Last Monday, Mexican rock band Molotov announced they would be dropping the word maricón from their song “Puto” during their Jagermeister US tour. In the official statement released on Twitter and Facebook, the band explained they are doing this “as an act of solidarity with Esteban Navarro and the LGBT community.” Esteban Navarro was the victim of a violent homophobic attack in Chile about a month ago. His attackers called him maricón and beat him so severely doctors had to amputate one of his legs after the attack.
The statement comes on the heels of requests from GLAAD for the band to drop the song “Puto” and local LGBT rights groups threatening to protest their shows in the US. This public announcement was released in English alone with no mention of these “acts of solidarity” carrying over to their Latin American tour.
As part of their sudden public stance in support of the LGBT community, Molotov also mentioned in their official statement that they “plan to speak out about all forms of prejudice,” conduct a media tour to share their sentiments and donate to Esteban Navarro, his family and organizations suggested by GLAAD. While their financial commitment shows somewhat deeper support for the cause of LGBT rights, many of us remained skeptical, even before addressing the notion that speaking “about all forms of prejudice” is logistically impossible. In fact, many Spanish-speaking blogs reported the news as Molotov giving in to GLAAD’s public pressure, not a genuine act of solidarity.
Many of us queer Latin@s needed nothing more to know that the gesture was in protection of their ticket sales, not our community.
Maricón is an anti-gay slur with a long history in Latin America. It literally means “big Mary” but it has the same personal and vile punch as “faggot.” In fact, not too long ago we talked about how the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that since it’s a homophobic term, it doesn’t count as protected speech. In this specific instance, Molotov’s dropping maricón feels pretty empty when you consider that its place in the song is as the subject of the chorus matarile al maricón (kill the faggot). They are not dropping that line, or even dropping any of the other homophobic terms in the song (like marica, meaning dyke), so excuse me if I don’t run to buy a ticket for their concert just yet.
Molotov’s song “Puto” and its cultural significance are a huge deal. The song is a single from Molotov’s first album ¿Dónde Jugarán Las Niñas? and by far one of their most popular songs to date. Released in 1997 as an anti-establishment anthem, “Puto’s” angry lyrics and solid beat made it a quick hit at every party I went to. To this day, it still plays at parties to a crowd singing and jumping in unison — it’s even played at soccer stadiums to get soccer fans riled up. As a queer Latina, once I understood the lyrics the song suddenly went from a rebellious anthem to a threatening chant. The song calls puto anyone who doesn’t jump around, who doesn’t fight, who conforms, who takes the food away from his people, who covers up corruption, who doesn’t do whatever you want, and continues “because you are born a puto and a puto you will die.” The word puto literally means “man-whore,” it’s a slur routinely used against men who have sex with other men. The chorus talks about a killer love, calls for the killing of the faggot and finishes with the question and answer “and what does that son of a bitch want? He wants to cry! He wants to cry!”
Going over the lyrics it makes it particularly hard to feel any kinship with Molotov for dropping just one anti-gay slur from a song full of violent homophobic imagery. The band will not consider dropping or further modifying the song, and bassist Paco Ayala clarified in a interview that he doesn’t understand how words don’t happen in a social vacuum where you can just choose the meaning that fits you best by stating that “[the song] has nothing to do with the gay community, it is written exclusively against cowardly and corrupt politicians.”
How does their use of maricón differ at all from their use of puto in the chorus of the song? Attempting to wrap my head around the reason why Molotov would drop maricón but not puto — if not just getting rid of the song altogether — gives me a serious case of cognitive dissonance that I can’t work through. While GLAAD considers dropping maricón “a good first step,” GLAAD Acting President Dave Montez also noted that “The song still contains the harmful slur ‘puto’ and while the band claims its intent is to use the word as synonymous with ‘coward,’ it shouldn’t be.” Are the members of the band so willfully ignorant that it’ll only take public accounts of a victim of a homophobic attack being called puto during the event for them to remove that word, too? How about marica?
I know this kind of empty gesture isn’t news for any of us living in the US, but I expected more from Molotov, one of the few Latin American bands known for their radical politics and no-fucks-to-give attitude. A 19-year-old teen was beat up in Chile so badly he lost one of his legs: tell me again, how exactly does eliminating the word maricón from one song during their U.S. tour change anything for anyone in South America?
The most disheartening part of it all is that now their tour is underway, reports and videos are surfacing proving Molotov didn’t even follow through on their empty gesture; their lyrics remained unchanged. It’s yet to be seen if GLAAD will say anything about the fact that Molotov’s commitment to our community didn’t last a second longer than it took for me to read their official statement or if yet another public figure gets an ally cookie from its audience for pretending not to be homophobic. Either way, Molotov has offered a helpful lesson in what allyship and solidarity definitely don’t look like.
