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Counterpunch

Latin Rock 'Purists' Don't Represent Fans

March 13, 2000|ELIA ESPARZA

In response to "A Latin Grammy Backlash" (March 4, by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez), I find the negative comments made by some of the Latin music "experts" laughable.

First, Latinos complain because they're not included in mass-market events such as the Grammy Awards. Then, somehow, through lobbying and Ricky Martin, Latino artists get major coverage in this year's Grammys, and the so-called experts start spitting their disgust. These complainers, I'm happy to report, don't represent me, nor the majority of other U.S. Latinos.

To say, as Times critic Ernesto Lechner did, that Chris Perez's win "spat in the face of rock en espan~ol" is mean-spirited and totally off-base. Perez won because he garnered the most votes among his peers in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. It wasn't a contest as to how many records he sold; it was his peers validating his work. Those complaining are having a hard time understanding how the Grammys work.

To say that Perez's music was not in the right category because his is not "purist" rock en espan~ol and because there is so much American influence in his music is simply amazing to me. Where do these critics think rock came from? Certainly not Guadalajara. Even the rock en espan~ol "purists" had to be inspired in some shape or form by American artists because rock music was invented here.

The attacks on Perez and his band are unfair and nothing more than pure jealousy. For Gustavo Santaolalla, the Mexican producer, to say that "it's seen as a joke by all of us. . . . He didn't belong in our category" is the sign of a sore loser. How dare the foreign Latin rockers discredit U.S. Latino artists and try to knock them down because they sing in English. It's ludicrous.

As for the "Texas conspiracy theory" the article speaks of, I can only assume that it stems from there being a lot of Grammy voters from that state, which would make the "purists" uncomfortable because of their long-standing disdain for the music that comes from Texas Latinos. It is no secret in the music industry that tejano music is snubbed by Mexicans, Cubans and other Caribbean music lovers. This sentiment is also reflected on the Cuban-dominated U.S. Spanish-language TV networks, where few tejano musicians are ever featured. Even the late Selena initially could not get on the Spanish-language airwaves in the United States because her music was considered tejano. It wasn't until she successfully played in Monterrey, Mexico, that it became impossible for broadcasters here to continue to ignore her music.

The reality is that there is no conspiracy, but there is a threat to the naysayers because Latino musicians from Texas are gaining ground with their own sounds. Could it be that the people most dissatisfied with this year's Grammys are finding their power waning now that American Latino artists and Latino artists from all over the world are coming together to claim their turf in the U.S.?

There are many out there who are thrilled for Perez and his music. His "Resurrection" CD is great and displays an integrity reminiscent of John Lennon and Carlos Santana. If this is a "spat in the face," then you've just spat on world legends. I think not.

Elia Esparza is editor in chief of Estylo, a Los Angeles-based celebrity, beauty and fashion magazine. She is not from Texas.

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