The Latinos Who Crushed the American Modern Rock Scene

Nov 18, 2015
9:22 AM

With all this talk about an HBO “Latin Explosion” (read our founder’s review here), we were not surprised to see that the contrived Tommy Mottola creation completely ignored the modern American rock scene of the last 40 years (besides Carlos Santana). While stars such as Ricky Martin were living in the mainstream (yawn), there were many young Latinos into alt music and modern rock. One of our Instagram posts from last night would suggest it:

Comment or like if you were a Latino kid and grew up with #altmusic.

A photo posted by Latino Rebels (@latinorebels) on

So enough with Ricky, Pitbull, JLO and Shakira (although give us alt music Shakira any day). Let’s focus on some Latino pioneers of the American modern rock scene since the 1970s:

The Mars Volta

This band from El Paso won the 2009 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Formed in 2001, the band lasted until 2012. Members of the band included Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López (Puerto Rican), Cedric Bixler-Zavala (Mexican American), Juan Alderete (Mexican) and Marcel Rodríguez-López (Puerto Rican).

The Monroes

We go back to the 1980s for this one. It is safe to say that “What Do All the People Know?” is an iconic classic of the New Wave age. The lead singer for this San Diego band? His name is Jesus “Tony” Ortiz. Watch this glorious video. Yes, that is Tony right up front.

This is what Tony told us: “My father was from Michoacán, and so was my mother’s side. I was born here in the USA.”

Dave Navarro

The legendary guitarist for Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers is of Mexican descent.

If you are a true fan of modern rock, then you would agree that Navarro’s guitar licks in “Been Caught Stealing” (1990) are as good as they can get.

Three Dog Night

The HBO documentary did feature Carlos Santana, but it forgot to mention that Chuck Negrón was the lead singer for the legendary 70s rock band. Negrón’s dad was Puerto Rican and his mom was British.

The Zeros

70s punk from Chula Vista, California. The Zeros: Javier Escovedo, Robert “El Vez” Lopez, Hector Penalosa and Baba Chenelle. By the way, the band is back.

Rage Against the Machine

Zacharias (Zack) Manuel de la Rocha, RATM’s lead singer, literally has revolutionary blood in him. de la Rocha’s grandfather fought in the Mexican Revolution and his dad was a renowned Chicano artist (his mom is of German and Irish descent). Enough said.

In 1998, de la Rocha said this:

It is important for me, as a popular artist, to make clear to the governments of the United States and Mexico that despite the strategy of fear and intimidation to foreigners, despite their weapons, despite their immigration laws and military reserves, they will never be able to isolate the Zapatista communities from the people in the United States… Through concerts, videos, interviews, broadcasting of information at concerts, and our songs’ lyrics we have placed within reach of young people, our audience, the experiences of the Zapatistas; we act as facilitators of the ways in which they can participate and put them in contact with the organization and the Zapatista support committees in the United States.

Who would you add to this list?

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