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Dance Video Is Latest Instance of Young People in Mexico Glorifying Nazis

It's only a coincidence — one expert said hopefully — that the Nazi-themed youth performance occurred in Guadalajara, a city with an uncomfortable history of displays of Nazism and fascism among young people.
June 24, 2015, 1:24pm
Screenshot via YouTube

The signs bearing swastikas on either side of the stage warned the audience that this was not going to be a typical dance-cheer performance. Wearing matching black outfits and red armbands, the young dancers took the stage to the sound of ominous classical music and recordings of Adolf Hitler blaring from speakers.

Giving the occasional Nazi salute, they danced aggressively alongside a more passive, white-clad group who represented the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

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The three-minute routine culminated with dancers pulling a huge swastika flag over their heads, to enthusiastic applause inside the main university auditorium in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city.

At first little attention was paid to the May 31 performance, which was part of the ACMX cheer-dance contest in Mexico. But when footage went viral on YouTube this month, it quickly sparked outrage across the country.

Many Twitter users criticized the University of Guadalajara, which is public, for allowing such a spectacle to take place in its Coliseo Olimpico auditorium.

"WTF!!! How does the University of Guadalajara permit the use of Nazi symbols in its facilities?" commented local writer and painter Carmen Libertad Vera.

In response, the university explained that it merely rented out the facility, and took "no responsibility for the event organized by the ACMX Summer Championship."

It must have been encouraged by 'adults who are either very irresponsible or really crossing the limits of decency.'

The competition's organizer, Enrique Casas, insisted that the performance was not meant to be offensive. He denounced the "demonization" of the Nazi-clad participants, whom he refused to identify because they were all 16 or under.

The themes were chosen by each of the 192 teams that participated in the three-day event, Casas said. Organizers will be more careful in the future "to avoid hurting people's feelings," he promised.

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'Morenazis'?

Rossana Reguillo, a social anthropology professor at Guadalajara's Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education, told VICE News that the performance must have been encouraged by "adults who are either very irresponsible or really crossing the limits of decency."

While there is no evidence that the Nazi-themed performance was the result of anything more sinister than poor judgment, it has sparked greater sensitivity to Nazi-related controversies in Guadalajara, a metropolitan region with an uncomfortable history of such incidents.

Related: The Spanish Town Formerly Known as 'Fort Kill Jews' Just Changed Its Name

Gente se confianza qué opinan de esto en una casilla en zapopan son fotos exclusivas — Javi M Dibene (@gialorosi)June 7, 2015

Days before the dance competition story broke, a pale-skinned, bearded man wearing a full Nazi uniform was spotted queuing up to vote in Mexico's mid-term elections, in the Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan.

Photographs that circulated on social media showed the man laughing, with a swastika band on his left arm. He was never identified, but the incident brought to mind the controversy caused by a local neo-Nazi group last year.

The Guadalajara-based Movimiento Nacionalista Mexicano del Trabajo, or Mexican Nationalist Labor Movement, made headlines in June 2014 when the media latched onto disturbing images posted on the group's now-defunct social media pages.

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The photos showed members giving Nazi salutes, dressing in clothing with Nazi insignia, and even celebrating the 125th anniversary of Hitler's birth. Their stated aims were to "protect traditional, Catholic-Christian families and micro, small, and medium businesses, [and to] rewrite history through revisionism."

The group also emphasized its opposition to same-sex marriage and "Zionist, anarchist, communist, capitalist, Masonic, and Jewish ideologies."

Mexico's center-right National Action Party, or PAN, faced embarrassment when it emerged that several members of the neo-Nazi group also belonged to the PAN's youth branch, Acción Juvenil.

With an array of memes, social media users mocked the fascist organization in predominantly mestizo (mixed Indian-Spanish) Mexico, referring to its distinctly non-Aryan members as "morenazis" — brown-skinned Nazis.

"Where the hell are the parents of these idiot kids?" asked columnist Eduardo Solorzano, arguing that such beliefs stem from violence or trauma suffered in childhood or adolescence.

In a statement at the time, the PAN affirmed that it "categorically condemns and distances itself from any group or action that violates human dignity or our values and principles."

Related: Guadalajara Stadium Violence Disrupts Soccer Championship Season in Mexico

The May 31 dance performance in Guadalajara ended with a display of a Nazi flag. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Juan Barrera Espinosa, a co-founder of the neo-Nazi group, claimed to have received death threats amid the furor, and later apologized for "certain actions that could be considered fascist."

When approached by VICE News this month, Barrera declined to discuss his past Nazi sympathies, despite insisting that he had "nothing to hide."

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Barrera revealed that he lost his job as a student advisor to Acción Juvenil as a result of last year's scandal. Now working in the youth branch of a much smaller conservative party, Social Encounter, he told VICE News that he is "a centrist, not a right-winger."

Reguillo, the social anthropologist, called these string of incidents "sporadic expressions" of fascism. She said they are often fueled by a degree of ignorance in Mexican society over what Nazism even means. They also tend to stem from a "certain atmosphere, albeit minimal, that encourages these offensive actions," she added.

In this instance, three of the PAN-linked fascist group's four founders studied at the private Autonomous University of Guadalajara, or UAG, an institution infamous for its historic links to fascism.

The UAG website states that it was founded in 1935 by Carlos Cuesta Gallardo and brothers Ángel and Antonio Leaño Álvarez del Castillo. The ties to Nazism among these men have been "amply documented," Reguillo said.

Antonio Leaño is said to have been open in his support for numerous fascist dictators across Latin America, while Cuesta Gallardo allegedly served as a Nazi agent in Mexico throughout World War II.

Sometimes going by the pseudonym Traian Romanescu, Cuesta Gallardo reportedly traveled to Nazi Germany, where he received funds to train Mexican paramilitary groups for a planned assault on the US border. The plans were abandoned after the war, but the UAG remained a bastion of extreme right-wing ideology for decades.

Related: The City of Guadalajara Is the Money Laundering Capital of Mexico

Follow Duncan Tucker on Twitter @DuncanTucker.