BORDER POLITICS + PUNK: SOUTH TEXAS' DIGI BOYS
Just fifteen years ago, most of the physical border with Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas offered a beautiful, scenic mirror of our communities. It was a natural border, with a thin, dark green body of water, sometimes calm, sometimes choppy, dividing two pieces of green, patchy, mesquite lined land. Now, along some parts of the South Texas border, there’s this blistering hunk of rust that stands about 15 feet tall, meant to act as a ‘border wall’ to keep out people of color from entering the United States. Due to lack of political support for the border wall, it was never fully completed, and huge swaths of the scenic natural border remain open.
The river of the Rio Grande still flows, and the border community on the U.S. side–a predominantly Chicano population with roots and family still living in what is now Mexico–moves along with the current. But the Rio Grande Valley, despite being a cultural and political center, still inspires national distrust, racially charged rhetoric, and fear of Chicano people. Even our own Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has repeatedly used state funds to bankroll a larger police presence in these areas to ‘secure’ our border. This, to some, is seen as a remedy to the politically chaotic and corrupt nature of South Texas. To the people and the punks who live here, though, it’s just more cops, more military, and more border surveillance that target those innocent.
In any other community, the surveillance blimps, the excess of Texas State Troopers, and the Border Patrol around every neighborhood nook would likely feel like a police state. But to us in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s a numbing part of day to day life.
Enter the punk scene of South Texas. Over the years, the ideas of what punk is and should be have shifted and bruised, bled and scabbed and torn again, both nationally and locally. One thing is certain – there are punks who merely try to offend and shock, and then there are punks who try to fight for good. Digi Boys, a gnarly five piece punk band out of South Texas, come from this realm and couldn’t have a more socially charged atmosphere to critique, tear through, and help heal.
“My back may be wet, but you’re so cut and dry
An army of gringos militarized
Do I look suspicious or am I just not white?”
-Digi Boys / Josh Flores
They are fun, wild – the first time I saw them, they walked on to the stage (a dust caked concrete floor in an indoor venue with no a/c) wearing black jeans, tucked in t-shirts, and Devo-esque uni visor colored glasses. When the band kicked in, throaty vocalist Josh Flores swung his mic, arm outstretched, up to his mouth and tumbled onto the floor and into the crowd with a gut kicked growl. Such is the band’s performance – no stages, the band usually stiff, akin to a late 70s new wave outfit, a keyboardist sending out arpeggiated synth signals between songs,and a vocalist, writhing while standing, falling, and strutting with bent legs and stiff arms like a young, spastic Jello Biafra.
Digi Boys are more than a fun band though; they’re a gut check in the local Texas punk scene. They’re not the only ones doing this, but they’re definitely a part of a small group of bands that charge their ethos and their lyrics with a socially conscious flame. “Studhead”, for example, is an aggressive punk banger that opens with vocalist Josh Flores’s reverb soaked rasp, and calls out dino-punks who use dated punk ideas to be apologists. Digi Boys’ harshest burn, though, is saved for the police state, the Border Patrol, and the racial paranoia that fuels the massive surveillance presence in border communities. “La Migra No Es Amigo Mio,” they shout: “the border police are no friends of mine.”
Digi Boys’ harshest burn, though, is saved for the police state, the Border Patrol, and the racial paranoia that fuels the massive surveillance presence in border communities. “La Migra No Es Amigo Mio,” they shout: “the border police are no friends of mine.”