I totally agree with you that the song is still offensive and homophobic – it starts with the whole ‘muy machino, marica nena’ part. It incites violence against the maricón, and although they’re taking that part out, it’s still.. eh.
I’d rather see Julieta Venegas, she’s touring now too. Or listen to Javiera Mena’s new album. But don’t get me started on her, I’m obsessed with her. I think because she’s a lesbian, I think she is somehow attainable. :P
OMG, Julieta Venegas. I became a fan after her video for Eres Para Mí with Anita Tijoux. I, however, had never heard of Javiera Mena and now know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the day. We’ll have to fangirl together after this.
I think you should listen to gimme the power or voto Latino or even frijolero those will change your mind over one song with everyday homophobic slur that doesn’t men anything sometimes ;)
Hi! I just want to point out a few mistakes with your translations. I’m from Argentina, and while terms differ depending on which Latin American country they are expressed, there are things that are quite the same throughout the region. For example, “marica” does not mean “dyke”. In fact, “maricón” derives from the word “marica”, both words meaning the same (maricón is an augmentative of marica) and refering exclusively to men. You can call a woman or girl “mariconA”, which refers to a girl who is weak or cries too easily. That’s also the difference between “marica” or “maricón” and “puto”. While “puto” literally means “male whore” it’s never used that way, and is exclusively used as “faggot” (at least as far as I know, anyone feel free to correct me if it is used in any other way in your country). Meanwhile, “marica” or “maricón” can be used to describe someone as weak, not necessarily a homosexual. So actually, Molotov only dropped the least problematic word of their song. The title “puto” is as offensive as you can be in spanish, and is impossible to pretend it doesn’t have a homophobic tone. So, their dropping of the word “maricón” is a provocation, it can’t be seen any other way.
Having said that, there’s an interesting phenomenon with this song. For example, in Argentina I’ve been out to a very well known gay club where it was played and every queer on the place sang along and jumped every time the line “faggot! the one who doesn’t jump” sounded. That’s something that I feel happens a lot in Latin America. People instead of fighting, embrace those things that are there to put us down, even if they are hard to embrace…
Pau! You have a super good point: terms do differ depending on the Latin American country. I’m Venezuelan, and growing up I only heard “marica” used pretty much exclusively to mean “dyke.” We also don’t use “maricona” and I’ve only heard it from other Latin@s that are not Venezuelan.
I could have mentioned the interpretation really is different according to the country and the person, because in every day usage I find “puto” y “marico” pack the same hatred.* But I guess the point is that yeah, no matter the interpretation, Molotov didn’t do us any favors.
I’ve seen the same phenomenon you mention happen in local gay clubs (in Venezuela). I don’t know if I’m optimistic enough to agree everyone in that room is re-appropriating the song instead of just not giving it a second thought -I know that’s a conversation I’ve had with friends, where a lot of them just kind of shrug, say they like the beat and move on. So, I’m always hesitant to assume everyone is being intentional or just spending their time thinking about other things.
*All these terms are rooted in misogyny after all -they are all used to portray people, particularly men, as “less than” because they have sex with other men and it’s inferred in the label they are less than because they are the ones receiving penetration.
That’s interesting. Here “marica” would bear the opposite meaning of what a dyke is perceived to be. It’s common to hear “varonera” and “marimacho” to refer to masculine women, and well, “torta” or “tortillera” to refer to gay women in general.
And yeah, I’m of the same view as you with regards to gay people and friends in general not giving a second thought to what Molotov’s song means, but it required too much effort to express it correctly in english he. So, thanks for that ;)
Yeah! We have “cachapera” instead. Tortillas are not as popular in Venezuela, so we update our labeling according to our food, too -how quaint.
Jajaja, y mira, siempre a la orden, Pau. A veces expresar una idea me toma demasiado esfuerzo en inglés y en español, así que comparto el sentimiento. ;)
Hi there. I’m a queer Mexican and I have such a conflict over this. I really enjoy Molotov, they’re fun and they touch on this nonconformity with the (political) norm in Latinamerica but I just get such a headache with Puto. I used to like the song (not particularly more than others anyway), I guess I didn’t think it through really as some already said… but as I grew up and became stronger with my stance on feminism and the queer community, now every time the song plays, I cannot ignore the lyrics… and it just pisses me off.
And yet, these guys are giving a concert close by and I just couldn’t resist it (I’m not living in Mexico so this really brings me in touch with my MX side… that’s my excuse). I feel upset (at myself!) for supporting such thing. And I’m trying to find a way out… I wonder how to really re appropriate puto when the lyrics are just so (in the best of the interpretation to Molotov’s side) sexist? Or how to complain or say something about it… there in a concert hall, with a crowd that just dies to sing and jump and feel like they’re in Mexico.
