POC have had just as much influence inside the Goth subculture.
A harmful stereotype has been haunting the goth scene since its birth in the early 80s. Many believe goth to be a primordially white community and many others have aimed to keep it that way. But the reality is that goth – especially the music and iconography – would not exist if it weren’t for the influence of POC.
Like many underground subcultures, goth was created from an amalgamation of different forms of artistic expression—but mainly from music (as it is a music-based subculture). Starting with the music genre though, blues was a genre that gave birth to many other genres, eventually creating the sub-category of goth: starting with rock & roll, then metal, punk and finally goth. The blues genre originated from the Deep South and was created by African American slaves who worked in plantations. They brought in their African roots through deep rhythms, while singing and chanting about their lives as a form of oral storytelling.
This new subculture spoke to the most marginalized of groups, those who were not only rejected by society for their beliefs, but also for their sexuality and ethnicities. POC and queer folk made up a large sum of the community, adding in elements of their cultures to the sub-culture. The use of the ankh from Egyptian art became an iconic symbol, along with the pentagrams from witchcraft, the triple moon from Euro-pagan Wicca and rosaries from the Latinx Santeria. Skulls, snakes, and bones primarily came from indigenous and African cultures, which later gave space for the common goth hobby of collecting taxidermy and oddities. Though there is much inspiration from European gothic fiction, gothic architecture and Victorian era fashion; that is only a fraction of the whole.
Using rosaries and other spiritual symbols became blatant jabs at Christianity and an appreciation for the rich spiritual cultures that colonizers attempted to erase. The appreciation for life after death and the macabre was directly influenced by indigenous, African and Latinx folklore. Even certain staple tendencies in traditional goth fashion were inspired by black and Latinx trans women, such as the erasure of features through face paint, heavy contour, and thin eyebrows. In this regard, no one can appreciate goth more than those who are directly oppressed by the racist, white fascists. It’s also why you can’t be racist and consider yourself goth. We don’t want you anyways.
In the past two years, Puerto Rico has begun putting itself on the map as an influential goth hotspot, as the community grows and is stronger than ever. Elder goths joined hands with a few younger members to cultivate a community that not only celebrates the joys of being goth, but also embraces the beauty of the Puerto Rican culture and its mixed heritage: Indigenous, African and Spanish. This week, an event took place in the town of old San Juan titled “La Comunion” (The Communion). Two educational speeches that spoke about the origins of goth in Puerto Rico and a goth film screening took place before the party. “La Comunion” aimed to challenge the Christian ideology embedded in our island by Spanish conquistadors, using the common catholic rite of passage to intimidate conservatives.
Pushing the message of acceptance and appreciation for POC and queer folk is something that the Puerto Rican group “Tropidarks” has set out to do. The elder goths of this particular community have been working hard to ensure this since their integration into the community in the ‘80s, while the younger generation have learned to reject the Spanish Christian ideology that was imposed upon them. I urge others in the community to stand up for your fellow Latinx, indigenous and black goths while also expunging anyone who wishes to push the white supremacist agenda in the name of “Eurocentric appreciation” and “conservation.” There is nothing more goth than embracing each other’s differences and being our authentic, weird selves.