Meanwhile in Mexico
Rock n’ Roll, the musical style and movement that birthed modern music. Born in the USA in the early 1950s with roots in African Music, Blues and Gospel, and destined to forever change the way we listen to music. Rock n Roll arrived like a storm changing everything on its path, the music of youth and rebellion, with icons like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly amongst others. It inspired an entire generation to create their own music and to evolve the genre into endless possibilities forever changing the way we create and listen to music… But what about other countries? Ever wondered how has Rock n’ Roll affected different places on earth?
beginnings, Rock n Roll has never been popular with authority, and in
Mexico it was no different. Rock n Roll has always been an expression
of freedom and rebellion which to the government was nothing more
than an all-out assault on tradition and morality, a violation of the
ideological foundations of a country that has always been highly
catholic with little to no separation between church and state. Rock
n Roll was an explosion of youth expression a very strong contrast
with the generations that came before that moment, and with it came
new fashion, miniskirts and tight jeans, colorful shirts and long
hair…it was definitely not something the government of Mexico was
prepared to allow and it soon begun to link this new movement to
immorality, depravity and even satanism.
Rock n Roll became public enemy number one and since the government owned and controlled all media, the president at the time Miguel Aleman Valdez and the Regent Uruchurtu launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate this new movement of Rock n Roll that was a danger to society. Places called “Cafe Cantante” which were dedicated to playing Rock and Roll became illegal and closed down. Most shops and restaurants adopted policies that would not allow long hair or immoral clothes in their premises…imagine the town of Footloose but as an entire country.
For the next decade, Mexico was under authoritarian rule. Young people were expected to submit and obey without question, any expression of rebellion as small as it was could be seen as a threat to the state and would be silenced, this included freedom of speech and any dispute against the ruling powers. The government begun to forbid gatherings of young people justifying this act as a threat to national security.
In 1971 during the boom of psychedelic rock in USA and England, Mexico was still behind, with two decades of prohibition of Rock n Roll the youth was restless. Two young impresarios decided to organize a car race in the town of Avandaro and figured it would be a nice moment to promote some healthy concert featuring Rock n Roll. Well the word spread like fire through Mexico about this event. A nation thirsty for Rock n Roll couldn’t care less about car races but they traveled long and wide to attend this Rock festival that would later be known as Mexican Woodstock. An estimate of 500,000 people showed up to the festival…the music starts and people loose it. Decades of oppression go up in smoke in a couple songs, people dance and have the times of their lives…some sets into the concert and people start chanting “tenemos el poder” (we’ve got the power) The government was not cool with that.
When the festival ended, the government took to the media again to satanize the festival, all headlines read SEX, DRUGS, RIOTS, FRENZY, WILDNESS! And from that moment the Rock prohibition comes back stronger than the first time around. Radio and Television were forbidden to broadcast the music, it became illegal to listen to Rock n Roll or dress like a Rocker, police were allowed to detain, arrest and eventually brutalize any “rockers” they found on the streets, being a rocker was outlawed and you could go to jail…or worse. It was a complete blackout for Rock n Roll in the entire country.
But like anytime anything becomes illegal…it will find a way to thrive, and in Mexico that came in the way of “Hoyos Fonqui” (Funky Holes) Illegal places where people would gather to play and listen to Rock. These places were often somebody’s garage or an abandoned house, some construction site, a warehouse or literally any damn place where you could hide from authority to get your music on. Unlawful places where anyone could go and some even profited from this by selling beer in plastic bags or any substance you could think of. Oftentimes even bent cops would assist these concerts selling whatever they had confiscated earlier or charging for the concert as if they owned the place. Every once and then the real police would raid these places arresting hundreds of people at once.
It took 15 years for Rock n Roll to become accepted into Mexican society. In 1986 a publicity campaign called “Rock en tu Idioma” (Rock in your language) begun to promote Rock and Roll in Mexico for the first time. A great number of Mexican rock bands begun to surge…only thirty years after the rest of the world had lived through this movement.
To date there is a delay in modern musical styles in Mexico as several stages and sub-genres of Rock never had the time to thrive in the country where the music was prohibited for so long.