Las Ondas de José Agustín: Remembering La Onda through the literature of José Agustín and La Onda roquera (rock’n’roll in México)
Roberto Avant-Mier
Spring 2005

Author’s note: A previous version of this essay was presented at the second annual EMP Pop Music Conference in Seattle, Washington in April 2003. 


The late 1950s and early 1960s saw a new form of popular music that took the world by storm, and México was no exception. The impact of rock’n’roll music was so profound that not even Mexican society, with its strict codes of conduct and behavior deeply rooted in Catholicism as well as its aversion to U.S. cultural imperialism and “Americano” influence on their youth, could not escape the influence of this new transnational music. México’s first wave of rock’n’roll came to be known as “La Onda”. In Spanish, “onda” translates as “wave”. Street slang usage would mean something like “the vibe”, “the scene”, or “the new style”, and can be heard when a person asks the question “¿Que onda?” (“What’s new?” or, “What’s going on?”). When La Onda in México began to happen, one of its greatest proponents would be José Agustin. Agustín, renowned Mexican author and the first Mexican rock journalist, has written numerous books and countless newspaper and magazine articles on the subject of rock music. Interestingly, La Onda roquera (the rock’n’roll wave in México) was not only the subject of many of Agustín’s professional journalistic writing, but rock’n’roll would come to manifest itself in the language of Agustin’s writing and in the dialogue of his subjects, even when he was writing novels and fiction that one might assume had nothing at all to do with rock’n’roll music. With other Mexican authors, Agustín was part of a new style of writing that also came to be known as Onda (a new wave in Mexican literature).


For the first time in Mexican literature and perhaps in all Latin-American literature, characters were written in various scenes with seemingly insignificant details like playing “rocanrol” records in their apartment. Drawn in the complex colors of their youth, they were shown discussing musicians at length, and telling each other stories of going to Rolling Stones concerts. Some listened to rock music and used it to torment their family. Others would form friendships and relationships in which they would conjure up socialist manifestos and declare that “everybody must get stoned” and, of course, listen to Bob Dylan. While much of Agustín’s early writing was closely associated with rock’n’roll music in journalism and documenting the counterculture, the connection between “rocanrol” and José Agustín is perhaps better reserved for the literary genre which he helped to create. The rock’n’roll wave, or “la onda roquera”, which Agustín always represented so well in his many books, demanded a different style of writing that the Mexican public had never before seen. His mastery of dialogue, street slang, playful rhyme, sarcasm, vulgarity, popular culture allusion, and inclusion of North American English euphemisms pointed to an identification with everything that was the new wave and suggested a hybridized and transnational identity.


Worth noting anecdotally at this point, is the fact that the literature of José Agustín is not something I was personally familiar with until recently.  My research into Mexican and Latino/a [i]  rock currents has come about as the product of my interest in popular music as a medium of mass communication, mass ideology, and mass and individual identity.  At the same time my current investigations have resulted from the fact that I married a Mexican woman. A U.S. resident before she met me, my wife was born and raised in northern México where somewhere along they way she was exposed to the literature of José Agustín. She remembers that it was through her father, a Mexican cowboy and at the same time an intellectual type who has spent a great deal of his life resisting the hegemony of North American culture.  He still lives in the mountains of Chihuahua, México’s largest state, and my wife was holding his old books for him when I began to discover his passion for classical music, history, marxist critique, counter-culture, and Onda writers like José Agustín, Parménides García Saldaña, Gustavo Saínz, and others who were more or less connected for various reasons such as Carlos Castañeda, Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsivaís, and Elena Poniatowska.


What was striking to me in these conversations with her was the fact that I, growing up in Texas as a U.S. citizen, had never heard of José Agustín. Nor had I ever been taught anything about the literary movement, Onda, with which he is associated. Oftentimes, one can simply chalk such a situation up to the fact that José Agustín is a Mexican author. Frankly, it seems to me very rare that citizens of the U.S. are ever exposed to literature or popular culture from countries other than the U.S. College and university students are often exposed to the wonderful canon of English departments that always includes Shakespeare and other great white men.  In advanced classes, it may happen that senior students and graduate students will be exposed to an expanded literary canon that might include a few famous Latin-American authors. However, famous Latin-American writers like Pablo Neruda, Ruben Darío, and Gabriel García Marquez, are not often part of curriculum for primary education in the U.S. and often just as rare in college or university course schedules. While some programs in California’s colleges or universities might actually do so, it seems fair to say that in the U.S. such a thing is surely the exception rather than the rule.  My previous ignorance of José Agustín made complete sense to me in that light.  Whey then should one particular, seemingly obscure Mexican author be known to a U.S. citizen or anybody outside of his home country?


