Friday, September 28, 2012

Cultural Rebels

Last week, in my classes, we were talking about cultural rebels.  I had my students read my essays "Orale Vato: Understanding Pachuco Culture" and "Punk in Fullerton: 1976-2012."  I asked my students to write in response to this prompt: In what sense were pachucos and punks cultural rebels?  Who are the cultural rebels today, in Orange County?  Here's what I wrote:

Pachucos were cultural rebels in that they sought to express their unique individuality and identity.  In the 1940s, there was still a lot of racism and discrimination against Mexicans in the areas of housing, employment, and education.  There was probably great social pressure at the time for Mexican-Americans to keep quiet and "assimilate."

The pachucos, in wearing flashy/baggy suits, chose instead to celebrate and proclaim their unique cultural identity as Latinos.  Some scholars have traced the pachucos as forerunners of the Chicano/Brown Pride movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

"Pachucos" by Emigdio Vasquez
Punks of the late 1970s and early 1980s were in some ways similar to the pachucos, in that they expressed their individuality through fashion.  Punk fashion included ripped jeans, patches, safety pins, hand-lettered shirts and jackets, spinky hair, or no hair.

Unlike the pachucos, punks were not rebelling against racism (well, some of them were).  Instead, they were rebelling against a culture that had lost its edge, against political hypocrisy, against the shallowness of the music industry.  In many ways, punks were the cultural descendants of Bob Dylan.  They were the voices of protest in the age of Ronald Reagan.

Darby Crash of The Germs
One group of cultural rebels in Orange County today , I think, are bicycle riders.  I'm not talking about recreational riders or guys who wear those spandex suits.  I'm talking about people who use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation.  Orange County was designed, and is today, a car culture.  Suburbia is an outgrowth of the mid-century American dream of a house, a car, and a family.  Public transportation is not a priority in Orange County, like it is in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, or New York.

But I know of, and like to consider myself a part of, a growing counter-culture of people in the OC who don't own cars and choose to ride bikes, despite the obstacles.  Reasons for choosing not to own a car and instead ride a bike include: cost savings (no insurance, repairs, gas, registration, etc.), concern for the environment (bikes have zero emissions), health (riding is good exercise), and a desire to be a part of a community (cars encourage social isolation. bikes force you to interact with people).

Critical Mass.

1 comment:

  1. Here's my dilemma: I would like to use a bike as a form of transportation but the two wheeled bike is usually not strong to support my weight and a trike would be to wide to ride on a side walk. It seems that I would have to lose weight to be able to ride a bike. The last time I had a bike, one of the wheels bent and threw it away because it was a reminder that I'm too overweight to be considered normal.