Since the dawn of time, people have thrived on taking advantage of the weak and vulnerable, resulting in temporary and fleeting power for the perpetrators of these sordid acts and fueling the sense of malaise that affects so many people around the globe today.
KILLER CORTEZ – guitarist Socrates Cruz and drummer Peter Bartash – explore this isolation, alienation, displacement, and disenfranchisement in their new album, Maquiladora. Formerly two-thirds of the Boston-based progressive rock band Moniker, Cruz and Bartash take on some of the most exploitative events of the 20th century, offering commentaries on everything from the radium girls – a group of women who 100 years ago contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint at a New Jersey factory – to the infamous Villa Grimaldi – the sprawling estate where USA-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet interrogated, tortured and, in some cases, “disappeared” more than 4,500 of his political opponents in the mid-1970s.
With these "mini documentaries" KILLER CORTEZ asks its listeners to reflect on today's world by taking a glimpse into the not-so-distant past, warning us just how easy it is for history to repeat itself. At the heart of each song is the reminder that because history is written by the winners, we must remember not to overlook the stories of the oppressed.
Nowhere is that more true than in the EP's first song, “Bracero.” Taken from the Spanish word for manual laborer, it was the name given to thousands of young Mexican migrants who in the mid 20th century worked in the United States on farms and railroads in order to ease labor shortages during World War II. Ultimately spanning 22 years (1945-1964), the Bracero program represents an important but often-forgotten and bittersweet chapter in American history, one that created opportunity for impoverished people but also provided the means for their exploitation, with braceros facing rampant labor and wage abuses, segregation, and an overall dehumanization as foreigners in a land that coveted their hands but not their dignity.
“Kowloon Walled City” sheds light on the stories of those who lived in the infamous Hong Kong tenements, the largely ungoverned area of the city where 33,000 people were packed into just over six acres. Once the most densely populated place on earth and notorious for its crime and unsanitary living conditions, Kowloon was a teeming hive of interlinking high-rises that few dared to enter but thousands called home. Found to be increasingly intolerable by both the British and Chinese authorities, Kowloon was eventually demolished in 1993, displacing the already destitute who had carved their lives inside the city's legendary walls.
“Pine Ridge Peltier” looks at the 1977 arrest and conviction of native American activist and American Indian Movement member Leonard Peltier for the death of two FBI agents during an armed conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Formally seen by some as justice for the agents' killings, others insist that Peltier was framed for the murders by a corrupt judiciary system due to his outspoken support for Native American civil rights. To this day Peltier remains a political prisoner, serving two consecutive life sentences but also serving as a reminder of the continued struggle and injustice faced by Native Americans within their homeland.
With the release of Maquiladora Killer Cortez have created a work that shines a light on the human condition and forces us to take a deeper look at why and how we got to where we are today.