This Instagram Is An Archive of Rock en Español’s Golden Years in Los Angeles

Courtesy of Rock Archivo LA

For those of us who have spent a lifetime immersed in rock, the neglect we face as Latinx fans is all too familiar. It’s clear that our community’s contributions to the canon are often neglected. But instead of just observing a sad reality, some diehard fans are making an effort to preserve and uncover the history of one of the most important rock en español scenes in the U.S. That’s the case for Jorge N. Leal, the founder of Rock Archivo L.A., an Instagram-based project where he posts old flyers, photos, zines, ticket stubs, and more visual artifacts from the 90s and early 00s Los Angeles scene. At the time, it was dominated by Latinxs, who were inspired by the broader movement that started in the mid-80s in Argentina and Mexico. Rock Archivo L.A. is both a trip down memory lane and a treasure trove waiting to be explored by curious fans.

In a Skype interview with Remezcla, Leal explains the importance of archiving this history. “In terms of the punk scene and other Anglo-Saxon scenes in the U.S., they have the time and the knowledge to document, but it hasn’t happened in POC scenes. If we don’t document our stories, there are two dangers: That it doesn’t get documented or it gets completely distorted. We [become] a footnote or reference when we were active participants. We [deny] ourselves the credit and I think it’s something we do as Latin Americans because we think that history is something that happens in buildings in Europe, and if it happens in our country, it’s in palacios de gobierno. But no, we actually are central participants of how we understand the societies that we live in,” he says.

Leal might just be the perfect man for the job. A scholar working on his Ph.D. dissertation, Leal was born in Guadalajara, México, but migrated to Los Angeles in the early 90s. Having lived through the big rock en español boom, he became a fan before moving to the U.S. After settling in L.A., he discovered a scene of Latinx kids playing their version of rock en español, leading him to find a spiritual home. He spent most of his free time at shows “because it was not only a way to preserve but try to define my identity, to find out who I was as a Latinx immigrant in Los Angeles at the time.” In 1999, he decided to try his hand at promoting, working under the names Eclectica and Implacable Productions, though he seized operations in 2005.

“They have the time and the knowledge to document, but it hasn’t happened in POC scenes.”

Fast forward to the 2010s. Leal was working on his dissertation and entertained the idea of writing a chapter about the scene he was a part of, which led him to his collection of flyers. “Soon I realized that what was happening with rock angelino in the late 90s had a lot of historic connections to the moment: the moment of globalization in Mexico, the so-called democratic aperture, the end of dictatorship in Latin America, the nativist anti-immigrant sentiment in California with Proposition 187, and the Zapatista uprising. These are the contours of what people were saying and mobilizing [around] and just thinking about when they were going to the shows. By connecting it to a larger history, not only do we see the importance of those shows, but rock angelino defined us as a very important cultural production.” The insight led him to consider uploading his collection of artifacts to Facebook, but inspired by Guadalupe Rosales’ Veteranas y Rucas account, he decided Instagram would make for a better home.

As time passes, it’s easy to let context fall through the cracks. That’s why Rock Archivo LA feels so important. The scene was not a small enclave, but a thriving movement, connected to other cities like Tijuana and Mexicali. “In that golden era, you had shows that had at least 500 people. You had bands like Los Olvidados, María Fatal, and Juana La Loca, which became Pastilla. Los Abandoned too. It was exciting because there was nothing to build on. They were starting something new, but with different connections around the world, even getting mainstream attention thanks to Rolling Stone and Spin. There were other bands like punk, goth…Los Crudos was a band that was kind of in that constellation. Atoxxxico came, Síndrome del Punk came, and so on and so on. This was a moment between the late 90s and 2001 when the border was not as regulated as it became in 2001, when every band needed a work visa.”

In the future, he hopes to post more videos and interviews with people involved in the scene. He’s also plotting a book and multimedia version of the account, hoping to have the archive live in an institution where they can digitize and preserve the historical artifacts. “This archive definitely should live in an institutional archive, because we don’t have the presence as Latinos or POC in institutional archives [or] university archives.”

Still, Jorge believes it’s critical to understand the grassroots importance of this movement. “I think it’s key for us to give ourselves credit that we’re part of these youth scenes and we have a longer history. I think it’s critical because that way we can have clearer connections as Latinxs.”

Follow Rock Archivo LA on Instagram.