Central American Punks Saving the States from Itself

Photo: John Oakes

Photo: John Oakes

La Armada takes the effort of political punk further than I've ever seen. They started as five young punkers living in and around Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Together, they'd grown up hearing bachata and merengue tunes floating out of the assorted shops and bars in their home town, but at their outset they eschewed any possible connection to traditional Dominican music. They wanted to be like the music they'd all fallen for: brutal, hard, fast, and unruly. Amused, they admit that now the songs and styles of their childhood take up more of their listening time than punk.

As young men in the Dominican Republic, political interest led them to do some research; one of them giggled and said "I read my Marx, my Lenins…," and their anthems led them one day to a place that housed the local Communist Party movement, La Fuerza de la Revolucion. The occupants had the requisite artwork on the wall, including a poster with anti-capitalist imagery that read ‘The Red Army Defeats Capitalism.’ “They had posters on the wall… the big four, you know?” (Marx, Lenin, Mao, Stalin) Bass player Alberto “Mani” Marte chuckled. “That was where our name came from in the very beginning, we were La Armada Roja.”

In a short time, La Armada had shown what they could do when all the wires are plugged into the right sockets. European dates at venues and festivals aside, the group went viral in 2013 with the fiery tune “Chiraq”, an indictment of real estate developers and lawmakers allowing Chicago's housing market to go so awry. In 2017 they began to distribute a magazine designed and published with the help of a fellow revolutionary, Leora, of the band Thulsa Doom. After hearing La Armada speak their truth while touring together, she took their concept and made it a reality. The resulting publication contains articles written to help people understand their rights and how to help others claim theirs. All proceeds from its sales are collected and sent to an office of the ACLU, where it can provide legal assistance to people under prosecution for undocumented entry to the US.




As part of a pursuit to cut off Chicago's patented prison pipeline, La Armada also supports the No Cop Academy Coalition (#NCAC) through personal appearances at rallies and visibility through social media and the ever-present grapevine. No Cop Academy is an organization that rails tirelessly against former mayor Rahm Emanuel and current mayor-elect (as of this writing) Lori Lightfoot  while keeping a watchful eye on current issues occurring between CPD and the denizens of the city. #NCAC hosted a booth at a recent La Armada show, and the band gave the organization's rep a few minutes onstage to talk to the crowd about their initiatives and what they hope to achieve, including blocking Lightfoot's plan to convert shuttered south side schools into mini cop academies, some of the contracts including inanities like a criminally low $1/year lease.

Javier and a fan (with raised fist) in Minneapolis, 2019. Photo: John Oakes

Javier and a fan (with raised fist) in Minneapolis, 2019. Photo: John Oakes

La Armada has a burning itch to not only write songs about revolution, but also to work tirelessly for the liberation of the underprivileged. Growing up in a country where a large portion of the population is below the poverty line instilled in them a sense of duty to their fellow humans; the feeling that they weren't being lifted up unless others were too. To add in a past, present and future of activist efforts should put them at the top of everyone's list when talking about political music. They don't stop there, however, stating plainly “we don't want to be known as the best Latinx hardcore band… We spent nearly half our lives busting our asses just to get here [the USA].” Their arrival has definitely been noticed. As we post this, La Armada is in the middle of nearly a worldwide tour, one that's already made stops in Canada, Mexico, and the West Coast. The rest of the season will see them make landings in the Czech Republic and Germany at a few prominent festivals. Now it's up to everyone else to take a page from the book of La Armada, and walk the way they talk.

As a matter of course, La Armada’s activist reach has always been an international movement, and will continue in the same fashion. They've been focusing on doing whatever they can to help people that were affected by the terrible level of destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. As a Commonwealth, Puerto Rico is supposed to be under protection by the country that owns its land. However, at the time of this writing federal aid has been cut and will likely not return. In an effort to make up the tremendous short fall, La Armada has been part of fundraising drives and oversaw and promoted collection efforts; gathering items that would be helpful to the people still attempting to piece their lives back together on the soil of America's neglected stepchild.

Javier, Paul, and Mani, with mosh pit, 2019.

Javier, Paul, and Mani, with mosh pit, 2019.

This is only a short look into the past, present, and future of an amazing group of humans. Stay tuned for a deeper look into where the group comes from, as well as how they plan to continue their activist efforts. For now you can follow their tour through posts on their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.