Album: Llora Chiapas
Label: Quinto Sol Records (re-released Jailiscore)
Released: 1998 (April 11, 2022)
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Great artistic works are more often than not tinged with melancholy or the result of some sort of traumatic catalyst. Though there are plenty of works created in celebration, or as a means of transcendence in understanding, it is arguably the gut-wrenching and heartbreaking that is the most captivating and poignant. This form of artistic expression can take on many roles, from the therapeutic to the exploratory, or in the form of righteous anger. The latter of these was chosen by Mexico’s native sons, Leprosy, in their third studio album Llora Chiapas (Chiapas Cries), released in 1998 on the tail end of a national tragedy that sparked nationwide outrage and a continuing struggle for justice.
On December 22nd, 1997, in the small village of Acteal located in the municipality of Chenalho which resides in the Mexican state of Chiapas, was stormed by the armed paramilitary group of Máscara Roja. They arrived when the residents were attending mass and over the course of several hours the Máscara Roja butchered the men, women and children of the Acteal village. Though the Mexican government would eventually acknowledge their involvement in the massacre in 2020, for over 20 years they would remain staunchly opposed to any connection. The government was originally believed to be either affiliated or complacent in the event given that a military base nearby was only roused to aid in cleaning of the blood of the church walls the following day. The apparent provocation then, was that a portion of the people in the village were Las Abejas (the Bees), a pacifist group that had aligned themselves with the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (often known simply as Zapatistas)- a militant and self purported alter-globalization and anti-neoliberal social movement that still holds sway over a majority of the state of Chiapas to this day. In total, forty-five men, women and children were killed.
Moved to outrage alongside the rest of the nation, frontman Alberto Pimentel and the rest of Leprosy quickly turned out Llora Chiapas. From the first, with its titular track the record pulls no punches. Beginning with a haunting stillness created by an indigenous flute then joined by a moving percussion section that is abruptly cut short before a roughened edged chugging of Death-ladened Thrash guitar disrupts the tranquility. An obvious allegory for the blindsided savagery, it also serves as a juxtaposition of the fragility of the pacifists involved in an unobtrusive peaceful act with the brusque and intrusive senseless brutality. Standing tall for the Las Abeja is Alberto Pimentel, with an equally brusque, intrusive and brutal vocality, only he is armed with a firmly indignant and righteous vehemence given over to his lyrical creations. As you can imagine those lyrics are harrowing, which is nothing new of these particular genres, but plays largely different when they are based on actual events.
Fight for the children
that god has forgotten
piece of homeland
they are stomping on you
a forgotten town
it’s chiapas crying
cry chiapas, it rains blood
While typically considered a Thrash Metal act, with Llora Chiapas Leprosy favored a more Deathend approach that borders, at least on to my ears, towards Doom. Perhaps not slowing it down to the typical ranges associated with Doom, there are several bass driven tracks that, when added into the pounding accentuation of the drums, such as Mirate al Espejo or the instrumental El Antidoto that make a compelling argument. There is also the track Heroe Falso, that while having its Thrashier moments and even a bizarre yet amazing Jazz-Blues infused intermission, there is not much more Doom you could inject into the track than when Pimentel growls out the title of the track from what sounds like the bottom of the world.
Returning to their roots in the back half of the album the tracks, Monumento A Los Caidos and Sobrevivientes bring Thrash to the forefront, eschewing all else. Monumento, the more aggressive of the two tracks, starts with a break neck pacing that burns up the scales before dropping back down them. Once again the lyrics come in to haunt, this time comparing what transpired in Acteal to the 1968 military perpetrated massacre of 28 students protesting the Summer Olympics at Tlatelolco.
They are blind witnesses of
The history of Tlatelolco
nor washing the walls
nor washing the whole patio
You can erase the blood
Of an entire student body
Soldiers vomiting bursts
Over a helpless crowd
There is an eerie break in the song that encompasses women wailing ethereally, serving as connective tissue between the two, a reverberation of sorrow echoing back on itself. Before long we are thrust violently back into the track, cutting short the transcendence of likened events in what feels like a cruel joke in violence that a majority of Americans could easily sympathize with. Sobrevivientes is more of a wind up track, with a solo guitar intro slamming out the riff. Seemingly tame by the preceding track, Sobrevivientes takes a few verses to get to a beautifully delivered wail-pinching of a solo that ends by carrying off a single note to a dirty hi hat counting in what is to come; a chugging coda of the intro with a rolling snare accompaniment before the final breakdown of barely restrained fury.
Great artistic works can mean a number of things, and can be highly subjective based upon the person(s) viewing them, more often than not the ones that are most captivating to people’s ar the ones tinged with melancholy or the result of some sort of traumatic catalyst. While that may be the case for Leprosy’s Llora Chiapas, as it is most definitely a great artistic work, I would also add that what makes Llora Chiapas all the more important is that it has given voice to those silenced, so they may not be forgotten.
To honor those lost in the Acteal Massacre, below is the complete list of names whose lives were stolen from them.
Ignacio Pukui Luna (age unknown), Juana Vazquez Luna (8 months), Juan Carlos Luna Perez (1) Guadalupe Gomez Hernandez (2), Graciela Gomez Hernandez (3), Margarita Vazquez Luna (3), Vicente Mendez Capote (5), Roselia Gomez Hernandez (5), Silvia Perez Luna (6), Juana Perez Luna (9), Micaela Vazquez Perez (9), Sebastian Gomez Perez (9), Martha Capote Perez (12), Lucia Mendez Capote (13), Rosa Vazquez Luna (14), Marcela Capote Vazquez (15), Alejandro Perez Luna (16), Maria Capote Perez (16), Susana Jimenez Perez (17), Veronica Vazquez Luna (20), Loida Ruiz Gomez (21), Victorio Vazquez Gomez (22), Paulina Hernandez Vazquez (22), Margarita Mendez Paciencia (23), Maria Gomez Ruiz (23), Daniel Gomez Perez (24), Antonia Vazquez Luna (27), Josefa Vazquez Perez (27), Marcela Capote Ruiz (29), Antonia Vazquez Perez (30), Catarina Luna Ruiz (31), Catarina Luna Ruiz, (31), Juana Perez Perez (33), Rosa Perez Perez (33), Marcela Luna Ruiz (35), Nanuela Paciencia Moreno (35), Miguel Perez Jimenez (40), Maria Perez Oyalte (42), Maria Luna Mendez (44), Juana Luna Vazquez (45), Alonso Vasquez Gomez (46), Manuel Santiz Culebra (57), Juana Gomez Perez (61), Micaela Pukui Luna (67)
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Leprosy on Bandcamp: