Fighting Corruption in Peru with Perra Vida's Hardcore Feminist Punk
"The incredibly high number of femicides, rapes, and sexual exploitation—in conjunction with many other horrible things, it makes you want to collapse and cry. But it can also motivate you to actually do something."
Photo courtesy of Perra Vida
A version of this article originally appeared on Noisey en Español.
Peruvian punk isn't dead, and Perra Vida is proof. The Lima-based hardcore band, whose name translates to "Bitch Life," is keeping the spirit of the genre alive, having inherited the 80s punk sound popularized by bands like Narcosis, Leuzemia, Kaos and G3. It's a sound fueled by a cult following and influenced by a bloodstained past of dictatorships, terrorism, and the shadow of former president Alberto Fujimori's administration. But above all, it's the spirit of protest that inspires the band's music, according to members Diana (vocals), Noelia (bass), Alejandro (guitar), and José (drums).
"There isn’t a real female presence in our scene. Any show you go to, 80 percent of the audience is male and the other 20 percent are just girlfriends of band members," says José. "[Perra Vida] started with the idea of doing something different and trying to set ourselves apart from all the others bands. Having a female voice is so necessary in the social context of women in Peru."
Numerous political corruption scandals have put Peru through the ringer, and it's taken a toll on society: According to a 2017 study by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Lima is the fifth most dangerous city for women in the world.
"As it also happens in many other countries in South America, women are being murdered here. The incredibly high number of femicides, rapes, and sexual exploitation—in conjunction with many other horrible things, it makes you want to collapse and cry. But it can also motivate you to actually do something," says Diana, who's responsible for the band's lyrics. "We're planning on donating the proceeds from our [inaugural] show to the Asamblea de Mujeres y Diversidades del Perú (Women and Diversity Assembly of Peru), and we're also planning to play more charity shows like this to keep helping out. On top of that, we're playing songs that call out and speak against machismo, harassment, pedophile priests, etc."
This message is precisely why Perra Vida—who say they're highly influenced by American hardcore bands like G.L.O.S.S. and Limp Wrist—is inspiring thousands of Peruvian girls in a way the calls to mind the Riot Grrrls of the 90s.
"We tried from the beginning to set ourselves apart from all other bands here in Lima, and the way we did that—besides being a half-female band—was to play songs that needed to be screamed out," says Diana. "The rock scene is dominated by men and the mainstream scene is dominated by pop punk bands, and their lyrics aren’t helpful to our cause at all."
This is why Perra Vida's debut EP was well-received in and outside of Peru. Songs like "Acoso (Harassment)" were a hit with female-identifying persons, with lyrics like "No mister, I don't trust you, you don't see me with respect / Harassment on the streets, harassment in our homes, harassment in our school, harassment at a show / I want to be free, that's my right." The band's message garnered US attention too: California-based label En Tu Kara Records is planning on releasing 300 copies of the album.
"This motivates us to keep screaming what we feel and what bothers us day after day, and to keep demonstrating that Peruvian punk exists—that it’s relevant and that we actually practice what we preach," José explains.
Perra Vida's eponymous debut EP in a screaming call for change that urges women to claim their rightful place in Peruvian society. In the future, the band is planning to release and LP and possibly a split. They're also looking to tour the US—if each member gets their visa—and throughout South America. The band members say they're eager to utilize the knowledge they've learned from other projects they've been involved with, like Alias la Gringa, The Underground Parties, Kusama and Venganza!
"Punk has no rules, but making your own rules is actually more punk," says José. "If they work, great—nothing else matters."
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