A group of young Latinx women are getting down in a parking lot. Dressed in baggy Dickies and cropped tube tops, they're grooving, doing the "elbows up, side-to-side" move that anyone who's a down ass foo knows well. Some cholo dudes appear, as well as another young Latinx woman, all intercut from other videos but still hitting the beat, dancing alongside lowriders or at parties.
But the soundtrack to this video isn't a hood classic like, say, "So Ruff, So Tuff" by Zapp & Roger; it's the 90s alternative-rock hit "Lovefool" by The Cardigans. Watching the 30-second meme, my cultural worlds collided, and I deeply wished for the power to teleport back home to a Southern California backyard kickback.
The meme appeared on the Instagram page @losgothsco, an online clothing shop that offers intersectional content between Latinx and goth cultures. The videos that creators Cesar Valencia and Alex Muñoz share on the page touch on the very same cultural mashup as their merchandise, taking clips from films or the internet and overlaying them with New Wave, darkwave, post-punk, or rock en español. One T-shirt features the rose from the cover of Depeche Mode's Violator accompanied by "Como la Flor," Selena's classic Tejano cumbia banger.
"When I do post these videos I try to find some sort of identity behind it," said Valencia. "It's a reference from the movie Y Tu Mama Tambien; it's cholos dancing; It's about Chicanos, it's about Latinos. It's about everything that we grew up in and loving with the alternative scene."
Valencia and Muñoz, partners both in business and in life, are Salvadoran and Mexican, respectively, and also darks (the slang term Latinx goths use to describe themselves) to the core. That means getting down equally hard to The Cure and Bauhaus as to Los Ángeles Azules or Grupo Limite.
LosGothsCo is just one of an array of accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter that mash up Latinx and alternative subultures, including the hugely popular account Foos Gone Wild, which posts original memes and comedy videos capturing Southern California cholo culture. Foos Gone Wild has become such a staple within its fanship that it has its own language, inside jokes (Edgar, silver teeth behavior), and catchphrases ("Look at it closely"). Pages like this are dedicated to capturing the experience of being a Latinx person who also sees their subcultural interests (whatever that may be) and pop culture obsessions as a deep foundation of their identity, and they do so in a way that is unapologetically exclusive, niche, and allows us to laugh at ourselves. The memes are made for a very specific audience, and whoever doesn't get it, well, it's simply not for them anyway. While many of our cultural values are derived from our hometown, communities, religion, and family, many others come from the subcultures and music scenes in which we find ourselves embedded in our adolescent years and beyond.
"We're very much Latino, and we were very deep into this whole music scene. We just wanted to just mash both things up," said 37-year old Valencia, who runs Los Goths out of the San Fernando Valley with Muñoz.
"I'm already a Latino kid, I'm already a part of this [culture], whether I like it or not," he added. "So trying to find an identity was a big part of growing up. And, technically, this is kind of what most 'goth' is. It's kind of what my youth was growing up in Los Angeles. It was very much a mix of both Latin culture and the alternative music scene that I was into."
It's this intersection that birthed the "Ay foo you a rocker" meme format, which plays on the many instances any punk, goth, or metal kid was asked by a cholo during their youth if they were a "rocker," a catchall term for someone interested in alternative music. These memes feel like a personal attack, but in the best way possible. Growing up a punk kid, it was often that a guy named Puppet would raise a curious brow and ask, "Ay, you're like a rocker, huh?", then talk to me about skating or Nirvana ("those dudes were siiiiick"). I hold all the Puppets dear in my heart to this day.
Recently, TikToker 420doggface208 (doggface208 on Instagram), whose real name is Nathan Apodaca, went viral after posting a video of himself skateboarding down a freeway offramp, drinking from a bottle of Ocean Spray cran-raspberry juice in the golden hour sun and singing along to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." The Mexican dad of two, based in Wyoming, has amassed a following of online fans with charming videos in which he dances to songs someone may not expect to see for a cholo rocking high tube socks and Nike Cortez sneakers, including "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls and Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi." The "Dreams" video hit a nerve with a larger audience not just because of its calming warmth, but because it speaks to those of us who exist between multiple cultures. It also helped him reach over a million followers on TikTok.
It's this representation of the overlap between cultural and subcultural identity that's made the Los Goths and 420doggface208 pages, as well as others that share similar memes, such an important online space for Latinx people like myself who see themselves straddling worlds. Identity and culture are full of nuance and convergence; we are all an amalgam of our history, environment, and interests. These types of culture-mashup memes serve as not just a reflection of ourselves, but a reminder to the rest of the world that many of us don't fit into a single box. A goth Latinx kid can also love cumbias and reggaeton; a cholo dude can sing along to every word of "Sk8er Boi."
I see a happy, tatted-up cholo skating to "Dreams" or a paisa chick zapateando in the dirt to Soviet Soviet, and I see the many sides of myself—someone who has seen the inside of both the pit and a lowrider. There's pure joy in these videos, offering followers that sense that someone out there actually gets who you are.
"I think it's just ownership of self, you know," said Valencia. "Yes, we grew up with all of the iconic Latino things, whether it was music or culture or family, but what this speaks [to], at least for me, [is that] I needed to listen to music that really resonated with my time, regardless of my race or culture."
Through these meme pages, I get to express the fullness of my identity with a laugh and a little girl dancing Duranguense to Молчат Дома's "Судно," and what a blessing that is!
Alex Zaragoza is a senior staff writer at VICE. She’s on Twitter RT’ing these sorts of memes.