Why Are Emo Kids Getting Attacked In Mexico? 'At the core of this is the homophobic issue,' a youth worker in Mexico City suggests of the violence By James Montgomery On March 7, in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, a mob of nearly 800 teenagers poured into the Plaza de Armas, fists cocked, blood boiling, looking for emo kids to take their frustrations out on. It didn't take them long to locate their targets. The Plaza is a frequent hangout for the city's many subcultures of bored youth, and the mob quickly surrounded a trio of kids bearing the tell-tale markings of emo fans: skinny black jeans, eyeliner and black hair jutting straight down over their eyes. They shoved the three against a wall and began kicking and punching, shouting, "Kill the emos!" and filming the incident on their cell phones. By the time police arrived, the three emo fans lay on the Plaza's concrete floor, sobbing and bleeding. The mob streamed through the streets of Querétaro, laughing and cheering. And this was not an isolated incident. Over the next three weeks, a wave of "anti-emo" violence swept through Mexico, first in the capital of Mexico City, where mobs attacked emo kids, and then in the border towns of Tijuana and Juarez, where members of other social cliques (primarily punkeros, cholos and darketos, or goths) skirmished with emos. The shaky camera-phone footage of the beatings aired on Mexican television and quickly spread to YouTube, becoming news on a host of blogs in the U.S. Emo kids responded by staging silent marches for peace and tolerance in each of the cities, but those demonstrations quickly turned violent as well, and police were forced to step in to keep the peace. Anti-emo message boards promise even more attacks, while the Mexican government is making a plea for unity, meeting with leaders of various youth cliques in Mexico City and unveiling a tolerance campaign that operates under the slogan "For the freedom of being young, live and let live." So what's the reason for all the violence? On the surface, it seems to be a classic (albeit much more terrifying) example of the same schoolyard dynamics that have existed for decades: the strong pick on the weak. Other kids see emos as an easy target, because they are usually younger and come from comfortable, middle-class backgrounds. Still, other anti-emos claim to use violence only s a way of stomping out emo music, which they see as a dangerous and wholly un-Mexican form of music that is ruining society. As one anti-emo wrote on his blog, "Mexico is ... turning worse and worse. If someone tells you that Mexico is walking to the progress, [they're] a f---ing liar." But the real reason seems to be something much simpler and much more disturbing. With their tight jeans, makeup and teased hair, emos dress in a way that is an affront to hypermasculine Mexican culture. The reason for the attacks, some say, is latent homophobia. "At the core of this is the homophobic issue. The other arguments are just window dressing for that," Victor Mendoza, a youth worker in Mexico City, told Time magazine last week. "This is not a battle between music styles at all. It is the conservative side of Mexican society fighting against something different." That was apparent on social-networking sites and blogs frequented by Mexican youth in the weeks leading up to the Querétaro attack. Hundreds of YouTube clips sprung up, pointing to emos' tight shirts and makeup as evidence of their homosexuality, and message board commenters urged anti-emos to take the Plaza de Armas back from the black-clad kids who spent their days there. And, most prominently, Kristoff, a host on the popular TV channel Telehit, launched into a lengthy and vitriolic diatribe against emos, comparing them to "pre-pubescent 15-year-old girls" and calling their lifestyle "stupid and idiotic." After the attacks, Kristoff condemned the assailants and said his rant was just a joke, but many within Mexico's government see him and his words as the spark that lit the power keg. There are also rumors that he might take the fall if Telehit is publicly blamed for the violence. In recent days, the situation in Mexico seems to have cooled a bit, but that doesn't mean there isn't still a large anti-emo sentiment simmering below the surface. And while the emo attacks were brutal, some hope they can serve as a way to shed light on the ugly underbelly of Mexican society. "The danger is that hate is permeating more and more into Mexican society," columnist Hugo Garcia wrote in Mexican newspaper Milenio. "We should not forget that intolerant violence leads to fascism."