Morrissey as Latina/o Literary and Cultural Icon
Summary and Keywords
Morrissey is a singer and songwriter from Manchester, England. He rose to prominence as a popular-music icon as the lead singer for the Manchester band The Smiths (1982–1987). After the breakup of The Smiths, Morrissey launched his solo career in 1988. In his fourth decade as a popular singer, Morrissey continues to tour the world and sell out shows in venues throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, Asia and Australia, and across North and South America. Although Morrissey enjoys a fiercely loyal global fan base and inspires fans all over the world, his largest and most creatively expressive fans, arguably, are Latinas/os in the United States and Latin America. He is especially popular in Mexico and with Chicanas/os from Los Angeles, California, to San Antonio, Texas. How does a white singer and pop icon from England become an important cultural figure for Latinas/os? This entry provides an overview of Morrissey’s musical and cultural importance to fans in the United States–Mexico borderlands. It introduces Morrissey, examines the rise of Latina/o Morrissey and Smiths fandom starting in the 1980s and 1990s, and offers a survey of the fan-produced literature and other cultural production that pay tribute to the indie-music star. The body of fiction, films, plays, poetry, and fans’ cultural production at the center of this entry collectively represent of Morrissey’s significance as a dynamic and iconic cultural figure for Latinas/os.
Who Is Morrissey?
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on May 22, 1959, to Irish Catholic immigrant parents in Manchester, England. Known simply as Morrissey, the singer, songwriter, and popular-music icon burst onto the UK indie music scene as the flower-wielding frontman of the venerable 1980s band The Smiths. Formed in 1982 in Manchester, England, The Smiths were guitarist Johnny Marr, drummer Mike Joyce, bassist Andy Rourke, and singer Morrissey. Although the band lasted only five years, The Smiths released several highly influential albums, including the widely acclaimed The Queen is Dead (1986). The Smiths are best known worldwide for such hits as “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (1984), “How Soon Is Now?” (1985), “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” (1986), and “Girlfriend in a Coma” (1987).1
After The Smiths broke up in 1987, Morrissey released his first solo album, Viva Hate, in 1988. He grew in prominence as a solo artist in the 1990s, releasing acclaimed albums such as Your Arsenal (1992) and Vauxhall and I (1994). To date, Morrissey has released eleven solo albums, and several more live and compilation albums, and he continues to tour the world extensively, regularly selling out shows in arenas and venues in Europe, North America, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. In his three decades as a solo artist, Morrissey has amassed a fan following that spans the globe. Yet arguably, his largest fan base outside of his native England is in Los Angeles, California, and his most ardent fans are urban Latinas/os in the United States, Mexico, and South America. Fans often revere Morrissey alongside other Mexican and Chicana/o cultural icons such as Frida Kahlo, Juan Gabriel, Selena, Vicente “Chente” Fernández, and even La Virgen de Guadalupe. Morrissey also finds his way into poetry, literature, artwork, and scripts created by Latinas/os and Chicanas/os who grew up feeling neither here nor there along the US–Mexico borderlands in the 1980s and 1990s.
How does a Manchester-born son of Irish Catholic immigrants become one of the most beloved singers and pop culture figures among Latinas/os? This entry surveys the ascension of Morrissey as a contemporary Latina/o literary, musical, and cultural symbol, starting with the rise and growth of Morrissey’s enduring Latina/o fan base in the early 1990s and 2000s. The subsequent creative output by these fans, which amounts to an impressive body of art, film, literature, and music, documents Morrissey’s status as a cultural icon that Latina/o fans have appropriated and made their own.
“New Latino Hearts”: The Rise of Moz Angeles and Latina/o Morrissey Fandom
Large-scale Latina/o Morrissey fandom is a necessary precondition for the emergence of Morrissey as a Latina/o literary and cultural figure, symbol, and icon. To understand the cultural phenomenon of Latino/a Morrissey fandom is to acknowledge Morrissey as a singer aligned with outsiders, outcasts, and alienated people, as well as to recognize the collective position of Latinos/as and Chicanos/as throughout the US–Mexico borderlands historically and in more recent decades. Many Chicanas/os, Latinas/os, Mexicans, and Latin Americans were fans of The Smiths in the 1980s. Bands such as The Smiths and other UK “alternative” and “new wave” groups like Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure, and others influenced countless rock en español bands that formed throughout Mexico, Chile, and Argentina during the MTV era.2 Once Morrissey embarked on his solo career in 1988, he set the stage for the exponential growth of his fan base, especially among Los Angeles Latinas/os in the 1990s.
In his Autobiography (2011), Morrissey writes about his throngs of Latina/o fans who enthusiastically supported him on his 2002 tour. He writes,
- Why do you come here? I face my race. I wonder how they found me. All
- Mexican mellow, yet ready to put the chill on. Here in Fresno I find it—with
- wall-to-wall Chicanos and Chicanas as my syndicate. I walk onstage and the
- roar that greets me nearly kills me—would Italian godfathers find better respect?
- For once I have my family . . . There are no Caucasian faces . . . The new Morrissey
- audience is not white—not here, at least—and they are the frenzied flipside of the
- Smiths’ pale woolgatherers . . . My new Latino hearts are lost on the know-alls.3
From Fresno and Santa Barbara, California, to El Paso, Texas, Morrissey’s new fans are “Mexican[s],” “Chicanos and Chicanas,” and “Latino.” There are many ways to comprehend the affinity between Morrissey and his “new Latino hearts.” Two productive starting points for understanding Morrissey’s comments above and the special Latina/o fan connection to Morrissey are the singer’s move to Los Angeles, California, in 1997, and his subsequent 1999 tour, ¡Oye Estéban! (“Hey, Steven!,” a reference to the singer’s given name), which marked his first visit to Latin America.
