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The angst and protest qualities of punk music and style have had a strong appeal to Latino youth in the U.S., and to the people in Latin America. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact location or moment when Latinos began engaging in the punk subculture. However, Latin American rock began showing aspects of punk music during the mid-1960s with the Peruvian band Los Saicos; this band reflected many aspects of other proto-punk bands such as the Yardbirds. The Saicos were predecessors to some of the most influential proto-punk bands in the U.S., such as New York Dolls, MC5, and The Stooges Johnny Thunders (John Anthony Genzale, Jr) of the seminal New York Dolls, who also played with The Heartbreakers and the Waldos, was of Latino descent and very clearly played Latin-influenced scales on some of his tracks (e.g. King of the Gypsies).
Punk music began engaging a wider variety of artists and audience in the late 1970s and 1980s, either in Latin America or in the U.S. By the mid-1970s, the aesthetics promoted by glam rock in the United Kingdom had created a social gap between the audience and the artist. The punk scene that began to sprout during that era shared more commonalities with the youth audience, while still retaining some attributes from glam rock.
Punk music presented itself as the voice for white teenage angst, without the arrogance and verbosity of glam rock. The punk genre rooted itself in a music and style that created by the working class without the intellectual posturing of its previous genres. It was a genre created by and for the white working class in the United Kingdom. During the late 1970s, punk's social basis for creating commonalities with its fans, and its integration of style and instruments from reggae allowed for punk bands of different ethnicities to integrate themselves into the social scene in the United Kingdom.
In the late 1970s, many punk bands began appearing in Los Angeles, among them many Latino and Chicano punks like The Plugz, The Bags, The Zeros, Los Illegals, Los Angelinos, Odd Squad, Felix and the Katz, the Stains, and The Brat. Most of these bands did not consider themselves Latino punk bands, but artists challenging the mainstream just like their non-Latino peers.
However, in the late 1970s Latino/Chicano punks in East L.A began organizing gigs in their own communities. These bands were part of a punk movement called The East Side Renaissance, who dedicated themselves to bringing to light the local Chicano/Latino bands in their own neighborhoods.
Latin American/Chicano hardcore punk
The Latino hardcore punk scene in the U.S. exploded during the 1990s due to all the political issues facing Latinos, such as Prop 187, NAFTA and the Zapatista Uprising. Policies that specifically targeted the Latino community all across the U.S. during the 90s pushed Latinos and Latinas to begin singing and writing hardcore punk as a form of angst and protest. Bands from cites like New York, Chicago, El Paso, Texas, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, New Mexico had prominent hardcore Latino punk bands in the 1990s. Among the most notable Latino hardcore punk bands were:
- Los Crudos
- Arma Contra Arma
- Tras de Nada
- Youth Against
- No Less
- Kontra Attaque
- Life’s Halt
- Logical Nonsense
In contrast to their white punk peers, these bands were discriminated against for singing about the struggles of minorities that whites did not want to hear about. Latino hardcore punk bands began to sing about the direct problems that they, their families, and their Latino communities were facing. The themes of these problems were the violation of immigrant rights; particularly the abuse of Latino immigrant workers.
1970s Latin American punk
Little known outside Latin America, Latin punk was a huge sensation among teens in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico during the 1970s. These countries shared a history of dictatorship, poverty and political oppression, about which these Latin American teens began to sing and play, about adversity and oppression that they had lived and suffered under. In the late 1970s, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil all had popular punk bands well-established within their circuits. In both Mexico and Argentina specifically the punk scene was large due to affluent youth who had the means to obtain the music of bands from the United Kingdom and the U.S.
- In Brazil on the other hand, Douglas Viscaino was interested in the ideology of the youth revolting against the military regime of the nation. Bands such as his Restos de Nada, Coquetel Molotov (from Rio de Janeiro), AI-5, and N.A.I were among the founders of Brazilian punk.
