taco stands on every corner, which had the best food we ate. Not to mention the kindness and humour of the people, which I was really touched by.
How did you discover and connect with Mexico’s underground rock scene?
A friend had told me that rock and metal was really big in Mexico and that El Chopo was at the centre of the scene. It’s a weekly market frequented by punks, metal heads, old rockers, emos, skinheads, stoners and anarcho-punks. You can buy anything from band t-shirts, CDs, posters and records to bootleg Fred Perry, anarchist zines, skate stuff, bongs and certain other things! They have local bands playing too. So it seemed like the best place to check out the scene.
How long has the scene been going on for?
For over 40 years. It originated in the early 80s near a local university as a trading spot for hippies to swap music, books and alternative philosophies, but over time it evolved into a market for people into harder music. It’s still the proud home of counterculture in Mexico City though! You just have to read the posts on their Instagram to get a sense: “We continue on La Ruta, and always demanding to go against the mainstream, El Chopo is from the neighbourhood, it has been made in the street, and rock has forged it.”
How would you describe the scene to someone who’s never been?
There was a very strong sense of pride, identity and community forged around rock and metal music. It was buzzing with energy, super busy and everyone was really excited to be there – from teenage goths to old rockers. It seemed like the place to go every weekend, and you got the sense people had been going for a long time, meeting friends, having a beer and enjoying the music. Those I spoke to were super excited that visitors were interested in the market and what the scene was about. One guy did say the classic, “It’s not how it used to be.”
Is there anyone you met on your trip that’s made a lasting impression?
We met an American who had been on the run from the law living out on a mezcal plantation somewhere near Oaxaca. He had been taken in by a Zapotec family who had been making mezcal since before the Spanish colonists arrived. We spent a while talking with him and drinking mezcal. He was kind and crazy and had a tale or two to tell.
What was the best thing you saw and experienced on the trip?
Apart from El Chopo, probably the Zapotec mezcal plantation. It was in the desert and we sat there drinking mezcal in the morning while watching a donkey mill agave plants with a giant stone wheel. It felt so surreal and far from London!
What’s in your camera collection?
Mostly Pentax medium format film cameras. You get a certain something from shooting on film with big old cameras, even if it’s a bit of a pain and getting mega expensive! I started messing around with old film cameras when I was a teenager and have never stopped.