The Rise of “Moz Angeles” and the ¡Oye Esteban! Tour, 1991–1999
Although Morrissey did not relocate to Los Angeles from London until 1997, 1991 marks the emergence of what has been called “Moz Angeles”—a moniker that takes Morrissey’s nickname, “Moz,” to describe the distinct, unique, and vibrant fan subculture that continues to grow in size and prominence throughout greater Los Angeles. A series of marquee events from June to November in 1991 hailed the arrival of “Mozmania” across Southern California.4 These include Morrissey’s US solo debut concerts in Costa Mesa (Orange County) and Inglewood (Los Angeles), his first US late-night television appearance on The Johnny Carson Show, the debut of his new rockabilly-inspired touring band on live radio at the Capitol Records Building for KROQ 106.7 FM, and the infamous UCLA concert at Pauley Pavilion that ended in a “melée.”5
Morrissey left Los Angeles before releasing his third solo album, Your Arsenal (1992), but after stints in Dublin and London, the singer returned to Los Angeles to live for seven years. Morrissey left London in 1997 after losing a high-court case that saw members of his former band, The Smiths, sue him for back-royalties. The outcome of the case, coupled with UK music critics’ dismissal of his 1997 effort, Maladjusted, left Morrissey sour with his home country and the scrutinizing gaze of the UK press. After nearly seven years without a record contract or having released new material, Morrissey recorded and released his comeback album, You Are the Quarry (2004), in Los Angeles. In these years, Morrissey continued to tour and sell out concerts across the US–Mexico border region and in Latin America, which suggests that his broad Latina/o fan bases in these regions played a key role in sustaining his career and keeping him relevant as a pop-music star during this perceived career lull.
Even after leaving Los Angeles for Rome in 2004, Morrissey repeatedly returned to Los Angeles, the city where he established himself as a successful solo artist and where his enthusiastic fan bases remain fervent in their devotion to the Mancunian singer. Morrissey’s decision to perform key milestone concerts in and around Los Angeles defined his solo career apart from The Smiths and away from the United Kingdom. These include historic shows at the Hollywood Bowl in 1992, 2007, and 2017; his twenty-fifth-anniversary concert at the Hollywood High School Auditorium in 2013; and a long-awaited interview with Larry King in 2015. Morrissey’s special relationship to Los Angeles and his fans there even prompted the Los Angeles City Council to declare November 10 (2017) “Morrissey Day” in Los Angeles. Citing Morrissey’s power to “touch and uplift countless people across the globe,” Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez honored Morrissey in a small backstage ceremony before the singer took the Hollywood Bowl stage for the first of two sold-out performances.6
Given Morrissey’s longstanding personal and professional relationship with “Moz Angeles,” it comes as no surprise that his fans there are among the most committed and creative outside of his native England. Fan events that define “Moz Angeles” include regular Morrissey- and Smiths-themed DJ dance and club nights, such as the Moz Disco and Sing Your Life Sundaze; frequent performances by one of several area Morrissey Smiths tribute bands; semi-annual art shows that feature Morrissey-themed fan-created art; and monthly Morrissey Smiths singalong events—the marquee event, MorrisseyOke™, is held on the first Thursday of every month at Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights, California. The annual Morrissey Smiths Convention held in Hollywood and hosted by famed KROQ radio DJ and personality Richard Blade brings together fans, vendors, and tribute bands from as far away as Dublin, Ireland, in a two-day Los Angeles celebration of all things Morrissey and The Smiths.
Morrissey’s popularity in Los Angeles, a majority-Latino city, would spill to other urban areas throughout the US–Mexico borderlands. Morrissey launched his 1999 ¡Oye, Esteban! tour in Tempe, Arizona. Naming the tour “Hey, Steven!” in Spanish is a significant nod to his then-emerging new Latina/o fan base—the “new Latino hearts” Morrissey describes in the passage from his autobiography. After Tempe, the ¡Oye, Esteban! tour moved on to Las Vegas, Nevada, and several cities in the United Kingdom and Europe before returning to California, where Morrissey played seven dates. On this tour, Morrissey would perform in South America for the first time, something he never did even as a Smith. In March 2000, Morrissey played sold-out shows in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.7 In September 2002, Morrissey performed as the supporting act for Mexican rock heroes Jaguares for three shows in Anaheim, Berkeley, and San Diego, California. By this time, it became clear to the British music establishment, the “know-alls,” in Morrissey’s words, that Morrissey’s “new” fan Latina/o fan base on both sides of the US–Mexico border were here to stay.
Morrissey would return to play dates in Latin America through the late 2000s and early 2010s. He returned to Mexico many times in 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2017, and played in South America in 2015. Morrissey has toured the world extensively and has many fans in countries throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Yet the question of his Latina/o and Mexican fans continues to be raised in the media: music writers, television producers, documentary filmmakers, and even academics wanted to know, “Why do Mexicans, Latinas/os, and Chicanas/os love Morrissey?”
Two Waves of Media Attention on Morrissey’s Latina/o Fans
Since his days with The Smiths, Morrissey has built a reputation for himself as a “champion of the ‘Other’” and a “raconteur of the marginalised,” solidified through his mostly leftist politics regarding social issues ranging from class and the environment to gender and sexual identities.8 Many fans throughout the world identify with Morrissey’s music and lyrics, which cast a sympathetic view of society’s outsiders, outcasts, outlaws, and other marginalized people. However, no other group of Morrissey fans has received more attention than Latinas/os for their so-called strange and seemingly unexpected affinity for the singer from Manchester.
The first wave of media coverage about the cultural phenomenon of Latina/o, Chicana/o, and Mexican Morrissey fandom was generated around the turn of the millennium—1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, years significantly marked by Morrissey’s first forays into and encounters with his US Latina/o and Latin American fans. One of the most cited pieces on the subject is Gustavo Arellano’s September 12, 2002, article for the OC Weekly, “Their Charming Man: Dispatches from the Latino Morrissey Love-in.” He writes,
By the time you read this, there will have been numerous television reports, radio interviews and newspaper stories revealing that many Morrissey fans are Latinos. They will tell you that history—musical, cultural, transnational—will take place this Friday at the Arrowhead Pond when Morrissey shares the stage with Mexican rock en español titans Jaguares in the biggest crossover attempt since Drake burned the Spanish Armada.
And they will tell you that you should be surprised. You shouldn’t. There’s something logical in this Latino Morrissey-worship. Morrissey knows it, his fans know it, and even academics know it.9
Arellano points to the “numerous reports” about this particular fan base and insinuates their tone: that Latinos loving Morrissey is somehow illogical or strange in not just their fandom, but in Morrissey’s “history-making” performance with the Mexican band Jaguares, a move that communicates Morrissey’s acceptance and embrace of his Latina/o fans.10
Arellano and others point to some of the larger historical and cultural contexts that shape connections among Chicanas/os, Latinas/os, and Mexicans. These include shared histories of immigration, Catholicism, displacement, and colonialism. As Trisha Ziff, coeditor of the important 1995 volume Distant Relations: Chicano Irish Mexican Art and Critical Writing, states, “Irish people in Britain and Chicanos/Latinos in the United States share a common experience of discrimination, politically, economically, culturally, and linguistically.”11 Morrissey and fan communities in the Chicano-Latino borderlands bear these traces.
