Where Is Mozlandia?

Author Melissa Mora Hidalgo talks about Morrissey, The Smiths, fans, and her new book.

Morrissey perhaps was seduced by LA like most people who are not from here, lured by the nostalgia of old Hollywood or perhaps simple sunshine.” So says author Melissa Mora Hidalgo in her new book Mozlandia, a tribute to Morrissey fans and Smiths fans worldwide as well as a highlighting of their creative expressions of fandom. It is particularly about those fans in the US Mexican borderlands. Here Melissa talks Mozlandia.

HEADPRESS: Hi Melissa. Tell us the background of Mozlandia?

Melissa Mora Hidalgo: The book came about for a few reasons. I wanted to offer something new about Morrissey fans, particularly Morrissey fans in the US-Mexican borderlands region, from the perspective of a fan and someone who is part of the community. I also grew tired of the slew of articles, documentaries, essays, news pieces, and other write-ups that asked the same question—’why do Mexicans/why do Latinos love Morrissey?’ —and produced the same responses. We know this fan base exists, and it has for some time, so rather than ask “why?” and reproduce the same predictable responses (‘because they’re passionate, because they’re Catholic, because they’re outsiders’, etc., all important things to consider), I wanted to ask a different set of questions: “How do these fans express their fandom and love of this singer? What can their creative expressions of Morrissey/Smiths fandom tell us about larger histories of borderland populations? What does it mean for Morrissey fans in the borderlands to appropriate his image, music, and style for their own creative expressions of cultural identity?” As for the term, Mozlandia, it is a nod to the ‘Spanglish’ slang term for ‘land’ (‘landia’) and ‘Moz’ comes from Morrissey’s nickname. So, Mozlandia means “Morrisseyland” or “Land of Moz,” in Spanglish. Frida Kahlo once called the USA ‘Gringolandia’, or ,Land of the White People’. So ‘Mozlandia’ is a nod to her as well as a way to designate the specific bicultural, bilingual, geo-political, socio-cultural, and historical claims to the US-Mexico border region by these particular fan communities.

Go ahead, Trump. Build this wall, Pendejo! “Mexico Paid for the Wall.” Cartoon courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz and Universal Uclick. ©2016 Lalo Alcaraz. Used with permission.

A lot of English Morrissey/Smiths fans will think of both as quintessentially English phenomena. To what extent is this not true?

It’s not to drain or erase the ‘Englishness’ of Moz/Smiths fandom, but rather to recognize how and why MozSmiths fan communities form and sustain themselves outside of England, as well as to recognize the global aspect of this fandom. Morrissey and Smiths retain their quintessential Englishness; the Smiths more so, I think, because of the lyrical references to England and Manchester of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Morrissey moves to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s and from there, we can say he starts to have a more global appeal. He tours in Latin America for the first time. He writes songs about Mexico, Los Angeles, Rome, Scandinavia, Istanbul. He plays concerts in Peru, Japan, Indonesia, Argentina, Australia. I think that as a solo artist, Morrissey has established himself as a global artist with personal and professional ties to his home base of Los Angeles. I say in the book something along the lines of, if Manchester shows us early Morrissey, young Smiths-era Moz, then Los Angeles shows us the solo artist who has grown into a global pop icon. And LA has just as much ‘Moz-cred’ as Manchester or London.

The mujeres de Sheilas Take A Bow, An Ode to Morrissey and the Smiths—one of many Los Angeles area Morrissey/Smiths tribute bands. (The author is kneeling.)

What do you think is most culturally transcendent about Morrissey’s appeal?

I think his music and lyrics are the most culturally transcendent about Morrissey’s appeal. To an extent, I would also say that his politics, his critical views of the world, and sometimes, his personal style are also culturally transcendent.

Tell us about your own history of Morrissey fandom?

I became a fan in 1990/1991. Morrissey was already making his mark in Los Angeles as a solo artist, and his influence all over ‘alternative/indie’ radio was felt, especially through the station KROQ. I was a Morrissey fan before I ‘found’ the Smiths; I had to go back and buy records like The Queen is Deadand Louder Than Bombs after I already had Bona DragKill Uncle, and Your Arsenal. While my fandom waxed and waned throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, You Are The Quarry in 2004—Morrissey’s “Los Angeles album”—roped me back into his world and I haven’t left since.

Author on stage at MorrisseyOke, May 2015. Photo by Alexis de la Rocha. Used with permission.

And what is The Moz Fan Archive?

I see the Moz Fan Archive as just that—a living repository and growing collection of fan-made, fan-produced art, poetry, books, music, shows, lived experiences, shared moments, and other Moz fan-related material, a body of work that constantly grows with each new offering. Like any archive, it is a collection of written and performed material and other fan creations that documents these communities and lends insight into the conditions and complexities out of which our Morrissey fandom emerges, going back at least three decades now. Calling it an ‘archive’ also legitimates fans’ contributions, experiences, and creative products as worthy sources of knowledge and historical insights into the cultural practices of fandom.

What was your personal highlight in writing Mozlandia?

Personal highlights include traveling to Manchester, London, San Antonio, San Sebastian, Paris, and all over Los Angeles for research. By far the best highlight for me was just getting to write about all of the cool events in ‘Moz Angeles’ and throughout the World of Morrissey that I have been a part of for years and which fans put together out of love for Morrissey, his music, and connecting with other fans. Shining light on fans as smart and creative people who work hard to build community and find their place in a world that too often makes it difficult.

Want to know more? Pick up a copy of MozlandiaMorrisey Fans in the Borderlands by Melissa Mora Hidalgo. Available in paperback and a limited special edition hardback. 

The subculture of Moz fandom as a US-Mexican borderland phenomenon. 

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