        The simple answer is that José Agustín was the foremost journalist that documented rock’n’roll in México. For that reason alone, I believe, the significance of José Agustín should be more well- known and better documented for people that study literature, music, rock’n’roll, politics, history, mass media, communication, or all of the above. Another answer of course is one that has preoccupied me at present, is that in addition to his journalistic writing on rock music, Agustín is linked to and might be one of the founding fathers of the literary movement in México known as Onda.  So, what exactly was Onda? Is there a defining characteristic or are there characteristics for this new wave, or movement?  Who is/was José Agustín and where did he come from? What was the significance of Onda to the social, political, and cultural climate? What, if anything, does this have to do with a conversation about rock’n’roll or popular music? This paper will engage these questions through a focus on the connections between music genres and literary genres.


Specifically, this paper analyzes the relationship of rock’n’roll music in México with the literary movement known as Onda. An entry point in this essay then is an examination of the life experiences and biographical road trip with José Agustín, experiences that are remarkable enough that they contributed to his literary style that came to be known as Onda. His story is particularly telling, a man who seems to have always been on the margins of society, with regard to how he came to be so closely associated with counter-cultural currents like Onda, and hence, the politics of rock’n’roll as they unfolded in México and perhaps, elsewhere in Latin America. Moving forward chronologically, this paper also traces the history of the Mexican rock waves from the late 1950s to the late 1990s. Finally, I establish the link between the musical genre and the literary genre and make a case for the significance of each one for the other.



Defining Onda

Interestingly enough for this conversation, the literary Onda, or

literary wave, was significant enough that it has actually garnered some attention from at least a few literary scholars in the U.S. Just over fifteen years ago, an edited collection of articles on José Agustín was published by the University of Missouri Press. In this collection, several authors contributed to our understanding of what exactly Onda was.  Carter and Schmidt (1986) defined La Onda as a “youth phenomenon in Mexican literature…  that alluded both to the sound waves of rock music and to a slang expression meaning something like ‘cool’ or ‘with it’” (p. 1). Kirk (1986) referred to La Onda as the “chingodélica” phase of Agustín’s literary career (p. 23).  “Chingodélica” is a Mexican-Spanish slang word that can mean (something like) “fucking-delic” or “fuck-delic”. Of salience here is the fact the very word is a rather difficult word to translate. This is a point about Onda that is important enough to warrant further explanation.


        In Mexican Spanish, the word “chingar” can mean, in its simplest use, to fuck. Like the word “fuck” in North American English, the word “chingar” can be used far beyond its original usage as a verb. Just as “fuck” is so versatile in English (as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, etc.), the Spanish word “chingar” can be also deployed in many different ways.  It is especially vulnerable to the language shifts and idiosyncracies of youth culture. In this way, “chingar” can become “¿Que chingado?” (What the fuck?), “¡No chingues!” (stop bitching), and “¡Chingate!” (fuck off).  While the versatility of the words “fuck” and “chingar” are mildly interesting and good for a chuckle, they are perhaps better reserved for frat party conversation or perhaps, email humor. What’s pertinent here is that the vulgarity in language earned him disgust by many readers and official censorship on the part of the Mexican government, while the inability of people to translate the words and phrases in Agustín’s literature has been seen as a constant failure by literary critics. His 1980s critics argued that his works have too much slang, that his characters are vulgar, that words and phrases are untranslatable, that his works are particular to time and place and therefore, not transcendent.