In 2016, the second wave of media-produced Latino-fan–themed questions arrived, this time with more of an emphasis on the specifically “Mexicans and Morrissey” connection. The Mexican–Morrissey love-affair question has been shored up by the splash made by Mexrrissey in April 2015. The Mexico City–based “supergoup,” as the Los Angeles Times describes them, comprises musicians from several of Mexico’s top rock/pop bands, led by Camilo Lara of Mexican Institute of Sound.12 In general, Morrissey’s music, both solo and with The Smiths, resonates with Latinas/os as melodic, poetic, and culturally relevant music that reminds listeners of corridos, romantic ballads, and “oldies but goodies,” the 1950s and 1960s rock and soul music popular with generations of urban Chicanas/os and Latinas/os. For this reason, Mexrrissey have been successful translators of his music by reimagining some of Morrissey’s best-known songs into Mexican-sounding tunes, a fusion of mariachi, cumbia, samba, and other “Latin beats,” accompanied by English and Spanish lyrical mashups.
When Mexrrissey took the world by storm in 2015, the band received generous media coverage in France, Spain, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, following tour dates and promotional appearances.13 Along with Mexrissey came the usual set of questions about the Mexico–Morrissey connection. Nearly all of these write ups include that question or a variation of it: why is Morrissey so big in Mexico? In a landmark television interview with Morrissey in August 2015, the US news personality Larry King even inquired about the singer’s popularity among Mexicans. King asked Morrissey, “Why Mexico?” to which Morrissey replied, “I don’t know. It’s a beautiful thing.” Morrissey attributed his Mexican fans’ ardor to their “passion” and love of music. While it is fair to say that most Morrissey fans are indeed passionate and emotional about the singer and his music, not just the Mexican and Latina/o fans in the United States and throughout Latin America, King’s question to Morrissey about this particular fan base, and Morrissey’s response (“I don’t know”), captures the ineffable nature of what is often referred to as “the Mexican-Latina/o Morrissey fan connection” on both sides of the US–Mexico border.
Transcultural Fandom and Morrissey as “Border Artist”
While historical and cultural contexts such as immigration, displacement, Catholicism, and colonialism are important points of connection between Morrissey and his Latina/o fans, we can also view this phenomenon through the lens of “transcultural fandom.” Chin and Morimoto (2013) write,
Transcultural fans become fans because of affinities of affect between the fan, in his/her various contexts, and the border-crossing object . . . We eschew the term “transnational,” with its implicit privileging of a national orientation that supersedes other—arguably more salient—subject positions. Rather, we favor the term “transcultural,” which at once is flexible enough to allow for a transnational orientation, yet leaves open the possibility of other orientations that may inform, or even drive, cross-border fandom.14
Chin and Morimoto’s formulation of transcultural fandom sheds light on the particular ways in which Los Angeles and borderland Chicana/o and Latina/o fans of Morrissey express their “affective investment” in the Manchester-born singer, and what such fan investments reveal about transcultural subjectivities in borderland contexts. Furthermore, the “affective investment” of fandom is precisely what we see evidenced in the literature and cultural production that incorporate Morrissey as a significant Latina/o cultural icon.
Likewise, the transcultural fandom lens helps us to see how Morrissey gives that love back to his fans. Certainly, the question can be asked the other way around: Why does Morrissey love Mexicans and Latinos? Morrissey’s own declarations of affection and affinity for his “Latino hearts” do not arise simply out of fondness: Morrissey’s political and personal alignments with US Chicana/o, Latina/o, and Mexican communities befit a singer who has consistently championed the underdog and criticized social inequalities throughout his musical career. In this sense, we can understand how his audience of “Latino hearts” might recognize Morrissey as a “border artist,” a term theorized by Gloria Anzaldúa. She writes,
The Mexico/United States border is a site where many different cultures “touch” each other, and the permeable, flexible, and ambiguous shifting grounds lend themselves to hybrid images. The border is the locus of resistance, of rupture, implosion and explosion, and of putting together the fragments and creating a new assemblage. Border artists cambian el punto de referencia. By disrupting the neat separations between cultures, they create a culture mix, una mezcla in their artworks.15
From a transcultural fandom standpoint, viewing Morrissey as a “border artist” in Anzaldúa’s terms compels us to recognize the complex and innovative ways in which he and his many US Chicana/o and Latina/o fans “mix cultures” and “change the point of reference’ in a “permeable, flexible, ambiguous, fragmented” borderland existence. We hear Morrissey as “border music” when Gustavo Manzur, Morrissey’s Texas Latino keyboardist of Colombian and Ecuadorian parentage, sings in Spanish during live versions of “Speedway” or on the World Peace Is None of Your Business album. We hear border music when Morrissey himself sings a verse in Spanish in a song like “Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice”: “No te divertes con papi, no!” We hear “the border” in the music on Morrissey’s most recent album, World Peace Is None of Your Business (2014), which features several songs that incorporate “Latin” music stylings and Spanish lyrics thanks largely to the contributions of this three Latino bandmates: keyboardist and guitarist Gustavo Manzur from Austin, Texas; guitarist Jesse Tobias, also from Austin; and bassist Mando López from East Los Angeles, California.
Morrissey and his band once came back for an encore dressed in Chivas kits—the Chivas de Guadalajara, a popular Mexican fútbol team. Morrissey has even performed onstage with a Mexican flag draped on the monitors and sometimes draped around himself, as he has done recently in concerts around California, Texas, and New York. Morrissey’s open endorsement of Mexico in this way could be read as a statement of solidarity and an expression of affinity based on his own immigrant heritage. In the current political climate that sees Donald J. Trump, a racist and specifically anti-Mexican president occupying the White House, it means something affirming for a white United Kingdom–born global music icon like Morrissey to openly proclaim his love and support of Chicana/o, Latina/o, and Mexican fan communities in these particular ways.
