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Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture

Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    Refried Elvis
    Book Description:

    This powerful study shows how America's biggest export, rock and roll, became a major influence in Mexican politics, society, and culture. From the arrival of Elvis in Mexico during the 1950s to the emergence of a full-blown counterculture movement by the late 1960s, Eric Zolov uses rock and roll to illuminate Mexican history through these charged decades and into the 1970s. This fascinating narrative traces the rechanneling of youth energies away from political protest in the wake of the 1968 student movement and into counterculture rebellion, known asLa Onda(The Wave).Refried Elvisaccounts for the events of 1968 and their aftermath by revealing a mounting crisis of patriarchal values, linked both to the experience of modernization during the 1950s and 1960s and to the limits of cultural nationalism as promoted by a one-party state. Through an engrossing analysis of music and film, as well as fanzines, newspapers, government documents, company reports, and numerous interviews, Zolov shows how rock music culture became a volatile commodity force, whose production and consumption strategies were shaped by intellectuals, state agencies, transnational and local capital, musicians, and fans alike. More than a history of Mexican rock and roll, Zolov's study demonstrates the politicized nature of culture under authoritarianism, and offers a nuanced discussion of the effects of cultural imperialism that deepens our understanding of gender relations, social hierarchies, and the very meanings of national identity in a transnational era.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92150-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This is the story of how Mexico’s “Revolutionary Family”¹—in its political, cultural, and social manifestations—became irrevocably frayed. Because my focus is largely urban centered, and on Mexico City especially, the story is necessarily biased. By focusing on the social and cultural transformations wrought by rapid modernization during the 1950s and 1960s, it largely ignores the still overwhelming (though no longer majority) rural population in favor of an analysis of the new middle classes. Mexico’s peasantry appears, but mostly in the guise of urban migrants, the new lumpen-proletariat struggling to assert a voice from the margins. Still, the 1968...

  6. 1 Rebeldismo in the Revolutionary Family: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Early Impact on Mexican State and Society
    (pp. 17-61)

    When rhythm and blues crossed over to become rock ‘n’ roll around 1955, white youth and their parents in the United States were put on a collision course of values that set in motion important transformations in the cultural landscape of this country. When that same rhythm was imported into Mexico on the wings of transnational capital and in the suitcases of individuals traveling abroad, something similarly profound transpired. Rock ‘n’ roll became a discursive prism through which filtered the hopes, fears, and anxieties of a society undergoing rapid modernization. For many adults, the new youth culture attached to rock...

  7. 2 Containing the Rock Gesture
    (pp. 62-92)

    Despite the backlash against rock ‘n’ roll, the moralization drive under way could banish neither the demand for the new rhythm nor the yearnings of youth, who sought to follow in the footsteps of their foreign teen idols. In fact, government efforts to blockade the arrival of foreign music indirectly contributed to the emergence of a native rock ‘n’ roll product that rapidly supplanted imports. What this debate over mass media did affect, however, was the content of an emergent Mexican youth culture. By placing clear boundaries on artistic expression, the recording companies, television, radio, film, and print media collectively...

  8. 3 La Onda: Mexico’s Counterculture and the Student Movement of 1968
    (pp. 93-131)

    Precisely at a moment when the baladista movement appeared to be draining rocanrol of its driving forces, the Beatles arrived and changed everything. As elsewhere in the world, the British invasion of Mexico signaled a definitive shift in the musical direction of rock ‘n’ roll toward what increasingly became known simply asrock. Musical composition and performance style changed dramatically, as a new level of competition swept across the Atlantic and raised the stakes of teenage tastes. Pushed aside were crooners and twisters alike, replaced with the more irreverent postures of the new rockers. In Mexico, once again the association...

  9. 4 La Onda in the Wake of Tlatelolco
    (pp. 132-166)

    After the massacre there was, in a fundamental sense, nowhere for youth to turn to but La Onda. As the student movement had been creatively informed by the changing sensibilities of youth, in turn La Onda was itself transformed from a fashion statement and middle-class struggle within the home into a more broadly based expression of protest unavoidably grounded in the political events of that summer and fall. Despite the increasingly commercialized aspects of the counterculture (marketing a countercultural aesthetic was still profitable), for many La Onda was given new meaning after 1968. In the aftermath of Tlatelolco, the counterculture...

  10. 5 La Onda Chicana: The Reinvention of Mexico’s Countercultural Community
    (pp. 167-200)

    As Echeverría’s campaign for the presidency began, an important shift was already transpiring in Mexican rock toward the creation of original music, but still written and performed in English. This time, however, bands encountered the full support of the recording industry, especially the transnationals that had come to embrace the rapidly growing market for rock. Disparaging of refritos and fusiles alike, these original recordings reflected a fusion of rhythmic and visual sensibilities that combined elements of Mexican and Latin American culture interpreted through the lens of the counterculture abroad. Such a fusion, which heralded the musical liberation of La Onda...

  11. 6 The Avándaro Rock Festival
    (pp. 201-233)

    In September 1971, just three months after the deadly paramilitarist attack by the halcones on protesters in Mexico City and nearly three years to the day after the government-orchestrated massacre of students and workers at Tlatelolco, Mexico became the first Latin American country to present its own rock-music festival, popularly known as Avándaro. The concert drew more than 200,000 participants from across the country, and it clearly marked the commercial apex of La Onda Chicana.¹ But if the cultural industries hoped to emulate the marketing success of Woodstock, a societal backlash in the aftermath of Avándaro all but halted continued...

  12. 7 A Critique of the “Obvious Imperialist”: The USIA
    (pp. 234-248)

    The U.S. Information Agency was an obvious target for leftist criticism throughout Latin America, and the agency’s relationship to music makes an analysis relevant. As a 1970 document produced by the Argentine group Anti-Imperialist Front of Cultural Workers stated: “All musical activity, whether it concerns composition, instrumentation, education, or promotion, is severely controlled by the imperialist enemy.”¹ The group specifically accused the USIA of organizing events and sponsoring fellowships that influenced patterns of musical perception and production. But a broader, cultural strategy was also at stake: “The imperialist enemy has comprehended for a long time the necessity of endowing a...

  13. Conclusions
    (pp. 249-260)

    For nearly a decade after the Avándaro music festival the rock legacy of La Onda Chicana lay shattered, which is not to say that native rock disappeared altogether. Gone was the momentum of a countercultural movement that had begun to reveal its numbers. In the aftermath of Avándaro, the scores of native bands looking for commercial success either broke up or switched genres—as in the case of the famed La Revoluciόn de Emiliano Zapata, whose remaining members took up cumbia. Several bands did hold together for a few more years, though only Three Souls in My Mind remained viable...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 261-318)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 319-338)
  16. Permission Credits
    (pp. 339-340)
  17. Index
    (pp. 341-350)