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With so many suburban kids today adopting the mall bought uniform of punk rock, listening to bubble gum MTV punk, thriving on Jay Bakker’s punk ministry (soon to be televised as “One Punk Under God” on the Sundance Channelor wishing they could relive the crazy scene depicted in Paul Rachmann’s new documentary, “American Hardcore,” I thought I would pay homage to an old friend, Luis Güereña,
of Tijuana No! – TJ’s seminal punk-ska kings who passed away in 2004.
A Tijuana legend, who brought bands like the Dead Kennedys (which my brother Nick, now a music critic at Rhapsody, attended when we was 14) and the X among others across the border to play, Luis was the world’s truest punk rocker. Someone who lived and breathed to fight the establishment in whatever form and who truly understood the corruption of all political systems (who would never have dreamed of blaming poverty in Tijuana on globalization without first pointing a finger at the endemic corruption of the Mexican political system). For Luis, the anger punk was a vehicle to express his outrage at the introverted world of the U.S.-Mexico border in which everything is never as it seems, the world is upside down, and the autoridades always do the wrong thing.
Back in the early 80s (when there was absolutely nothing to do in San Diego if you were under 21), my Imperial Beach buddies and I spent a lot of evening roaming the streets of Tijuana. We often ended up at Luis’s tiny apartment off of Revolucion in the company of Luis and his friend Omar along with an assortment of Tijuana characters. Luis’s eclectic scene that he spent so much time nurturing later morphed into the groundbreaking world of Nortec Collective, Bulbo, and Tijuana No! among others.
Luis is gone now, but since I continue to work in Tijuana and am lecturing tomorrow afternoon at CSU-San Marcos on the U.S.-Mexico border, I think about Luis a lot. Giving him political stickers from Spain at his mom’s house back in 82. Attending parties with freaked out American poseur punks at his apartment. Talking to the rich girl from Pasadena he shacked up with – a Tijuana version of “Valley Girl” with Luis doing a good impersonation of Nicholas Cage.
The last time I saw Luis was at a Buzzcocks show at Iguana’s in TJ in the early 90s. He had long multi-colored hair with his trademark leather jacket and was handing out flyers for an upcoming show. Still living the punk rock dream. It was good to see him and later see that he did so well with Tijuana No! which launched the career of Tijuana’s Julieta Venegas, an emerging goddess pop star.
I have this image seared in my brain of leaving the callejon that fronted Luis’s apartment in the early hours of the morning sometime in 82/83 and Luis was standing there, El Rey de Tijuana, in his black leather jacket, pointing around him to the crazy streets of TJ, shouting in his heavily accented English, “You want anarchy. This is anarchy.” RIP Luis.