May Day, Dia Internacional del los Trabajadores, is a national holiday here. On Thursday most stores and shops were closed and people didn't work, giving Mexico's huge network of unions, or “sindicatos,” an opportunity to march through the city center and hold a rally at the Zocalo — while another set of workers busied themselves with (finally!) dismantling the “Ashes & Snow” temporary museum (eyesore) that has dominated the square for six months.
It was a somewhat ordinary rally. The Zocalo was not packed, as it has been recently, and the speakers were mostly sindicato bigwigs repeating the familiar lines against the conservative federal government and against the privatization of Mexico's industries and resources. Curiously, even as thousands of Mexican and Latin American immigrants marched in Los Angeles and across the United States on May Day, there was hardly a mention of the immigrant rights movement in the U.S. at the Zocalo on Thursday. No effort to tie the struggles of their countrymen to the north to the struggles of workers here in the patria.
So I went and had a long lunch at El Generalito on Filomeno Mata. Cauliflower soup, a green salad, then tortitas de espinaca, essentially an empanada made out of spinach stuffed with cheese and drenched with a nice jitomate sauce, with beans on the side. And a tall dark beer from the tap. As I ate, taxi drivers from Ecatepec marched by on Madero street.
Well, anyway, the real resistance on May Day, I would soon find out, wasn't going to be in the Centro Historico. It would be at a ska-punk-psychobilly fest just a few miles to the northwest, where hordes of young people in Mexico City gathered to do what they do best: dance, do drugs, make out, and fight.
Held outdoors across a line of phantom railway tracks at the Escuela Preparatoria Popular, Martires de Tlatelolco Plantel Fresno, (named for the “martyrs” of the massacre at nearby Tlatelolco in 1968), in Colonia Santa Maria la Ribera, the bill had something like fifteen bands on it, with the bad-ass Rebel Cats closing the night. Given its name and history, the school seemed to already have strong political bent to it, with posters, graffiti, and art on the campus buildings covered with messages of resistance, and messages memorializing the year 1968.
You coul feel it in the air during the show. Every time a band went up, the musicians raised fists in the name of resistencia, in the name of peace and unity, and against repression and violence. And the kids responded, kicking up dust while dancing, singing along to all the words, raising fists, especially to a jam about Che Guevera.
Naturally, love was in the air as well.
And so was the smell of glue. Everywhere I looked teenagers were sniffing “mona,” more or less the cheap high of choice among lower- to middle-class youth in Mexico City. One guy was so high he entertained the kids by bouncing around, stumbling, and swinging on poles — until later on, when he got pummeled mercilessly by a guy apparently unamused by his antics.
Below, a few more shots, and members of the Rebel Cats arriving for their set.