Furthermore, Morrissey’s more recent recordings have engaged with themes specifically related to Latina/o concerns. In the current era, these include immigration, institutionalized racism, border “security,” educational inequality, and ruling class ideologies that perpetuate economic injustice. Morrissey has directly addressed gang violence and police brutality in both Chicana/o-Latina/o and black urban communities in songs such as “First of the Gang to Die” (2004) and “Ganglord” (2006). In his song “Mexico” (2004), Morrissey sings about the detrimental impacts of sweeping neoliberal trade legislation such as NAFTA on poor, brown communities throughout the Texas–Mexican border region: he sings, “I can taste the hate in the Lone Star State.” And Morrissey’s anthem “Irish Blood, English Heart” (2004) resonates with US-born fans of Mexican descent—some of whom have appropriated the song’s title and made T-shirts with the phrase “Mexican Blood, American Heart”—as a song about embracing and struggling with a split national and cultural identity. For these reasons, Morrissey’s Latina/o fans embrace him as their own and elevate him to cultural-icon status. The literature and films discussed in this next section grow out of this fierce fandom, the basis for the emergence of fan-created poetry, theater, fiction, and film. The body of work also attests to the significance of Morrissey in many Latina/o communities, as well as the prevalence of Latina/o Morrissey fandom that merits due recognition in much Latina/o “border art” that is created with Morrissey in mind.16
Morrissey in Latina/o Literature
In the 2010s, roughly a decade after the full emergence of Morrissey’s Latina/o fan bases in Los Angeles and throughout Latin America, several high-profile works of fiction, poetry, and film that center or invoke Morrissey as a Chicana/o and Latina/o icon appeared. They include a song by acclaimed Los Angeles band Ozomatli, “Gay Vatos in Love” (2010); a debut novel by Mexican American writer Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010); a stage performance by Chicana performance troupe Las Ramonas, Las Ramonas Gone Wild (2011); a screenplay and film by Culture Clash member Richard Montoya, Water and Power (2013); poetry by queer East Los Angeles poet Verónica Reyes, “Torcidaness: Tortillas and Me” (2013) and southeast Los Angeles poet Vickie Vértiz, “A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey” (2013); a short play and now screenplay by Michael Patrick Spillers, Whittier Boulevard (2013); a theatre festival of Morrissey-inspired plays produced in Boyle Heights, California, Teatro Moz (2014 and 2016); and a film by San Antonio native Adelina Anthony, Bruising for Besos (2016).
Each of these works was produced by Los Angeles–based Latinas/os, a testament to the status of “Moz Angeles” as a center of Morrissey Latina/o fandom in the collective imaginary of these writers. This list is not inclusive and will likely expand as new generations of Latina/o fans and writers/art makers in Los Angeles and beyond produce their own representations of Morrissey as their cultural icon. However, the works mentioned above collectively demonstrate the various ways in which Morrissey figures into the lives of Chicanas/os and Latinas/os who grew up in Los Angeles and other cities and towns throughout California and the US–Mexico borderlands. Many of the writers and creators of these texts identify as Morrissey and Smiths fans. Those who are not necessarily fans are at least privy to the undeniable ubiquity of Morrissey and The Smiths in the Mexican-Latina/o urban experience in the United States, and more specifically Los Angeles. All the works mentioned above are worthy of their own focused discussion and analysis. The following novel, poem, play, and film represent a cross-section of these texts. Together, they provide important insights into ways in which Morrissey and his fans figure into the Los Angeles Latina/o literary and cultural landscape across genres.
“You Belong”: Morrissey and Place in Brando Skyhorse’s The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010) and Vickie Vértiz’s “A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey” (2013)
Brando Skyhorse’s acclaimed debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010), is set in contemporary Echo Park, a community of northeast Los Angeles.17 It follows the lives of several of its Mexican residents, including the Esperanza family: Hector, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and former waiter turned day laborer; Felicia, a Mexican immigrant and house cleaner; and their daughter, Aurora. Skyhorse invokes Morrissey in one of the novel’s opening epigraphs, a quote by the English singer who has famously said, “I wish I was born Mexican, but it’s too late for that now.”18 Morrissey does not appear until chapter 8 of Madonnas, the novel’s final chapter narrated from the point of view of Aurora Esperanza. Aurora appears as a child in other chapters narrated by her Mexican immigrant parents, Hector and Felicia. By the time we meet Aurora again in chapter 8, she is a grown thirty-something woman who returns to her old neighborhood, Echo Park, but finds herself lost in its rapidly changing landscape. Only after a chance encounter with her teenage idol, Morrissey, does Aurora feel at home again in her childhood hometown of Echo Park.
Themes of belonging, displacement, feeling at home or not, claiming one’s place in the world, and other related sentiments run through much of Morrissey’s solo and Smiths song catalogue. Songs such as The Smiths’ “Back to the Old House” (1984) and “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours” (1987) and Morrissey’s “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” (1989) and “On the Streets I Ran” (2006) exemplify Morrissey’s occupation with finding one’s place in the world when one feels out of place, and the fraught feelings one often feels when one returns to a home that no longer looks or feels like it once did. For Skyhorse’s narrator Aurora Salazar, the hometown she knew as a child is unrecognizable to her as an adult: the “influx of young white Westsiders . . . trickled in looking for cheap property,” their “coffee shops [and] ‘funky’ boutiques [and] cafés with outdoor seating and Internet access, and bars that were written up in lifestyle magazines and served imported beer” replaced the small mom-and-pop bodegas that Aurora knew from the Echo Park of her youth.19 This new Echo Park, marked by the forces of gentrification, alienates Aurora.
