July 24, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Montgomery exec asks Fillmore to cancel band
Molotov, music, Gay News, Washington Blade

Activists are threatening to protest Moltov’s upcoming show in Silver Spring, Md. at the Fillmore. (Promotional photo courtesy Molotov)

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett sent a letter on July 18 to the Fillmore Theater in Silver Spring, Md., asking its manager to cancel a performance next month by a Mexican band that includes anti-gay lyrics in several of its songs.

Leggett’s letter followed concerns expressed by LGBT activists that the hip-hop group Molotov uses lyrics in Spanish that are interpreted widely to mean “faggot,” including a phrase “kill the faggot.” Activists call the lyrics hurtful to the LGBT community and have warned that they could encourage anti-LGBT violence.

“I have serious concerns about this booking,” Leggett told the Fillmore’s general manager, Stephanie Steele, in his letter. “I am personally offended. I understand that the First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, and that even distasteful speech may be protected speech,” he said.

But he added, “Just because one might argue that everyone has the right to say, show, or sing something doesn’t mean they ought to exercise that right…In addition to expressing my displeasure I would ask you to reconsider the Fillmore’s decision to book the Molotov band.”

The theater and the California-based company that owns it, Live Nation Entertainment, have not responded to calls from the Washington Blade seeking comment on the controversy. The Washington Post reported that Steele did not respond to its request for comment for a Post story on the controversy last week.

But according to the Post, Live Nation spokesperson Jim Yeager said the performance by Molotov scheduled for Aug. 26 would not be cancelled.

Members of Molotov and its supporters have argued that the controversial lyrics, including the Spanish words “puto” and “maricon” that many interpret as slurs against gay men, are meant to target corrupt politicians in Mexico, not gay people.

A spokesperson for the LGBT organization Equality Maryland said the group is considering staging an “informational” protest outside the theater on the night of the performance.

A petition posted on the website change.org by local gay activist and attorney Gabriel Rodriguez-Rico, calls on the Fillmore Silver Spring to “not provide a stage for violently anti-gay messages.”

Donna Biggler, a spokesperson for Leggett, said the Fillmore had not responded to Leggett’s letter as of Tuesday.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

5 Comments
  • This is a ridiculous misinterpretation of the lyrics and it's similar to protests against that song in Spain more than a decade ago where the word is used as an insult-slang related to homosexuals. Puto is obviously not a nice word, but the context in which it is used has nothing to do with attacking the BGLT community. A proper translation within context would be "assh*le", as in -'You're being an assh*le for making such a deal out of this'.

    In fact, you shouldn't protect and help identify that word as an insult to homosexuals, I find that very offensive. You should be thanking Molotov instead because thanks to their popularity in Latin America the meaning of the word has been de-sexualized and it's now more commonly used to identify cowards, bigots and assh*les alike.

  • I'll share a letter I wrote to Gabriel Rodriguez, who started a petition in Change.org about the issue:

    Hi Gabriel,

    I believe you're greatly misinterpreting the song Puto from Molotov. Besides the difference in regional slang use of the word, you have to also understand the political and cultural context in which the song was written. You have to go back to 1995 and understand the frustrations on Mexicans due to corruption, a huge economic crisis and threats to personal liberties and free speech.

    The link to the translation provided in your petition is poorly done and does not reflect at all the sentiment of the song. To begin with, the word "faggot" is not an accurate translation for "puto". A more appropriate word to the context would be a combination of "asshole", "fucker" and "coward". As you can see, literal translations are not easy if you don't understand the underlying context in which the words are used.

    I've been a very strong supporter of gay rights and I've done a lot of work in my community to promote a equality and respect towards everyone. Believe me, I would be the first one to protest hateful lyrics. But I also grew up in Mexico and understand the powerful social and rebellious message that this song conveys which has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with personal freedom, taking action and standing up against injustice and corruption.

    I'm am really debating internally whether I need to re-translate and explain the song to you verse by verse, but that might not help accomplish anything if you already believe that this is purely anti-gay propaganda.

