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For the Bronx, by the Bronx: checking in with the Hydro Punks

Mar. 28, 2018
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Hydro Punk is a Bronx-based community collective that aims to promote borough unification by producing local punk and hip-hop shows, art expos, and political workshops. As of now, Hydro Punk consists of Monica Flores, Jose Flores, Tiara Torres, Akane, and Victoria Cortez. 

What is Hydropunk? Who started it? When did it start? 

Monica Torres: Hydro Punk was established in 2014 by me and my brother, Jose Flores. We started things off by hosting live music shows in our backyard. Now, through our events and workshops, [we] navigate and recognize the politics and culture that the Bronx is rooted in. As music and art enthusiasts, we were tired of traveling to the more privileged, gentrified areas of NYC to enjoy an arts scene that we couldn’t relate to. Hydro Punk is our way to provide representative cultural projects in our hoods. We also provide resources to local artists, musicians, and fellow Bronxites who are interested in producing projects of their own. 

Tiara Torres: I began working with Hydro Punk as the arts curator in October of 2016. At first I was involved as a represented artist during their first art expo. Monica was the first person to ever purchase a painting of mine, and since then, I’ve sold over 200 pieces. I truly believe Hydro Punk gave me the push I needed—they exposed me to the underground DIY scene.  I began going to more local shows and supporting other creatives. I wanted to take on a bigger role in the production and planning for February’s art expo. Like, we’ve grown so much as a collective since I joined the team. 

How is this collective different than others?

MT: We strive to keep the meaning of Hydro Punk fluid, as a means to target various undermining issues in the Bronx. Not only do we want to provide accessible experiences within our borough, but we also want to use our platform to discuss issues that affect all of us—the lack of sustainable public spaces, gentrification, little to no representation within institutions, and historical neglect within our borough. We aim to inspire young folks, community leaders, professionals, and artists, and wish to form our version of a “cultural renaissance” within the Bronx.

What are some of your values?

MT: We do not associate with gentrifiers! Our shows are safe spaces against xenophobia, ageism, homophobia, misogyny and sexual harassment. Our main priority is to serve marginalized communities. That being said, Hydro Punk is strictly run by local residents of color. 

How did you figure out your "purpose"? 

MT: New York City is prominently known as being the gecko of music, arts, and culture. It’s important to note that while Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens tend to be considered cultural hot spots, the Bronx lacks well-funded institutions and programs to provide an enriched art experience for its locals. For a borough that is recognized as playing an important role in the emergence of hip-hop, Latin music, and other artistic elements such as graffiti and breakdancing, there is a lack of platforms and art-oriented programs. In the face of such disparities, we’re trying to expand our horizons and plan on doing whatever we can to flip the script. Holding these spaces is our way of preserving culture and creating a safe, liberating space in a time when these spaces may not exist. Having organized music shows over the last four years, for the rest of 2018, we will be focusing on educational panels and workshops that deal with machismo in the punk scene, hosting open mics, things of that nature. 

TT: During my experiences as a student and intern, I saw how much racism existed within the art institutions I worked for. It’s so important to have educational programs run by people who understand the community. HP’s goal is to create an event that is run by locals, for the locals and to provide content that is representative of our neighborhoods. 

Did you have any inspiration or guidance throughout the years? 

MT: It’s important to look back into musical diasporas that empowered communities that faced displacement from their native lands. Within the mid-19th century, the nation’s racial and ethnic population took a drastic turn as a new wave of immigration began flowing from Latin America. As immigrants settled all over the United States, their food, music, and other cultural customs joined them, too. In New York City, immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic dominated the urban music scene. To preserve their musical identity, underground Puerto Rican dance halls formed. Music was the tool used to unify the people with tunes that infused the old with the new. With the development of these “indie” venues, community members were able to connect with one another. For example, the genre of salsa emerged, which was when Cubans began to collaborate with New York-based Puerto Rican musicians. Ultimately, the music that emerged from the underground shows us just how we can work together to resist stigmas and disparities. Hydro Punk is an ode to the diasporas, collectives, and radical groups that came before us. We hope to channel some of the work they did in everything that we do for the Bronx. 

photos from their social media