To get back to “chingodélica,” the significance of this word here is that it is the very multiplicity of ways in which a single word can be deployed that makes José Agustín more interesting as an Onda writer. The phrase “chingodélica,” one would think, should be a word that’s simple enough to translate. It seems to be a simple combination of the words “chingar” (to fuck) and “sicodélico” (psychedelic). Yet the word is just one example of how such odd pairings of words and phrases have presented many readers with a certain level of difficulty in making sense of the dialogue in José Agustín’s writing. When one reads the words “fucking-delic” or “fuck-delic” in English, just as “chingodélica” in Spanish, it absolutely makes no sense. These words, or this word, can only make sense if one imagines a goofball conversation between two young hipsters in México City that are into rock music and most likely, Sartre, Nietzsche, and marijuana.  And this is exactly who the character in a José Agustín story or article would be. Onda was about playfulness with language, about drug use, about coming into consciousness, about the “jipiteca” (hippie) counter-cultural movement, and more than anything, about youth identity in rock’n’roll. Just as much and maybe even more, it was about Mexican youth speaking in terms that most adults wouldn’t, or couldn’t understand. This was the new wave; this was “la nueva onda”.


Perhaps a more complex understanding of Onda is offered by Bruce-Novoa (1986) who also notes that Onda writers were famous, and infamous, for their use of slang, rock’n’roll music references and lyrics, foreign languages – North American English in particular, and allusions to popular culture. He adds that the literary movement was supposedly a “revolutionary, anti-literary discourse” and representative of the authors’ “radical revolutionary spirits” (p. 37). At the same time, Bruce-Novoa is quick to remind us that Onda was much more. To a great extent, Onda was about parody, specifically about a kind of anti-literary parody. Similarly, Glantz refers to Onda as a form of “new criticism”, while Ruffinelli writes that the wave was one that “reflected the social context of the affluent urban middle class” and that it was about “a complete separation between generations” (in Bruce-Novoa, 1986, p. 39).


        Ruffinelli further argues that Onda writers opted for a colloquial language that resulted in the aforementioned “intranscendent discourse”.  According to this thought, “Words are meant to mean only what they mean”, and Bruce-Novoa argues that this is what made Onda works revolutionary, “both in content and form” (p. 39). Other definitions of Onda attributed other characteristics like a “phase of escapism” (p. 40), reveling in “surface iconoclasm” (p. 41), and being “highly satirical” of one’s own generation as well as the generation of the adults (p. 41). It has also been said, Onda was also about “intertextual links”, “obvious parodies”, and iconclasm “within the tradition of literary parody” (p. 42). We might add to these definitions, stylistic play on ideological differences, puns, foreign languages, neologisms, and more salient for this essay, references to popular music and especially to rock’n’roll (p. 43). Cynical, disillusioned, pathetic parody (p. 47), and “hip” (p. 49) could also describe Onda. At the same time it might possibly have simply been, “radical novelty” in literature (p. 51). Other descriptions include Onda as “behavior” and “life-style” (p. 53), simple innovation in language and/or youth argot (pp. 54-55). Yet once again, the apparent radical, revolutionary, and rebellious character of Onda is not something that has been completely accepted, nor has it remained unproblematic or unexamined. As mentioned earlier, literary critics investigated the literary works of José Agustín and found that Agustín’s literary Onda can be placed squarely within the tradition of Western European literature and the category of modern literature. Such critics argued that Agustín’s style was not so much rebellious or revolutionary of anything as much as it was parody of itself, which would include the youth movement and a younger generation’s hypocrisy. Carter and Schmidt have also noted on the significance of a problematic class subject position,


“The writers of La Onda represented a constituency –specifically, middle-class adolescents from Mexico City– not previously established within Mexican literature whose behavioral and aesthetic values contrasted strikingly with those of the previous generation.  For the first time, adolescents were not being portrayed from a reminiscent adult point of view but rather from their own.” (Carter & Schmidt, 1986, p. 1)


This is a point that can be beleaguered in previous analyses of Agustín, but what is striking here is that the late 1980s, an apparent judgment about Agustín’s literature seems to have been passed. After the publication of at least one book and several articles devoted only to the Onda and José Agustín, the significance of Agustín seems to have fallen away. Add to this the fact that by the 1980s Agustín had traveled extensively in the U.S., lectured at various universities, and declined offers to stay in departments of Spanish, departments of English, and departments of literature, and eventually returned to his home country of México. For most of us outside of México, the life and work of José Agustín might otherwise be left to the dustbins of history. It is almost no wonder that the work of José Agustín seems to be presently forgotten in North-American and anglo-centric scholarship.


