It’s not salsa or ranchera music – Latin punk rock in the US | The rhythms of mi tierra | El País

Migration and cultural assimilation often involve a search for new identities that reflect the different realities that surround us. The complex, changing, and sometimes even contradictory characteristics of the Latino community in the United States are one of the world’s most evident examples of a cultural diaspora.

As Latin American communities assimilate, deep cultural roots slowly give way to more immediate realities, and our way of seeing the world is expressed in new forms of language and learning. Our ways of participating in our culture, like music, are also changing. It’s fascinating to see how mariachi, cumbia, salsa and son in the United States are so different from how they’re played in their home country.

We know how the Mexican, Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican and Argentine diasporas have enriched rock and jazz music. But punk, techno and other types of “Anglo” music are also embraced and influenced by Latin artists. There is no doubt that Latin rockers in the United States have left an indelible mark on these genres.

Latinos like Kid Congo Powers, Ritchie Valens, Los Crudos, Suicidal Tendencies and Question Mark & ​​The Mysterians have influenced countless bands and musical aesthetics. Musicians like Rage Against The Machine, Beck and Cypress Hill wouldn’t have been so successful without the struggle and discontent expressed in the music of Chicanos, South American rebels and early punks from Peru, Chile and Cuba. . Let’s take a look at some of the pioneers of Latin rock and punk.

Influential Mexican punk rock band, Tijuana No!Al Schaben (Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag)

The Midniters

One of the first successful LA Chicano bands in the 1960s, they started covering pop standards and later moved on to writing songs like “Chicano Power” and “The Ballad of César Chávez” who embodied a Chicano identity.

Kid Congo Powers

Few artists in the Latin underground music scene could do better than Brian Tristan, better known as Kid Congo Powers. Whether in bands like The Gun Club, The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or in various solo projects, the guitarist and vocalist has demonstrated how rock music can gain an authentic and powerful sound from our cultural roots.


Salsa, cumbia, political activism, rock and hip hop – California-based Ozomatli ingeniously and harmoniously blends it all with a dose of ideological awareness into a contemporary Latino identity that stands out in the North American musical mosaic.


Latinos had already made their mark in rock and punk music, but when The Plugz hit the scene in the mid-1970s, their wild blend of punk sensibilities and Latino culture inspired countless others to get into the music business. multicultural musical panorama of the 1980s.

Los Crudos

An all-Latin hardcore punk band from Chicago, Los Crudos, a divisive and overtly political band, made a statement in the United States and beyond, even though the lyrics sung by Argentine singer Martin Sorrondeguy were often completely unintelligible. Their music addresses issues faced by Latin American minorities in the early 1990s: xenophobia, racism, police brutality, homophobia and segregation.

Question mark and the mysterious

Emerging from Bay City, Michigan in the early 1960s, the group is considered by many to be the first band to play “punk rock” in its most primitive form. One of the pioneers of Latin rock, this enigmatic group’s repertoire included “96 Tears”, one of the most covered songs of the 1960s. Original members Larry Borjas, Robert Balderrama, Robert Martinez, Frank Rodriguez and Rudy Martinez are now considered one of the most revered cult bands in Latino culture.

Diana J. Carleton