Fears of displacement and enforced removal marked Aurora’s young life: her father, an undocumented immigrant, lives on the edge of deportation; the same father abandoned Aurora and her mother when Aurora was young. Even Aurora’s namesake, the last woman evicted from Chávez Ravine, had to be forcibly removed from her home by four uniformed sheriff’s deputies.20 For fans of Morrissey reading Skyhorse’s novel and perhaps relating to Aurora, it comes as no surprise to learn that Aurora looked to Morrissey as an inspiring and stabilizing figure in her young, tumultuous life. Adult Aurora reveals her “vicious, life-consuming Morrissey phase in high school” while she begins to clean her mother’s house, which has not changed since Aurora was a girl.21 She notices the family photographs, still there, where her mother cut out her father Hector’s face. She says, “In Hector’s place are portraits and magazine clippings of Morrissey, an English rock star from the eighties . . . I pasted in Morrissey’s picture because he was the kind of man who would never leave my mother, or abandon a child.”22 This admission reveals the depth of Aurora’s attachment to Morrissey, one that exceeds casual fandom. Aurora looks for a replacement father figure in Morrissey, whose “syllables almost sound Spanish” and whose utter being warrants worship: “If second-generation Mexicans could canonize a living saint in Los Angeles, it’d be Morrissey,” says Aurora matter-of-factly.23
Although her Morrissey fandom begins in high school, Aurora never really lets go of her hero, who continues to provide security and assurance for her in her dizzyingly unfamiliar surroundings. She says, “I couldn’t explain to you why Morrissey meant so much to me, or still means so much to me that one of my life’s ambitions remains seeming him in person. Not at a concert but in an actual Los Angeles place . . . he does live in L.A.”24 Her wish comes true by the end of the novel, as she spots the elusive crooner from a distance in a crowded Echo Park during the Lotus Festival. After a lifetime of doubting her place with her family and in her hometown, and after a full day of chaotic mishaps that arise when Aurora searches for her mother’s lost dog, including a violent encounter with a group of young boys who taunt her and tell her she does not belong there, Aurora spots him. She knows his look: the “fifties-style pompadour,” “silky Egyptian blue shirt,” and cuffed jeans “atop a pair of expensive-looking boots” are unmistakably Morrissey’s.25 He waves to Aurora and “mouths the words, ‘You belong,’” providing her “with an overwhelming sense of peace.”26
In this way, Aurora’s Moz encounter at the end of the chapter is her prize, her reward for having faith and hope (her surname Esperanza means “hope”) that she belongs in this place. Morrissey has the same effect for Aurora as he did when she was a teenager in high school: stabilizing, grounding, calming, and reassuring. The novel ends on this note for Aurora, who claims her place again in Echo Park. The novel’s last line is notable here: “This is the land we dream of, the land that belongs to us again.”27 Like The Smiths song, Aurora rushes, pushes, and finally finds the land that is hers.
Chicana/o and Latina/o youth like Aurora Esperanza, Morrissey-loving children of immigrants living in Los Angeles and looking to find solace in their hero’s music, are the subject of Vickie Vértiz’s epistolary poem, “A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey” (2013).28 Like Skyhorse’s novel, Vértiz’s poem attests to the power of Morrissey fandom in young Latinas’/os’ lives, particularly when one feels alienated, outcast, and alone where one supposedly is at home.
The epistolary form of the poem establishes the intimate and secretive, yet revelatory and confessional, nature of a love letter or fan letter to Morrissey. The letter contains references to boys harboring hard-ons for others boys and girls suffering embarrassing menstrual mishaps; here, boys’ queer desires and young women’s biological functions cause despondency in forlorn teens trudging through their lives “south of the 60 freeway” in suburban Los Angeles.
Yet rather than wallow in their despondency, the youthful Morrissey fans in Vértiz’s poem—it becomes clear that she includes herself as one of them—find strength in Morrissey’s music, style, and one another. They proclaim their difference—“we were strange”—and embrace their penchant for books and yearning to feel smart through listening to his songs. By associating themselves with Morrissey, they satisfied their “crav[ing]” and got their “permission to be despondent in English.” Here, Vértiz illuminates the reality of many first-, second-, and third-generation Latinas/os: English is their first language, not Spanish, yet they struggle to be viewed as capable students in a school system that has historically viewed Latinas/os as unworthy and unintelligent. Rather than succumb to their teachers’ low expectations, however, the young Morrissey fans in the poem proudly demonstrate their smarts. They know words like “maudlin” and “rank” and understand allusions to Manchester and the queen. The sentiment of “feeling smarter” because one listened to Morrissey and The Smiths exists as a common theme shared among fans, particularly the Latina/o fans who attended both public and parochial schools in the east and southeast Los Angeles area.
In the final analysis, Vértiz’s poem paints a portrait of school-age Morrissey fandom by detailing the textured life experiences of young outsiders as seen through the prism of Morrissey’s music and the social codes of fandom. Through rich cross-cultural and transnational references that illuminate the specifically Mexican American and Latina/o affinities with Morrissey—such as comparing him to Elvis Presley and Juan Gabriel—Vértiz describes the very meaning of what it means (and what it looks like) to be a Morrissey fan for those whose lives depend on his music and lyrics for survival in a world that does not understand them. “A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey” represents a tribute poem by a fan for other fans who know how to decode the meanings of Morrissey.
Cultural Representations of Morrissey as Queer Latina/o Icon
Queer Latina/o fans of Morrissey find special connections to the singer, known for his own alignment with society’s outcasts and marginalized people. From his sexually ambiguous lyrics to his early gender-bending style sense, Morrissey embodies a figure of alternative masculinity embraced by many queer and LGBT fans. The following works attest to the role of Morrissey as a transgressive, oppositional, and important queer Latina/o icon.
Ozomatli, “Gay Vatos in Love” (2010)
Acclaimed Los Angeles band Ozomatli wrote “Gay Vatos in Love” during the California Proposition 8 debates in 2008.29 Touted as a song about the “celebration of equality” and an endorsement of “gay equal rights” in the form of marriage, “Gay Vatos in Love” mentions Morrissey in the song’s first verse.30 “The more I hear Morrissey, the more I feel alright” is a lyric that suggests the ameliorative affects that Morrissey’s music has on its listeners. When placed within the highly charged homophobic context of the Proposition 8 debates, the lyric takes on an added dimension—Morrissey as savior, Morrissey as life saver. Furthermore, by including Morrissey in a list of other important transcultural queer Latina/o figures such as the Mexican singer and icon Juan Gabriel; Angie Zapata, the murdered Colorado transgendered teen; and Tammy Wynette, famous for her song “Stand By Your Man” (1968), Ozomatli’s song confirms Morrissey’s revered status as an important singer and cultural symbol of queer Latinidad. By invoking Morrissey with the others, “Gay Vatos in Love” ultimately makes significant cultural interventions by challenging and protesting the dominant ideologies of racism and homophobia.
