When the Latinx band Los Crudos exploded onto the Chicago punk scene in 1991, they created a unique sound that would garner them fans all over the Americas. The hardcore punk group’s unapologetic harsh and gritty lyrics set them apart as a premiere political Latinx band, detailing the realities of violence and immigration struggles in their communities in the United States and abroad. After more than twenty years of not performing with the breakthrough band, Martin Sorrondeguy, the band’s vocalist, is still as punk as ever.
“I still go to basement shows and I’m still pissed off,” he told Remezcla, with a laugh. “I never left that. I don’t do many lectures in universities. I see that they invite a lot of scholars who study punk but often they don’t invite punks…If I get invited, I’m glad and honored and I do my best to give a true sort of representation of what punk is. I also don’t have a problem with challenging these ‘punk scholars’ because I think sometimes they’re wrong and need to be challenged before it gets written down in their books.”
Los Crudos were not a band that relied on political performance; the band’s distinctly anti-authoritarian sound was influenced by troubling political events south of the border. As a child of Uruguayan immigrants, Sorrondeguy knew directly about the social unrest created by the dictatorship in his parents’ home country. He channeled this into writing material for Los Crudos, prompting discussions about the fight for democracy elsewhere on the planet. “It was one thing to write a song about El Salvador from a U.S. perspective—and that was cool, I think there were some great bands who did good stuff—but when you have people coming from certain places and have dealt with these ugly realities and they go writing songs, then it’s a little different. It got to a point where we needed to write our own songs about these things that were important to us.”
While the military dictatorship of Uruguay came to an end in 1983, the band’s front man argues that the songs that were a result of that troubling time in Latin American history is still pertinent in the millennium. “The thing about the lyrics that we wrote 25 years ago is that they are completely relevant today. For me it’s not hard to scream these lyrics and still feel very strongly about them. It’s all still happening. The U.S. is very anti-Latinx and the world is very anti-immigrant, and that also includes us.”
It’s this dedication to originality that Sorrondeguy wants to maintain in punk, rather than political posturing in order to be perceived as radical by the punk audience. “I want to see some totally freaky queer person doing something that has nothing to do with queerness as political…I’m curious about what people bring to punk or take or give to punk. I get bored easily when bands do the same thing over and over and over. I think kids are afraid to take risks, to look different from their peers and their scenes. When they step outside of their peers and scenes, te critican, but si te están criticando, maybe you’re doing something f*cking cool, you know? I said to people in the past who have interviewed me that I don’t believe all bands should tell me all their politics, after which they tell me, ‘But that’s what you do!’ Yeah, that’s what I do and what I have done, I don’t expect everybody to follow in my footsteps.”
Sorrondeguy’s openness about his queer identity has challenged the aversion to queerness in the punk scene, particularly in the evolution of the genre in Chicago. In 2010, black and brown punk show (lovingly nicknamed B&B), a DIY concert dedicated to showcasing punk talent from people of color who were marginalized in the city’s predominately white punk spaces, was on the city’s south side. The show, conceptualized and hosted by black punk veteran Monika Estrella Negra, created workshops for deconstructing anti-blackness, machismo, xenophobia, state-sanctioned violence, and very explicitly provided a safe space for queer folks who were constant targets of disparaging attitudes and comments about their identities. The movement’s last show in 2015 was organized around the reunion of Los Crudos, a farewell to the space that created a new haven for the city’s black and brown queercore punk rock scene.
“Over the years, there has been a much larger presence of queer punk and people coming out or being more visible. I’ve seen that there’s a lot more trans kids that are part of the scene and I think that’s amazing. You wouldn’t see that sort of thing in a hardcore punk setting 15 or 20 years ago. People were so afraid because punk and hardcore had a very macho exterior, and to a certain degree I get it, because you have to fight a lot, to be always ready to battle. Because you were a weirdo y la gente te veía raro and they would f*ck with you, ” he explains. “You’re fighting to create your own space within punk, to say, ‘I like punk too and I like to suck dick—that’s who I am—and I don’t give a f*ck if you don’t like it.’ That’s the true spirit of punk, to challenge within it, especially once it became more codified and [adopted] more rules. We need the rule breakers.”