This reminds me of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist essays.
Anyway… let me know if you have a good way out of this moral overload.
Is–is that the ghost of Matthew Crawley on the left?
I remember you discussing this at camp! Their hypocrisy is really disheartening =\ I don’t know if it’s better or worse when homophobes pay lip-service to “better” themselves while continuing to spew the same shit as before compared to those who don’t attempt to correct anything…
I can’t speak to all the various definitions of Puto found in various Spanish speaking countries other than Mexico where the word has several different meanings – some political and others the writer alluded to.
What’s disappointing is the writer lifting much of the material from a recent La Opinion article that wasn’t factual. They quote a band member from an interview several years ago (check out their site). Additionally, they and this writer reference a GLAAD press release that isn’t found anywhere on GLAAD’s website. The link provided to the band’s recent show doesn’t have the band members singing the more objectionable Maricon lyric which is something positive.
I don’t know why an issue with this 17 year old song is now being voiced on what must be the band’s 10th US tour but some acknowledgment of hurtful actions by the band is certainly progress in my little mind.
SS, I wrote about this not because I suddenly heard about the song, but because the band is trying to pass a minor modification of the song as a grand gesture to the LGBT community. I understand that some can see “some acknowledgement of hurtful actions by the band” as progress, but I’m not one of them. I’m a fan of Molotov and I hold them to a higher standard. I wrote about it because I was disappointed that such an outspoken, politically radical band tried to get an LGBT ally pass by barely doing anything at all.
I’m not sure about which La Opinion article you are referring to, did you mean La Prensa? That interview is quoted in several other news sites after being reported by the Associated Press. The band has been interviewed about the song before, yes, but this quote was in response to their latest actions. They even came out with an official statement echoing Ayala’s feelings on July 24th. I’m also confused as to which GLAAD press release you are referring to. Finally, if you listen to the audio you can hear them including “maricón” around 0:35. The video does not in fact show the band members singing the words the first time around, but it still shows them pointing the mic towards the crowd and going along -so, how exactly does that count as them dropping the word, anyway? The word was never substituted, so the lyrics did in fact remain unchanged. I still can’t find a reason why I should read their official statement as anything other than a lazy attempt to score LGBT points and appease local LGBT groups protesting their tour in the U.S.
GLAAD is shit, you just need to watch the glaad awarded 30 rock to realize it.
I.e. don’t trust glaad, glaad are the worse peps in the world.
yo thanks for calling bullshit on this daniela. you’re so rad.
I used to get harassed by this song a few years back. These guys I played soccer with would blast this song and sing it loud while staring me and another gay team member down, as a threat.
Anyway, I came here to say what Pau. and Daniela did regarding “puto” (but you two said it way better). I’ve never heard “puto” in a way that wasn’t meant to be homophobic. For example, see a soccer game where a keeper’s goal kick is accompanied by the crowds cadence of the word. Also, this band has a history of altering the meaning of this song based on convenience (if I find the links to interviews of this I will post).
whoops! somehow I missed the part where you discussed soccer. Must concentrate better.
Mexicans use the word puto just playing like when you fail a goal they call you puto puto puto and marica just playing nothing to do with homophobia sometimes.
Plus they never use homophobic slurs on their songs I think this is the only one plus rap has more homophobic shit so just stop shitting
Do you agree that Puto and Maricon are words used to refer to homosexual men? Do you agree that this song says that a coward, weak person (even if it is for political purposes) should be called puto? Do you agree that the lyrics imply rejection of someone that has a negative political/social connotation (like “El que creyó lo del informe”, “El que nos quita la papa”, “También todo el que lo tapa”)… and that this person is also called puto/maricon?
Can you see then that the song strengthens the societal view that homosexual men are coward and weak… and can exacerbate a negative attitude towards the queer community? Please do read the comment by B’alam just above yours.
So I looked the song up on Youtube and saw their music video, and I had never heard this band before, but gosh they really suck. The song is terrible, the lyrics are terrible, and I don’t think the band really cares that their song is full of fucked up, homophobic slurs. Yeah they took a word out for their U.S. tour, but honestly no one here really cares. This doesn’t change anything in Mexico, or Central and South America. Just some bullshit move to get attention. So yeah, never listening to these idiots again. I’ll listen to something good, like Mana or Julieta Venegas like Ally mentioned lol I like Julieta Venegas :) and my name’s Julieta too, so yay! :D
They doesn’t sucks they talk about how the government its fucking up so you need a lot of balls to do that and if you’re Mexican you would know that they say puto every day not just to gay people and also maricon
It’s been taken out of context
I’ve been a fan of Molotov since I was probably 14.
Glad they did that. Listen to “Perro Negro” pretty cool, it’s zz top’ish