Michael Patrick Spillers, Whittier Boulevard (2013)
Spillers’s short play (now a screenplay/short film) Whittier Boulevard premiered at the Company of Angels Theater in downtown Los Angeles in May 2013.31 In September 2016, Whittier Boulevard enjoyed a four-week run as part of the roster of plays for Teatro Moz, the world’s first Morrissey-inspired theater festival, produced at CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights, California. Billed as a play about “fathers, sons, Thee Midniters, and East Los trans-butch Morrissey realness,” Whittier Boulevard features Morrissey as a prominent figure of inspiration and salvation for Vic, the young queer “East Los trans-butch” (transitioning FtM teen) who needs his father’s permission to begin testosterone treatments.32 For Vic, Morrissey serves as the means by which he mounts his own protest of conventional gender expectations, as well as a means to express his queer romantic desires.
In the original 2013 production of Whittier Boulevard, audiences saw a poster of a 1990s-era blazer-wearing Morrissey adorning the wall of Vic’s bedroom. Much to his father’s chagrin, Vic dresses like Morrissey in a slick suit with hair combed into a pompadour. Morrissey’s classic solo hits “Every Day is Like Sunday” (1988) and “First of the Gang to Die” (2004) become pick-up lines for Vic, who woos a beautiful girl by singing Morrissey songs at an open-mic night at a local club. Although Vic never manages to get his father to sign the permission form for his testosterone treatment, he nevertheless convinces his father of the importance of Morrissey’s style and music to his emerging sense of masculinity. Furthermore, Morrissey’s music, which sounds like the “old-school” brown-eyed soul that the father favors, serves as a point of reconciliation between Vic and his father. In the end, the play shows us how Morrissey gives Vic the courage to be true to himself and embody his transmasculinity, even when faced by outside challenges and resistance.
Adelina Anthony, Bruising for Besos (2016)
As in Whittier Boulevard, Morrissey’s music and style also play a role in the genderqueer personal expressions of Yoli, the protagonist in Adelina Anthony’s feature-length film, Bruising for Besos (2016).33 Yoli is an aspiring artist, a puppet maker who toils in a telemarketing day job to make ends meet. She is also a Morrissey fan, using his music as inspiration for her art and his style to cultivate her personal look of slicked-back pompadour-like hair and Los Angeles-meets-Texas affect. The film’s opening sequence shows Yoli making puppets while listening to a “Morrissey tribute” hour on the radio. For her birthday, Yoli receives tickets to see Morrissey in concert.
The lush contours of Morrissey and Smiths songs, along with selected R&B–, cumbia-, and Xicana-Indígena–styled music, contribute to the soundtrack of the film about domestic violence and LGBT/queer romantic relationships. Films like Bruising for Besos and Whittier Boulevard (2015) offer insights into the queer Latina/o characters’ creation of intersectional spaces of identity, belonging, and home through Irish English and Mexican American sonic connections routed through Morrissey.34
Discussion of the Literature
In general, the existing literature about Morrissey falls loosely within three categories: Morrissey during his time with The Smiths, Morrissey as an enigmatic solo artist, and fan-penned books for and about other fans of The Smiths and Morrissey. The majority of these are popular-press books, including music journalism and collected interviews. Many of the books about The Smiths are concerned with the breakup of the band during what is often considered to be their peak moment, and specifically, they focus on Morrissey’s relationship to his songwriting partner and Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr. Johnny Rogan’s Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance (1992), published just five years after the demise of The Smiths, is the first biography written about the band. Rogan focused on the fraught relationship between the songwriting duo of Morrissey and Marr—often compared to John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles—that catapulted The Smiths into international stardom. Other books provide in-depth analyses of the songs of The Smiths and Morrissey, such as Simon Goddard’s two books The Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art of The Smiths (1982–87) (2006) and Mozipedia: An Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and The Smiths (2009). Goddard’s books provide production histories, background contexts, and fun facts about the writing and performing of every song in The Smiths and Morrissey catalogue. Tony Fletcher’s contribution to the canon of books about The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths (2012), is considered to be the definitive history of the band from Manchester. These and other tomes about The Smiths shed light on Morrissey’s musical beginnings as a working-class lad from the north of England, born to Irish Catholic parents, whose eccentric tastes in music, literature, film, and art formed the core of his lyrical contributions to the songs of The Smiths.
Once Morrissey went solo, other writers attempted to capture the essence of the highly outspoken, sexually ambiguous, fanatically vegetarian, yet seemingly elusive singer. While much of Morrissey’s early biographical details were already well known among Smiths fans and readers of the band’s myriad biographies, other details about the singer’s later life—particularly his sexuality and romantic life—were generally undisclosed. He became an object of intense analysis for writers like Gavin Hopps, whose book Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart (2009) sought to redeem the singer by casting him as “a significant artist, working in a medium that still tends to be thought of as trivial,” and comparing him to such literary luminaries as “Beckett, Wilde, and Christina Rosetti.”35 Others, such as Len Brown and Paul A. Woods, let Morrissey speak for himself by releasing collected interviews with the singer. Woods’s Morrissey in Conversation: The Essential Interviews (2007) culls together over twenty interviews spanning the artist’s Smiths years to his early solo career, while Brown’s Meetings with Morrissey (2010), produced with Morrissey’s permission, is meant to be the “reluctant biograph[y]” of the singer and a sort of corrective to Rogan’s earlier book on Morrissey and Marr.36
Fans of Morrissey, needing no convincing of his greatness, have written their own odes to the Salford lad. They range from book-length hagiographies like Mark Simpson’s Saint Morrissey: A Portrait of This Charming Man by an Alarming Fan (2005), to collected stories of first-time meetings with the man from Manchester, such as Dickie Felton’s The Day I Met Morrissey (2009). Other notable contributions to the Morrissey fan-literature archive include Julie Hamill’s 15 Minutes with You: Interviews with Smiths/Morrissey Collaborators and Famous Fans (2015), Jamie Jones’s I Blame Morrissey (2015), and Áine Ni Cheallaigh’s I Will See You in Far Off Places (2016). These and others provide a fan’s-eye view of Morrissey and his music; collectively, they attest to the singer’s everlasting inspiration for the fans who love him and support him unconditionally.
