by Rowan Bagley
Until recently, I was unaware of Chicano/a punk subgenre despite it developing out of the punk scene fairly early. Like other subgenre artists, Chicano/a youth in working-class Latin communities were drawn to the D.I.Y ideology, critiques of the status quo, sexuality, poverty, class inequality, and the anti-war message of traditional punk. In fact, Chicano/a youth in East Los Angeles and elsewhere often were at the forefront of stylized subcultures, beginning with the Pachucos and the Chicana Mods in the 1960s.
Perhaps one of the most influential and iconic Chicana punks of the late 1970s and 80s was Alice Phallus a.k.a Alice Douchebag a.k.a Alice Bag. Born Alice Armendariz, the East LA native was a pioneer of the California punk scene with her band the Bags and was heavily influenced by both her father’s ranchera music and early hardcore punk. Both of Bag’s parents were originally from Mexico and she spent much of her childhood being ridiculed by peers and teachers for her Chicano language. This societal mistreatment of Chicano/a people went on to fuel her music as she sang about police brutality, poverty, and domestic violence.
Chicano/a punk may have found its roots in the 1970s with Alice and the Bags, but it’s still a thriving subgenre that continues to play a role in shaping the modern punk scene. In the 1990s and early 2000s, bands like P.O.D., Los Lonely Boys, Adema were popular punk groups with Latin influences and ties to the Chicano/a rock sound. Although they are not often considered to be part of the Chicano/a punk scene, popular anti-establishment band Rage Against the Machine’s lead singer Zack de la Rocha is an outspoken Chicano activist. However, it is modern punkeras band Girl in a Coma that has been dominating the Chicana genre since 2007.
Girl in a Coma is a punk rock trio consisting of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz and their friend Jenn Alva. The three cite their main influences as being Nirvana, The Smiths, and the tejano music of Nina and Phanie’s grandfather. Since 2007, they have gained a substantial following that has praised their blending of traditional punk rock with Latin undertones and their choice to have several of their songs sung in only Spanish. Like Alice Bag, Girl in a Coma focuses on feminism, sexuality, and activism and the unique ways Chicana women experience the world.