Can king of controversy Morrissey keep his most hardcore fan contingent – Latino Americans – on side?

The musical icon's forthright opinions are losing him fans at home, but the passion famously runs deep among his Latino fanbase

Morrissey has made a career out of making provocative statements, from his hardcore stance on veganism to his hatred of the British Royals, but his statements over the last year in support of right-wing candidates and against immigration in the UK have some wondering if he’s crossed the line – and if he risks losing some of his most famously fervent fans, Latinos in America, many of whom are immigrants themselves.

Morrissey’s fans have had a lot to contend with lately: his support for far-right leader Tommy Robinson and Ukip leader Nigel Farage, his comments that seemingly undermine the #MeToo campaign; his comments after the Manchester Arena bombing that many thought was Islamaphobic; his delight at the Brexit result — all at a time when many feel extremism and racism are on the rise in many countries around the world.

Former Moz fan Dave Haslam recently helped organise an anti-racism party during the singer’s scheduled Manchester concert in July, a concert that Morrissey claimed on his website was cancelled “Due to logistical circumstances beyond our control.”

“He had to cancel his shows in Manchester because of our boycott,” said Lois Browne, coordinator of the UK-based group Love Music Hate Racism that teamed with Haslam.

“It showed the solidarity of people and that the majority do not accept racism or fascist ideas. Of course, he gave a different reason for the cancellation,” Browne said. Morrissey refused to comment for this article.

While the issues that Haslam and Browne protested Morrissey’s shows for can arguably be described as more pertinent to the UK than to Latino-Americans, racism against any group is often viewed harshly by all minority groups.

“It’s disappointing and I don’t agree with it or support that,” said Camilo Lara, lead singer and co-founder of Mexrrissey, a Mexico City-based band inspired by songs of Morrissey and The Smiths.

As for changing attitudes among fans, Lara added “I’ve seen it more with fans in the UK than with Mexican fans.”

Lara’s observations are similar to those shared by Oscar Torres, the 41-year-old drummer of The Handsome Devilz, a Mexican-American Morrissey tribute band based in Chicago. “I don’t think most of our fans’ opinions have changed. Morrissey has always been controversial, especially with the vegan stuff. As for Mexicans as a whole, we’re an emotional bunch, but we don’t really concern ourselves with matters that don’t directly concern us,” Torres said.

“I don’t think most of our fans’ opinions have changed – Morrissey has always been controversial. As for Mexicans as a whole, we’re an emotional bunch, but we don’t really concern ourselves with matters that don’t directly concern us” 

Oscar Torres, Mexican-American Morrissey tribute band The Handsome Devilz

American filmmaker and journalist Jessica Hundley, whose short film in 2004 “Viva Morrissey” documented the fervour among Latino fans living in East Los Angeles for Morrissey, said the singer risks alienating his most hardcore fans. “He’s never been one to say something that he doesn’t think, and I don’t think he said anything that he doesn’t believe, so it is surprising,” Hundley said. “I think part of the reason why the first-generation Latinos in LA connected with him is because he was an immigrant himself who talked about being an outsider. I find that people are very forgiving with the people that they put on pedestals but it’s probably also disappointing to first-generation immigrant fans.”

Haslam said many Mexican and Latino fans may be slow to denounce Morrissey because they may not be familiar with British politics. “I assume they don’t have much of an understanding of his defense of Tommy Robinson, in the same way I know little about Mexican politics. They hear his songs without the context we hear them.”

Browne said while Morrissey has always been provocative, considering the state of the world it’s not the best thing for any public figure. “There’s always the question of whether he’s doing it for sales or PR or to try and shock and get people buzzing, but whether it’s a ploy or not it’s not something he should be doing in such a volatile period.”

As for whether Mexicans and Latinos are better at separating the art from the artist than other groups, it’s a question that is valid. Lara said for him Morrissey isn’t the only artist that he adores that has questionable views. “He’s part of the soundtrack of my life. I guess I focus on that, just as I do with other artists who have controversial things about them, like Wagner.”

“I find that people are very forgiving with the people that they put on pedestals but it’s probably also disappointing to first-generation immigrant fans.”

Jessica Hundley, director of short film “Viva Morrissey”

But Torres said considering Morrissey’s recent statements, he should probably stick to music, showing a bit of a change in the attitude of a self-professed Moz-lover. “Personally, it’s hard for me to knock him, but I can’t support him 100 percent either,” Torres said.

Despite hesitation from many hardcore Latino and Mexican fans to see Morrissey as anything other than divine, Haslam said eventually that it may be impossible even for them to separate the art from the artist. “You know if you have an uncle that starts saying offensive things? Eventually someone needs to say something. That’s what it’s like when Morrissey has crossed those red lines. He has a habit of making political statements while on stage. If you’ve decided to separate the art from the artist, you’re putting yourself in a compromised position paying to hear him sing but also having to listen to him complaining that it’s almost impossible to find a taxi driver who speaks English (as he did in New York a few years ago) or to mention his support for the Britain leader Anne Marie Waters (as he did at a concert last year). Do you turn your ears off between songs?”

Hundley, speaking from Los Angeles, home of his most strident fans, summed up the thoughts of many music fans. “I am wondering what will happen when he comes back here. He’s always been very aware and very thankful to his Latino fans, so I’m interested to see what the response will be when he returns.”