An emerging body of scholarly and academic work looks at the significant musical, cultural, and social contributions of The Smiths and Morrissey. The academic-conference circuit provides fertile testing grounds for papers about The Smiths and Morrissey from scholars across the disciplines, including ethnomusicology, sociology, literature, and cultural studies. A 2009 symposium about Morrissey at the University of Limerick in Ireland produced the first known academic collection of essays about the singer in 2011. Edited by Eoin Devereux, Aileen Dillane, and Martin Power, Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities features scholarly essays that explore topics ranging from Morrissey’s self-representation of his own James Dean fandom in the video for his best-known solo hit, “Suedehead” (1988), to the singer’s Catholic imagery and themes of martyrdom in songs like “Speedway” (1994).
As mentioned in the previous section on the rise of Latina/o Morrissey fandom, most of the media attention on Latina/o fans of Morrissey and The Smiths since at least the early 2000s has been paid by journalists, documentarians, and other mainstream media writers. Many of these writers appear curious, confused, or even bothered by the Latina/o, Mexican, and/or Chicana/o “obsession” with Morrissey. Emerging scholarly work on Morrissey as a Latina/o icon can be read as rebuttals or correctives to these mainstream representations of pathological Latina/o fandom. One of the first academic publications to deal specifically with Latino Morrissey fans in a more favorable light was published by José G. Anguiano. His essay, “‘No, It’s Not Like Any Other Love’: Latino Morrissey Fans, Masculinity, and Class” (2014), places Morrissey in a continuum of 1950s working-class masculinity embodied by icons such as James Dean and Elvis Presley. Anguiano argues that like his predecessors, Morrissey represents a figure of alternative masculinity for his largely working-class Latino fan bases in Southern California. A coauthored essay by Eoin Devereux and this contributor, “‘You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side: Morrissey’s Latino/a and Chicano/a Fans” (2015), examines the expansive Morrissey fan communities of Los Angeles, or “Moz Angeles,” as a rich case study of transcultural fandom. And a monograph by this contributor, Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands (2016), is the first full-length study of the cultural production of Morrissey fans and the complexities of such fandom in Los Angeles, California, and throughout the US–Mexico borderlands.
Links to Selected Digital Material: Moz-Inspired Arte and Music
At boutiques, vendor booths at Día de los Muertos festivals, and other community events throughout Los Angeles and beyond, it is common to find Morrissey’s timeless visage among other revered Latina/o cultural icons like Frida Kahlo, Selena, Vicente “Chente” Fernández, Ché Guevara, Elvis Presley, James Dean, and La Virgen de Guadalupe on fan-created jewelry, T-shirts, apparel, home décor, posters, and Mexican-style religious candles (velas). In addition to the literary and cinematic nods to Morrissey’s popularity among Latinas/os, as discussed above, a sizable body of visual art and musical tributes also pay homage to the singer from Manchester. Below are some notable examples of such artistic and musical contributions to the world of Latina/o Morrissey culture.
Graphic and Visual Art
San Francisco artist Rio Yañez has created a graphic art series entitled “Tio Moz.” The notable series began in 2007 with Yañez’s representation of Morrissey depicted as La Virgen de Guadalupe. Over the years, Yañez has added to his series by creating pop-art representations of Morrissey in various iconographic images. Yañez also includes Morrissey in his yearly offering of digital Valentine’s Day cards.
Seattle-based artist Jake Prendez includes images of Morrissey among other Chicana/o and Latina/o cultural icons such as Frida Kahlo and Selena in his work. Notable images include “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” (2015) and “San Morrissey” (2016).
San Francisco-born, Los Angeles–based visual artist Shizu Saldamando’s contribution to the Latina/o Morrissey art archive includes a perennial favorite among fans, her 2005 ballpoint-pen-on-handkerchief piece, Morrissey. This art piece has been featured on event fliers for Morrissey fan poetry nights, in art exhibitions, and at fan art shows. Most recently, Saldamando’s Morrissey art was part of the “Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943–2016” exhibit at Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, California.
Cultura y Mas
South El Monte, California, company Cultura y Mas specializes in social-justice and culturally affirming art and clothing. Created by Vulfrano Gutiérrez and Delia Chávez, Cultura Y Mas’s offerings include Morrissey as a mariachi among an array of designs depicting Mexican lucha libre wrestlers, Día de los Muertos calaveras, Aztec gods and goddesses, and other Chicana/o and Latina/o inspired images.
Founded in 2011, the Texas-based clothing brand Cristo Cat produces T-shirts with images of stylized Latina/o icons, drawing inspiration from Selena, the film La Bamba (1987), and other popular culture figures. Cristo Cat represents Morrissey in several of their designs, incorporating song lyrics from Morrissey’s 2004 hit, “First of the Gang to Die” and his anthemic song from The Smiths, “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out” (1986).
Mexico City supergroup Mexrrissey: Mexico Goes Morrissey, reimagines the hits of Morrissey and The Smiths in the style of Mexican and Latin American music. Their album No Manchester: Mexrissey (2016) garnered worldwide attention and renewed the music world’s interest in the much asked question “Why do Mexicans love Morrissey?” The band has toured the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and the United States, and has earned accolades from Morrissey, who featured the band on his personal website, true-to-you.net.
El Mariachi Manchester
El Mariachi Manchester was founded in 2014 in East Los Angeles, California. The ensemble performs the songs of Morrissey and The Smiths in the venerated Mexican musical style of mariachi. The members hail from all over the US–Mexico borderlands, and they formed the group based on their collective fandom of Morrissey as well as their awareness of the singer’s popularity among Latinas/os, Chicanas/os, and Mexicans on both sides of the border. They are the first all-mariachi tribute to Morrissey and The Smiths.
Ozomatli, “Gay Vatos in Love” (2010)
Promotional video for “Gay Vatos in Love”.
