BREAK IT ALL: The History of Rock in Latin America
Some might wonder why Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated when it is (September 15 to October 15). It started out as Hispanic Heritage Week in the 1960s, and its start date of mid-September relates to the number of Latin American countries that mark their national day of independence around this time (including Mexico, most Central American countries, and Chile). It was expanded to a monthlong celebration in 1989 and has only grown in popularity and influence since then. One of the most powerful forms of artistic freedom of expression in the 20th century was rock and roll—and not only in the English-speaking world. The Netflix docuseries BREAK IT ALL: The History of Rock in Latin America traces the way the musical art form took hold in the region and evolved in extraordinary and surprising ways.
In a sense, it all started with Ritchie Valens and his signature song, “La Bamba.” Released in 1958, the song is an adaptation of a Mexican folk song from the state of Veracruz. Its popularity was not only a sign of acceptance and celebration of Hispanic culture, but also a reflection of the type of genre-blending that would become standard practice for future Spanish-speaking rock musicians.
“La Bamba” and, only a few years later, the Beatles were enormous influences on the burgeoning rock scenes across Latin America. What began with attempts to recreate the sound and culture of English-speaking rock music quickly became a distinct art form. Groups such as Uruguay’s Los Shakers and Argentina’s Los Beatniks demonstrated that so much more could be accomplished than covers of Beatles songs. Rock en español, as it has come to be known, was born.
In the 1970s, as governments in various Latin American nations cracked down on freedom of expression and anything countercultural, rock en español took on political—even spiritual—overtones as a response to repression. Each of the docuseries’ six episodes covers about a decade of history, and the storytelling moves quickly to do justice to such an expansive topic. The fourth episode, “Rock in Our Own Language,” is a standout, as it documents the rise of Argentina’s Soda Stereo, one of the most beloved and successful Latin American rock bands to emerge from the 1980s. The genius of the group’s principal songwriter, the late Gustavo Cerati, is on full display, and it’s clear how much the music world lost when he passed away in 2014. BREAK IT ALL is an engaging and fun history lesson that reminds viewers that art is a conversation, an exchange of values, and a unifying force in society. TV-MA
For the past 30 years, the Latino USA radio program has been keeping listeners informed and engaged with news and cultural happenings from the Hispanic world. In keeping with the changing landscape of media, Latino USA is also a podcast. The radio program has been honored with a Peabody Award, and anchor Maria Hinojosa recently received a Pulitzer Prize for her work in a seven-part podcast titled Suave.
The series of podcast episodes takes its name from the central subject, David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez, a man who served 30 years in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder. Hinojosa’s friendship with Suave, a gritty glimpse into prison life, and Suave’s eventual release and second chance at life all combine for a riveting listening experience.
Although Latino USA will likely appeal to Hispanic listeners, it’s a show for everyone, as it provides an unfiltered look at topics including undocumented immigration, music, cuisine, and religion. It’s a great resource for non-Hispanics looking to gain insight into the variety of cultures and customs of the Latino world—both here in the United States and abroad. Hinojosa’s gift for storytelling and passion for journalism are infectious, and the variety of content keeps Latino USA consistently fresh and engrossing.
Start listening at LatinoUSA.org or via audio streaming services such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.