        My contention here is that the literary, societal, and cultural significance of Agustín and Onda is worth re-examining by scholars of today in various disciplines. To advance this position a little further, this essay will now turn to brief biographical highlights and a description of the contributing factors that provide more insight into José Agustín. This is followed by an analysis of how the literature of José Agustín and Onda is deserving of more critical attention in terms of intersections and inter-relations with rock’n’roll in México.



José Agustín and La Onda roquera

José Agustín was born in 1944 in Huautla, México, in the southern state of Oaxaca, although he has been known to shun his hometown in favor Acapulco, México and what Kirk (1986) calls the “bustling, rather sleazy atmosphere of Acapulco, where he spent most of his early life”. Kirk adds, “That city, with its decadent, international flavor, its beaches, and its eccentrics, is perhaps the city that has most influenced Agustín, who spent many formative years there, both as a child and as an adolescent” (p. 10).  After the Agustín family moved to México City where he was being formally educated, he was rebellious and it seems, in constant trouble with teachers.  When his father, who was a pilot, began to make regular trips to the U.S., it was the beginning of cultural connections between U.S. and Mexican cultures that many resented and that Agustín would come to write about, and write into, and write from. Like others in México, there were surely times when Agustín resented the cultural imperialism of the U.S. and the hegemony of popular culture emanating from the U.S. Yet, it was the apparent inevitability of transnational cultural processes that provided the exposure to rock’n’roll music, and of course José Agustín was not immune. The conspicuous relationship and the sharp contrast between México and the U.S.– English versus Spanish, anglo versus latin, protestantism versus catholicism, puritan versus mestizo, first world versus third world – became the background for one of Agustín’s most famous novels, Ciudades Desiertas (Agustín, 1982), that overtly dealt with the contradictions of living in the U.S. as a Mexican.  

His literary bent however, actually dates from before the age of ten, and he had spent much of his early life writing and painting in México.  Through the creative influences of his family (acting, writing, painting, composing) he was writing plays with his brother in his teens and first published his own short play in 1960 and eventually published a few other prize-winning plays in 1960s and 1970s.


For a while he had lived in Cuba and was associated with Marxist movements. Kirk writes, “the year 1961 was extremely important for Agustín, since it marks the emergence of his political awareness and his affiliation with the anti-imperialist group Movimiento América Latina” (Kirk in Carter & Schmidt, 1986, p. 13). He had eloped to Cuba with Margarita Dalton, a writer and sister of a guerilla leader, Roque Dalton, in El Salvador.  After having missed the boat from Veracruz to Havana, they resorted to begging for money that eventually got them to Cuba. During his time in Cuba, Agustín was involved with a literacy campaign, teaching peasants to read and write. He also formed a theater group, studied political economy, taught English, gave speeches at cultural and political meetings, and traveled throughout Cuba. John Kirk reminds us that even recently, José Agustín remains an outspoken defender of the Cuban Revolution (p. 14).


Around 1962, Agustín returned to México for family reasons.  Other significant events related to his return would include the death of his mother, the annulment of his marriage to Margarita Dalton, his new relationship with Margarita Bermúdez, the completion of his secondary education and experimentation with his own writing. By 1964, he had already completed his first novel, La tumba, at the age of seventeen. That first novel topped México’s best-seller lists, and by the mid-1960s his novels were at the top of best-seller lists simultaneously. Kirk reminds us that, “Not since the advent of Carlos Fuentes had there been a more spectacular launching of a writer in Mexico” (p. 16). He would later be troubled by meteoric success, controversy, and “outrageous comments and behavior” that had much to do with his outspoken criticism of the old guard in Mexican literature.


