At the dawn of the Latin alt burst in 1998, a Newsweek cover story announced “Se Habla Rock and Roll? You Will Soon,” and a year later the New York Times predicted Latin alternative was “Approaching Its Final Border.” But by 2005, the Los Angeles Times’ Agustin Gurza compared the Latin boom to an exploding rocket that breaks apart halfway into orbit.
But no matter how many times Mexico’s Café Tacuba held court in front of the gentle mosh pits of Irving Plaza, or local bands such as Los Amigos Invisibles proved that funk, pop, disco, salsa, merengue and occasional bouts of thrash metal could hold everyone together on the dance floor, there was something missing. The energy that came from Latin America, which had produced most of the significant bands, was not duplicated in American cities.
Latin alternative settled back into a niche accessed by the mainstream only in a rare NPR moment, while driving to New England to see the fall foliage. [Ricky] Martin has settled into life as a father; Shakira reinvents herself as part-stripper, part-philanthropist; [Marc] Anthony got a gig playing a cop on TV; and J-Lo, well, you know where she is.
How did this happen? Certainly the immediate atmosphere after the 9/11 attacks was characterized by the mainstream’s distancing from cultures from outside its borders. Although the decade began with Barnes and Noble and other booksellers offering extensive selections of books in Spanish, by its end more and more politicians called for English to be the country’s official language. And earlier this year, the Grammy awards dropped 31 categories, including Latin jazz and traditional world music.
- From “After the Latin Bubble Burst,” by Ed Morales, New Jersey Star-Ledger