Anguiano, José G. “‘No, It’s Not Like Any Other Love’: Latino Morrissey Fans, Masculinity, and Class.” Masculinities: A Journal of Identity and Culture 2 (2014): 80–107.Find this resource:
Arellano, Gustavo. “Their Charming Man: Dispatches from the Latino Morrissey Love-in.” OC Weekly September 12, 2002.Find this resource:
Campbell, Sean, and Colin Coulter, eds. Why Pamper Life’s Complexities? Essays on The Smiths. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2010.Find this resource:
Devereux, Eoin, Aileen Dillane, and Martin Power, eds. Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities. Chicago: Intellect/University of Chicago Press, 2011.Find this resource:
Devereux, Eoin, and Melissa Hidalgo. “‘You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side’: Morrissey’s Latino/a and Chicano/a Fans.” Participations 12, no. 2 (2015): 197–217.Find this resource:
Goddard, Simon. Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. New York: Plume Books, 2009.Find this resource:
Fernández, Fruela. The Smiths: Música, Política y Deseo. Madrid: Errata Naturae, 2014.Find this resource:
Hidalgo, Melissa Mora. Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands. London: Headpress, 2016.Find this resource:
Morrissey. Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics, 2013.Find this resource:
Power, Martin J., Aileen Dillane, and Eoin Devereux. “A Push and a Shove and the Land Is Ours: Morrissey’s Counter-hegemonic Stance(s) on Social Class.” Critical Discourse Studies 9, no. 4 (2012): 375–392.Find this resource:
(1.) Venezuelan-Spanish rock singer Mikel Erenxtún released a Spanish-language cover version of The Smiths’ anthem “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out,” called “Esta Luz Nunca Se Apagará,” in 1992, attesting to the popularity of the song and its singer in Latin America.
(2.) Rock en español pioneers include Chile’s La Ley, Argentina’s Soda Stereo, and Mexico’s Café Tacuba and Caifanes. The lead singer of Caifanes, Saul Hernández, would go on to form Jaguares, which Morrissey supported on three dates in 2002. See “Rock en español” entry in Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, vol. 2, eds. Cordelia Candelaria et al. (London: Greenwood Press, 2004), 690.
(3.) Morrissey, Autobiography (London: Penguin Classics, 2011), 409–411.
(4.) Liz Ohanesian, “LA Flashback: June 1991, When Mozmania Swept the Southland,” LA Weekly, June 8, 2009.
(5.) For more on “Moz Angeles,” see Eoin Devereux and Melissa Hidalgo, “‘You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side’: Morrissey’s Latino/a and Chicano/a Fans,” Participations: A Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 12, no. 2 (November 2015), 197–217.
(6.) See Los Angeles Times, “L.A. declares Friday ‘Morrissey Day’ timed to singer’s Hollywood Bowl shows,” November 9, 2017.
(8.) Martin J. Power, Aileen Dillane, and Eoin Devereux, “A Push and a Shove and the Land Is Ours: Morrissey’s Counterhegemonic Stance(s) on Social Class,” Critical Discourse Studies 9, no. 4 (2012): 375–392. Morrissey’s politics, based on his song lyrics and statements he has made in interviews to the press, historically fall to the left or left-of-center. However, a few comments made by the singer over the course of his solo career have been characterized by the UK press (and some fans) as racist (against Asians), anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-nationalist. A December 2017 interview with German magazine Der Spiegel made international headlines when Morrissey reportedly made statements in defense of actor Kevin Spacey and movie producer Harvey Weinstein following their sexual-harassment and -assault accusations, among other controversial declarations about multiculturalism and the UKIP party. See BBC News, “Morrissey: Der Spiegel Releases Audio of Controversial Interview.”
(9.) Arellano also discusses Morrissey and Latinos in his book, ¡Ask a Mexican! (New York: Scribner, 2008).
(10.) The documentary Is It Really So Strange? An Intimate Look at the Cult of Morrissey, by William E. Jones (2004), and the essay “Viva Morrissey! 1,400 Mexican Moz Fans Can’t Be (Totally) Wrong,” by Chuck Klosterman, provide some sense of the kind of coverage that treats Latina/o Morrissey fans as strange objects, obsessive cultists, devoted depressives, and other unflattering types. Others, such as the documentary Passions Just Like Mine (2008) by Kerry Koch, attempt to let fans speak for themselves, but the film nevertheless implies that such fandom is surprising.
(11.) Trish Ziff, “Identity/Hybridity: Ideas Behind This Project,” in Distant Relations: Chicano, Irish, and Mexican Art and Critical Writing (New York: Smart Art Press, 1995), 24.
(13.) Newspapers such as The Guardian, Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, and Sydney Morning Herald; radio stations including the BBC and WNYC; television networks like ABC and CBS; magazines such as Rolling Stone; and many other media outlets, including social-media-content sites, all ran stories about “Mexicans and Morrissey” while covering Mexrrissey on tour in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States from 2015 to 2017.
(14.) Bertha Chin and Lori Hitchcock Morimoto, “Towards a Theory of Transcultural Fandom,” Participations: A Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 10, no. 1 (May 2013): 92–108.
(15.) Gloria Anzaldúa, “Border Arte: Nepantla, el Lugar de la Frontera,” The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader, ed. AnaLouise Keating (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009): 176–186.
(16.) Anzaldúa, “Border Arte.”
(17.) The novel won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway award and 2011 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.
(18.) Morrissey said this to crowds at his live shows in places such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Irvine, California, during his 1999/2000 ¡Oye, Estaban! tour.
(19.) Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 152.
(20.) Skyhorse refers to the razing of Chávez Ravine, the Mexican neighborhood north of downtown Los Angeles, to build Dodger Stadium in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
(21.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 154–155.
(22.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 154.
(23.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 156, 154.
(24.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 155.
(25.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 193.
(26.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 193.
(27.) Skyhorse, Madonnas, 199.
(29.) Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative that sought to ban same-sex marriage. A federal judge overturned Proposition 8 in 2010 on the grounds of its unconstitutionality.
(30.) The members of Ozomatli discuss their song in these terms in the official promotional video for “Gay Vatos in Love.” See link to the video above.
(31.) The play was also part of Brown & Out, a short play festival dedicated to the Latino/a LGBT experience, produced in Los Angeles in 2013 and New York City in 2014. The play also made its debut in Dublin, Ireland, as part of the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.
(32.) In earlier versions of the play, the lead character was named Vic. Spillers has since changed the name of his transgendered protagonist to André for the short film and Teatro Moz revisions of the script.
(33.) Bruising for Besos began as a solo play initially developed by Adelina Anthony in Cherríe Moraga’s playwriting classes in 2003. The play world premiered in 2009 at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and was developed into a feature-length film five years later.
(34.) The short film version of Whittier Boulevard (2015), written and directed by Michael Patrick Spillers, is based on the short play of the same name. The film picks up where the play leaves off, after Vic (now André) runs away from home after another argument with his father.
(35.) Gavin Hopps, Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart (New York: Continuum Books, 2009), xi.
(36.) Len Brown, Meetings with Morrissey (London: Omnibus Press, 2009).