This just in on the revolution: Not only will it be televised, it's also going to wear a tartan skirt, pogo to a dance-pop beat and speak Spanish.
"Re-Bel-De! Re-Bel-De! Re-Bel-De!"
This fevered chant roared through Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday as tens of thousands of Latino faces glowed with something like religious devotion. Helicopters swooped overhead. Preteen girls screamed in unison with no provocation. Strobing glow sticks flickered in the crisp darkness.
\f7It was the kind of reception that would typically greet World Cup champions or the pope. But what could have been a scene in a Costa-Gavras movie actually was the launch of the next phase of Latin culture's current crossover explosion: RBD, a mainstream Mexican pop group on the opening night of its first U.S. tour (or invasion, depending on your feelings about prepackaged singing sensations that inspire smoke machines and synchronized dancing).
And the group's north-of-the-border fans were ecstatic in their anticipation. Even though it was hailing.
Yes, three minutes before showtime, as the stage lights finally dimmed and an ear-splitting cheer erupted, it began to drizzle. A minute later it was pouring. A minute after that, pellets of ice were clanging off the folding chairs like a drum roll.
But when Anahi, Dulce, Maite, Alfonso, Christian and Christopher -- the group's impossibly energetic and attractive 19- to 23-year-old singers -- finally appeared 20 minutes later and launched into their anthem-like title number, the anomalous weather seemed like just another special effect. Fireworks plumed behind them, flashbulbs stuttered through the stands, and the entire crowd sang along from the first lyric. A young girl leaned into the song, her face blissful, rain dripping off her pigtails.
RBD was spun off from "Rebelde," a daily serial TV show set at a privileged high school in Mexico City that has become an international phenomenon since it launched in 2004. When some of the characters decided to form a singing group on the show, out sprung the real-life RBD. They've released just two studio albums in the last 13 months but have already sold 3.5 million records worldwide, according to their manager (about 600,000 of those in the States, Nielsen SoundScan reports).
They're doing the theme song for Mexico's national soccer team. Their merchandising is everywhere. They have a movie in the pipeline. Hard-core fans (and there are a lot of them) sing to their songs in the car, talk about the show obsessively.
Cousins Jocelyne, 9, Mary, 13, Viridiala, 14, and Leslie, 10, are "big, big, big, big, big fans." They watch the show. They dance to the CDs at home.
"We had to beg for tickets," says Jocelyne. Mary had to make a deal with her parents to get good grades this semester. When Alfonso's face appears on the Videotron above the stage, they start shrieking.
Is he good-looking? "Yeah!" they shout in unison, with attendant giggles and eye rolls.
The girls are also all dressed in the uniform. Just about every prepubescent girl -- some are practically prenatal -- came proudly adorned in the signature style of the TV show: tartan skirt, black knee-high boots, white shirt, red tie, \o7gorra \f7saucily perched on their heads, some with the optional "Rebelde" red and white headband.
Many fans reference "the new Menudo" when talking about RBD, but given the fashion element, the cultural touchstone here is really "boy toy"-era Madonna. (Seen from another angle, the Catholic schoolgirl aesthetic trips memories of Van Halen and Motley Crue videos, but let's move on, shall we?) Some sport glitter on their eyelids, and four teenage girls walk by with the RBD school crest/group insignia stenciled across their foreheads.
Maria Garcia, 9, came from Montebello with her father, Guillermo, who brought her in a taxi to see her favorite group. "She plays them all week, all day," he says with something like a sigh. This is her first concert. "It is so cool," she beams before throwing her arms up to pass on the wave. Her favorite? You guessed it: Alfonso.
During the show, several of the singers made short speeches that harnessed this goodwill. Alfonso pointed at the crowd, noting this "historic event" for Latin Americans everywhere. A gigantic Mexican flag fluttered over the stage. Maybe the young girls were here for Alfonso, but the older kids and parents were jubilant with ethnic pride.
Laura, 19, who tries to engineer her Cal State Fullerton classes around "Rebelde's" 3 p.m. airtime on Univision, frantically tried to get tickets on EBay, where even the general admission tickets had hit $200. "For Spanish culture, this is, like, the biggest thing right now," she says. "All my little cousins and nieces, you see them walking around in the suits and their little skirts. That's in."
"To see young people make it, it's just like, 'Whoa, if they made it, then possibly us going to school and graduating from college, we can make it as well,' " says her friend Miguel, a 21-year-old Cal State Northridge student.
\o7La revolucion \f7is already grooming the next generation: Jocelyn has staked out prime territory right in front of the stage, and she's not moving. She looks up wide-eyed and rapt, dressed in the full get-up -- cap, tie, skirt, boots -- as she watches Maite strut her hip-shaking stuff. According to her mother, Lilia, she's been waiting for weeks to see this.
Jocelyn is 2.
It's a good guess Alfonso is her favorite.