- In Argentina, the punk scene depended in the ability to travel and gain knowledge of the punk scene, due to the military regime's media censorship. Bands such as Los Testiculos, Los Violadores, and others who cemented punk in Argentina were followed by bands like Los Baraja, Alerta Roja, Comando Suicida, Los Inadaptables, and Trixy y Los Maniaticos.
- The original punk bands of Mexico, such as Size, Salida, Ritmo Peligroso and others, began playing music completely in English, alienating them from the mass marginalized youth of their nation. Yet in the north of Mexico punk was largely racialized with heavy influence from the United States. The 1980s would become the true fulfillment of punk in Latin America.
1980s Latin American punk
By the 1980s punk was well established in multiple nations of Latin America. Punk became a form of resistance among the youth of Latin America, in which they spoke against the establishment of their countries, which was completely dangerous. For in Chile during the 1970s the separation of rock music, and musician was one of the key points the dictatorship focused on overpowering. The youth followed the ideology of DIY, in order to create space in which created and alternative to their livelihoods.
Punk in Mexico
Mexican punk had more similar roots to that of 1970s based on the fact that marginalized minorities were beginning to participate and perform. It was during this time that bands such as Massacre 68 and Rebel’d began to emerge. Rebel'd was one of the most important bands, often considered the Ramones of Mexico, and has played with multiple bands such as the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. In the late 1980s bands such as Espécimen and Masacre 68 were key factors in the hardcore scene.
Punk in Colombia
In Colombia punk emerged amid national unrest, during an era in which there was a major war between narco-traffickers and the government of Colombia. Complot was one of the earliest bands there, and got its start playing covers of bands such as the Clash, the Buzzcocks and others. Within the realms of hardcore-punk La Pestilencia and Mougue emerged as the main contenders in the style in Colombia to date. The epicenter of punk in Colombia was Bogotá with bands such as Chite and Area 12; but Colombia’s peripheries also had popular bands.
Punk in Peru
Peru is especially important to the Latino punk genre, with significant contributions in the mid-1960s with Los Saicos. Los Saicos played a key role in the genre of punk, being considered at times the first real punk band. The 1987 documentary El Grito Subterraneo (The Underground Scream), presented interviews of youth in the movement, and outside officials trying to understand the movement, as well as performances in Peru at the time, such as Voz propia, Leusemia, Eutanasia, Kaos, Flema, Narcosis, Maria Teta, Empujon Brutal, Sinkura, Guerrilla Urbana, and others.
Punk in Brazil
Brazil was producing mixtapes in the early 1980s with a hardcore sound, as well as an early punk festivals. Yet in the mid-1980s, between punks, skinheads, and metal head, punk began to take an early post-punk turn, with bands such as Inocentes, Mercenárias and 365.
- Los Saicos Documentary
- History of Los Violodores
- Emperismo demo
- GRITO SUBTERRÁNEO, el video. Versión completa
- Official Especimen webpage
- vice.com. "Was punk rock born in Peru?". Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- Hebdige, Dick (1979). "Bleached Roots: Punks and White Ethnicity". Subculture, the Meaning of Style. London: Methuen. pp. 62–72.
- Martin Sorrondeguy (1991). Mas Alla De Los Gritos (Beyond the Screams).
- "Alerta Roja". Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- shit-fi.com. "Ritmo Peligroso". Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- Julio Montero (1987). El Grito Subterráneo. Maximumrocknroll.
- Musicbrainz info on Especimen https://musicbrainz.org/artist/3fc51e2b-bb90-47fa-b2ed-75bbdec23e67
- Tiusaba, Marcelo S (23 August 2012). "La improbable historia del punk rock (Colombia)". Anti and Roll: Espacio Dedicado Al Rock Latinoamericano. Blogspot.
- "Area 12 | | Bandas de Colombia". metalymetal.com. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
- Maximum RockNRoll (September 25, 2012). "Peruvian punk documentaries: El Grito Subterráneo y Lima Explota". Retrieved October 10, 2015.