    I believe the LGBT message that we've been promoting for a long time is one of equality and freedom to live the lifestyle that we were born with and without fear of being subjugated against someone else's will and norms. Wouldn't you agree? Well, that's what "Puto" stands for as well.

    I would like to share with you a more appropriate translation of the song's message:

    Puto is the one that doesn't jump, rejoices and express the joy of being free.

    Puto is the one that conforms to what society dictates.
    and to the one that believes the lies our politicians say.

    Puto is the one who takes away our life, freedom and liberty.

    Puto is also the one who protects, covers or ignores the issues.

    Puto is one who does not have the courage to liberate him or herself from society's norms.

    and if you live subjugated by those norms, you'll die by them.

    Regards,
    Irwin

  • Irwin, your argument is the same one that the band made when it was confronted with protests by gay activists — Mexican and Spanish gay activists — about their song. It just does not ring true. Even if people concede your claim that Puto means “assh*le,” which I don’t concede, but let’s just do so for the sake of this point, then how do you defend the band’s use of the slur “maricon?” What do you say about that? Does it also miraculously mean something other than “faggot” when the band uses it? Don’t think so.

    Your argument, and that of the band, is essentially the same as when adolescents in the US call this or that, or someone, “gay” and then say that they did not intend the word to mean to refer to homosexuality but instead to refer to something weak, lame, etc. That argument is almost as insulting as the slur itself. The anti-gay animus behind the slur is still fueling it, even when it is used to attack something else. Gay, in other words, means something bad, undesirable, unacceptable, etc.

    Lastly, “puto” as you say has various meanings across Latin America. In Mexico, however, a PRIMARY meaning is “faggot,” especially when it is coupled with the other slur, “maricon,” whose meaning universally is a slur for a gay male.

  • Hi Activist,

    Yes, "maricon" also means something different than "faggot" in Mexico when used on a different context. It means "coward". For example, if my brother doesn't want to go play paintballs with me I would tell him -"no seas maricon" and that has zero sexual connotations and he'll just laugh. Maricon derives from the word Maria, or Mariquita which is a diminutive for the name. Initially it referred to as "sissy" which is obviously an indication or lack of "manliness". But the word has adapted over time and will have very different meanings depending on the usage context.

    In fact, that part or the song, "Amo maton, matarile al maricon" is a reference to an old Spanish song that goes "Ambó ató, matarile, rile, ron". The word play used with "Amo maton*" refers to a bully being called on for being such a coward. "Matarile al maricon" would translate to "down with that coward".

    Across all cultures there tends to be a semantic change in word usage that adapts organically to subcultures and social changes. This is just an example of it. If you interact with younger generations of Mexicans you'll see that friends will call each other in a friendly "puto" or "wey" or "cabron" or other terms that have drifted from their original intent or meaning and adapted over time. This happens across all cultures and all generations.

    (*By the way, maton means bully not killer http://es.thefreedictionary.com/mat%C3%B3n ).

  • Irwin, I understand your argument, but you really are proving my point. Yes, Latinos like you and me may use “maricon” to refer to people other than gays, but the definition of the term is still “faggot.” Look up the word in any Spanish dictionary and you will see that the primary definition is that of the derogative anti-gay slur. That people in Spanish AND in English call people and things “gay” and “faggot” because they want to define them as queer and weak and cowardly and stupid does not change the fact that the words themselves primarily refer to homosexuals. The connotation is that the target is queer and weak and cowardly because the slurs mean “gay.” In other words, you are getting bogged down in semantics and, with all due respect, defending an indefensible use of anti-gay slurs and lyrics. Even if “puto” were in a gray area, “maricon” is most certainly not. It means “faggot” throughout Latin America. It’s like defending the use of the terms “retarded” or “bitch” by saying that the target was neither intellectually disabled nor a female dog and that you used them solely to mean “dumb” or “unpleasant.” Thing is that those uses are still highly offensive to the intellectually disabled and to women as well as to their allies.

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