In honor of the Endless Night Vampire Ball in Los Angeles, 32-year-old Mexican-American Jennifer Vasquez is dolled up in a laced-up black corset, a black lace skirt, fishnet stockings and black boots. The blogger behind Vamp Jenn’s Corner writes that she “felt like Cinderella in a gothic fairy tale.” Vasquez fully embraced goth culture as a teenager and it remains a strong part of her identity, one that she’s dedicated to uplifting through her blog. As both goth and Latina she doesn’t necessarily embody the stereotypical image of what is perceived as goth but she’s also not alone.
“There are Latino goths out there, but I think there’s still a misconception that you must be Caucasian to be goth because very pale skin is associated with it. I don’t have fair skin and I tan easily but that doesn’t make me less goth,” Vasquez tells HipLatina.
The goth subculture is more easily recognized than understood, often connected to the dark and macabre rather than a lifestyle choice guided by personal beliefs. Latino culture is often depicted as the polar opposite, colorful and more chola than goth. These generalizations may be popular but not at all representative of the reality of either the goth lifestyle or Latin culture and even less is known about the Latinx goth community.
Vasquez describes her blog as a place where, “the strange and unusual are welcome.” From burlesque shows to goth art exhibits, her blog provides the perspective of someone that’s embraced the multifaceted goth identity.
“Goth music is actually at the core of the subculture and is how it emerged back in the 80s, not fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I love my goth gear and black wardrobe, but that does not make a person goth at heart,” she says.
The love for indie alt-rock artist Morrissey among Latinx culture is so prevalent it was mentioned in Maria Hinojosa’s Latino USA episode “Goths: Latinos on the Dark Side.”
The genesis of goth culture in music began in England with topics on romance imbued with darker elements, similarly found in gothic literature like Anne Rice’s popular The Vampire Chronicles, a favorite of Vasquez and Spanish writer Federico García Lorca’s works.
“The true appeal of the gothic culture that drew me in was this acknowledgment of death and darkness that is feared by modern society. Not that suicide is romanticized or immorality applauded, that’s not what I’m insinuating. The music and culture embody this acceptance of death and defiance of darkness—once you take it as your banner you are empowered because it is no longer a prison,” 27-year-old Mexican-American Celene Jimenez tells HipLatina.
According to Jimenez, her gothic side manifested in her pre-teens when she began listening to gothic-rock bands Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy and have now carried over to her Etsy shop, SolSiniestra. The line features gothic fashions though she emphasizes the handcrafted beauty products and occult jewelry are for everyone. “The gothic aura of our designs and shop is a byproduct of our artistic leanings. We are inspired by everything from nature to archaic mysticism”.
The more superficial aspects of goth culture are arguably the most well known but the music seems to be the real draw for those who embrace it as a lifestyle. Seventeen-year-old Jasmine Blackbear-Guerrero started dressing alternatively around the age of 10, after her cousin introduced her to bands like Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore. She described her style as more emo than goth but says her mom, an “OG 90s goth” still dresses in that style and has also been influential.
Blackbear-Guerrero is a Native American, Lakota Sioux and Mexican who goes by the Instagram handle “Goth.bruja” often posting photos that showcase her style. “I’m native, Latina, and I’m goth. This is a weird sight at a school like mine. I feel different, but a cool different,” she said.
While the movement started in the U.K., morbid themes of death have been common in native Latin American cultures for centuries. Gothic elements can also be found in Catholic churches and even in supernatural folklore and of course there’s Dia de los Muertos.
Latin America from Mexico to Argentina embraced goth rock with bands like Arte No Escuro, The Tears Of Blood, Lupercais, Euroshima, Fricción, Art Nouveau, La Sobrecarga, Septima Sima, and La Devoción.
“The original punks were working-class youths frustrated by lack of economic opportunity, who found power in challenging social norms with dress and music. Similarly, being punk or goth today in Mexico City is still a form of resistance,” according to Primemind.
Jimenez echoes those sentiments saying being goth means “living a lifestyle that is empowering individuality. Just be who you want to be and own it. It’s an audaciously broad definition, but so is the gothic culture.”
Though historically goth culture lived on the fringes of society, the style itself has become more mainstream, though not necessarily its ethos. Mexican-American tattoo artist Kat Von D recently held a goth-inspired wedding this year while Amy Lee of rock band Evanescence is famous for her goth style.
The more topical approach says more of the sartorial appeal of goth culture but true goths, Latinx or otherwise, go deeper, fully immersing themselves in this alternative lifestyle.
“It’s about having an appreciation for the dark side of life and embracing those eccentricities in yourself and others. At the end of the day, we’re goth but we’re also still individuals. We all don’t look the same and that is okay,” Vasquez says. “ [Goth culture] resisted societal norms and embraced the macabre, which I loved and that’s a major reason why I still define myself as goth. It wasn’t a phase, or something to grow out of. It’s part of me.”