This dissertation argues that through their songs, articles, and spatial manifestations, Rock Angelino participants claimed themselves as part of Los Angeles, pushed against the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the 1990s, and advocated for equality and social justice in the U.S. and Latin America.
The cultural production generated by Rock Angelino participants is a new point of intervention in current historical research focusing on 1990s Los Angeles. It permits us to understand crucial aspects of the 1992-1997 critical period, during which the urban insurrection of Abril 1992 unfolded. During this era, the California electorate approved anti-immigrant Proposition 187, affirmative action in state institutions was repealed with the passage of Proposition 209, and Proposition 227 was approved, eliminating most bilingual education in public schools. By centering the L.A. youth culture that derived from Latin American Rock en Español, this study analyzes how the region’s Latinas/os responded to these legislative assaults by developing a more encompassing understanding of ethnic identity and solidarity as Latinas/os, and crucially, how through their cultural production they pushed against the xenophobia directed at them during this explosive period.
Chapter One focuses on a group of Mexican American young women who became key facilitators of Rock en Español between Los Angeles and Latin America. By creating transnational social networks of cultural circulation, these women were engaging in a form of ethnic replenishment through Latin American cultural expressions. Chapter Two examines what I term “ephemeral forums” to consider the creation of communal spaces by youth whose presence in L.A. was ambiguous due to their marginal socioeconomic position and/or their unsettled migratory state. Chapter Three analyzes do-it-yourself print publications created and read by Latinas/os. The examination of these publications provides more nuanced views of how Latinas/os understood and chronicled their lives in Southern California. The final chapter examines the lyrics and actions of 1990s Rock Angelino bands as strategic, symbolic, and spatial manifestations of solidarity and visibility for urban Latinas/os and cultural producers, which compels us to broaden our understanding of Latinas/os beyond their roles as laborers, immigrants, or social activists.