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Reviewed by:
  • Rockin’ las Américas: The Global Politics of Rock in Latin/o America
  • Scott Pollard
Pacini Hernandez, Deborah, Hector Fernández L’Hoeste, and Eric Zolov , eds. 2004. Rockin’ las Américas: The Global Politics of Rock in Latin/o America. Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, $60.00 hc. $24.95 sc. 432 pp.

This is the first scholarly collection of articles on Latin American rock, a necessary and significant milestone given the rise of rock en español in the global marketplace in the last decade. The contributors come from a variety of disciplines (e.g., music, anthropology, history, literature) and pursue a mix of critical approaches. The book does not offer a systematic history of rock in the region but presents an array of articles that treat the music as national and transnational phenomena. Four of the articles focus on Mexico, two on Brazil, one each on Cuba, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina and Chile, one on Los Angeles punkeras, and one on the French musician, Manu Chao, who is based in Tijuana. The majority of these articles look at particular national responses to rock music as imported, transnational phenomena remade into a national product. All the articles present Latin American rock as a hybrid music that synthesizes imported US and British rock with regional forms, co-opting a hegemonic music for the sake of particular local uses. All investigate how a particular music negotiates, successfully or not, cultural, political and economic landscapes, landscapes as various as the nations and histories which produce them. Yet, of the many issues that weave through this anthology, one—dictatorship, perhaps the most intense locus of political contestation in recent Latin American history—garners the most attention, featured in five of the fifteen articles. Because they teach so much about the music and the complex contexts which give rise to (and sometimes destroy) it, all of the articles in the volume are worthy of attention. This review, though, will focus on only three representative samples to discuss the book's main themes.

Many of the writers use their articles to recover an unknown, or little known, history. In "La Onda Chicana: Mexico's Forgotten Rock Culture," Eric Zolov attempts to fill in a missing chapter of the history of Mexican rock, the period called La onda chicana from the late 1960s and early1970s, as [End Page 192] well as delineate the social and political forces that not only led to its disappearance but to its erasure from Mexican memory. As much as the article fills a historical gap, it is also a study of cultural forgetting. Inspired by 1960s US and British pop and rock and often using English lyrics, La onda chicana celebrated a hippie (jipi) lifestyle that drew criticism from the right, for its break with traditional Mexican values, and the left, for bowing to the cultural imperialism of the north. After the Woodstock-style rock concert, Avándaro (1971), the government banned rock concerts for a decade, promoted "authentic" Mexican music and prevented La onda chicana groups from releasing albums, all but erasing the music from the Mexican landscape. Zolov produces a well-defined historical arc, effectively delineating the local and global cultural contexts that gave rise to the music as well as the political economy within which it disappeared.

For as many articles that feature sociohistorical readings of the music, there are articles which pursue primarily economic interpretations. In "On How Bloque de Búsqueda Lost Part of its Name: the Predicament of Colombian Rock in the US Market," Fernandez L'Hoeste offers a case study of the failure of globalization in the history of a short-lived rock band. He begins with a regional history of Colombian rock and the rise of the Bogatá-based Bloque de Búsqueda, which was signed by a local label, Sonolux, which produced their first album to great local fame. From the local, L'Hoeste moves to the global, and the article reads like an expansive post-mortem of a marketing machine that knows how to exploit talent but not nurture it. He charts the rise and fall of the band once...


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