Rock en Español Evolution: The Latin Rock Movement Throughout the Years and Its Timeless Masterpieces

Getty Images; Design by Jessica Xie
From left: Carlos Santana, Fher & Gustavo Cerati

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Billboard gathered 20 songs that best recap the Rock en Español genre evolution.

The Latin Rock scene has blessed us with timeless pieces that make us sing our lungs out at concerts, jump up and down with a group of friends at clubs, or simply transport us to another state of mind.

Many Latinos, myself included, will always feel a special connection with songs that have transcended generations such as “La Ingrata,” “Musica Ligera,” and “Clavado en un Bar," because after all, they get the party lit. But before the Manas and Cafe Tacvbas of today, “Rock en Español” was an entire world waiting to be discovered in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

One of the first pioneers of the genre was Chicano rock artist Ritchie Valens, who adapted a Mexican folk song and fused it with rock melodies, releasing “La Bamba” in 1958. Due to the song’s success, Mexico became one of the first countries to introduce the new wave of Latin American rockers, such as Teen Tops. We can also owe part of the genre’s birth to The Beatles, who with their rock-and-roll songs inspired many aspiring bands in countries such as Argentina, Spain, Peru, and Brazil.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana formed Santana, bringing to the forefront not only their music style that fused Latin American and Caribbean rhythms but also the Chicano Rock movement. It was then, in the ‘70s, that the genre was coined as "Latin Rock." During that same decade, Argentines Charly Garcia and Luis Alberto Spinetta became two of the key artists that formed the “Rock en Español” movement, opening the doors to many popular acts today.

Experimenting with pop, new wave, heavy metal, and punk, the genre boomed in the ‘80s with the formation of bands such as Heroes del Silencio (Spain), Hombres G (Spain), Los Prisioneros (Chile), Soda Stereo (Argentina), Caifanes (Mexico), and Enanitos Verdes (Argentina). Rock en Español began to get international notice towards the end of the ‘80s and early ‘90s when bands such as Aterciopelados (Colombia), Cafe Tacvba (Mexico), La Ley (Chile), Bersuit Vergarabat (Argentina), and Mana (Mexico) came out to play.

Although the genre was at its peak during this decade, a new wave of rock artists continued to revolutionize the genre while changing the game. This is around the time that Molotov (Mexico) introduced us to their unapologetic rap rock, Los Amigos Invisibles (Venezuela) began to make us dance with their “pura gozadera," Illya Kuryaki and the Valderrama (Argentina) blessed us with their cool funk, Maldita Vecindad (Mexico) made us kick and jump to their ska punk, and Robi Draco Rosa (Puerto Rico) presented us to his soulful indie jams.

Fast forward to today, in a world that is primarily dominated by reggaeton and Latin Trap, artists such as Shakira, Juanes, Julieta Venegas Bomba Estereo, Bacilos, Moderatto, Zoe, Kinky, and Natalia Lafourcade continue to keep Rock en Español alive with their own unique twists.

Check out 20 timeless songs that best sum up the Rock en Español genre evolution.

1. Ritchie Valens - "La Bamba"

2. Santana - "Black Magic Woman"

3. Luis Alberto Spinetta - "Muchacha Ojos de Papel"

4. Alaska y Dinarama - "Ni Tu Ni Nadie"

5. Soda Stereo - "Cuando Pase El Temblor"

6. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - "Matador"

7. Los Prisioneros - "Tren Al Sur"

8. Heroes del Silencio - "Maldito Duende"

9. Mana - "Oye Mi Amor"

10. Enanitos Verdes - "Lamento Boliviano"

11. Cafe Tacvba - "La Ingrata"

12. Aterciopelados - "Florecita Rokera"

13. La Ley ft. Ely Guerra - "El Duelo"

14. Pedro Suarez Vertiz - "Globos del Cielo"

15. Molotov - "Puto"

16. Shakira - "Inevitable"

17. Juanes - "A Dios Le Pido"

18. Robi Draco Rosa - "Mas y Mas"

19. Los Amigos Invisibles - "Mentiras"

20. Natalia Lafourcade - "Hasta La Raiz"

Hispanic Heritage Month