For several months in the late 1960s he was doing time in a Mexican prison for carrying a small bag of marijuana. Perhaps not surprisingly, he was imprisoned for seven months without a trial. As with other experiences in his life, he continued writing and made literary use of his prison experiences producing a few novels and a play, one of which took place in a prison. Once again, his books were protested and censored by the Mexican government for slang, vulgarity, and obscenities in the language of his characters. Kirk argues that it probably had more to do with his speaking out about the Mexican penal system and the denunciation of Mexican society as a whole (pp. 21-22). In addition to José Agustín’s problematic place in the public spotlight and on the margins of Mexican society, John Kirk’s biographical analysis of José Agustín also tells that in addition to his literary production, Agustín spent much of the 1960s and early 1970s writing articles and reviews about rock music and conducting interviews with rock stars. In 1967, Agustín even wrote the screenplay for a popular “semiunderground cult film” of the time that featured early Mexican rock’n’rollers Los Dug Dug’s (Zolov, 2003, p. 216). Not only was Agustín also a part of Onda, perhaps helping to create it through his stories, plays, and novels, but he was also documenting Onda through rock journalism. His first book-length treatment of rock’n’roll was La nueva música clásica (1968), and quite fittingly, the story of “la onda roquera”, or the rock’n’roll wave in México, should begin with none other than José Agustín.



La onda roquera (the rock wave)

José Agustín was becoming more and more famous as a writer in the 1960s and 1970s and was (in)famous as part of the Onda in Mexican literature. As for the rock’n’roll part of the new wave, Agustín was perfectly positioned to emerge as its proponent. Rock’n’roll had exploded and was being transported to other nations like Great Britain, Canada, and of course, México. Agustín himself tells us in Contra la corriente (1990) that since childhood he was just so fascinated with the new music that out of pure fascination, he took copious notes, made lists, and tracked bands with the hits they had and the albums they released.  It was a fascination that paid off when he was promoted time and time again as a journalist for his knowledge of La Onda in México. As Agustín recalls, rock’n’roll could be heard in México as early as 1956 (Agustín, 1990a, p. 75), and it was in the late 1950s that Mexican youth began to copy the sounds they were hearing coming from North America. As Agustín astutely observes, the movement of rock’n’roll to México is not a surprise given the proximity of Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (the United Mexican States) to the United States of America.


According to Agustín, it was a Mexican band called Los Locos del Ritmo that was “the first or one of the first” to start playing rock’n’roll music in México (p. 52). Not too long after followed bands like Los Teen Tops, Los Black Jeans, Los Hooligans, and Los Rebeldes del Rock. Agustín notes that a problem however, was that it was not a very culturally inflected type of rock’n’roll music. Like many other aspects of North America’s cultural influence, most of the early rock’n’roll music in México was in fact, simply a matter of Mexicans covering North American and British pop songs. They were merely copying already popular rock songs and singing in English, but with a Mexican face and a Spanish surname. Agustín recalls that for every Doris Day there was a “Julissa” in México, for every Paul Anka there was a César Costa, for every duo like the Everly Brothers there were Los Hermanos Carrión, for every Elvis Presley there was an Enrique Guzmán, and for every band like the Beatles or the Stones there were Mexican acts like Los Sleepers, Los Dug Dug’s, and Los Yaki. In all but their names, rock’n’roll musicians in México only followed and copied the trends that were happening in the U.S. (p. 54).


An exception to Mexicans copying North Americans came with the Beatles. According to Agustín, the Beatles by that time were already copying the 1950s Chicano rocker Ritchie Valens (Valenzuela). Agustín maintains that the music and rhythm of “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles shows that it was really just a pirated “La Bamba” (p. 81), and Agustín is not alone in this opinion. Village Voice writer Ed Morales (2002a) also writes that there had always been a Latin sound in rock’n’roll, and that he always heard “Twist and Shout” as a kind of mambo rhythm (2002b). What this historical digression actually signifies is the confirmation that the processes of transnationalism were in motion and suggests a cross-cultural influence through popular music between the U.S. and other nations. Nevertheless, the cross-cultural influences were no doubt heavily in favor of U.S. influence on other nations and continents. That influence of North-American (and British) rock on Mexican culture was a rather significant factor in that all of the influence of North American culture on Mexican culture was beginning to be seen as a social problem in México, and youth singing pop songs in English were seen as a transgression. As Agustín reminds us, Mexicans especially disliked rock music because they viewed it as “cultural colonization, imperialism, and infiltration” (Agustín, 1990a, p. 82).


Without a doubt transnational, commercial interests dominated the rock music situation in the 1960s. It was one in which the Beatles, in México just like in the U.S., appeared everywhere you looked –“. . . hasta en la sopa!” (“even in your food!”), reports Agustín (p. 84). In terms of Mexicans singing in their own language, he recalls that the first groups to start singing in Spanish and composing in Mexican were Three Souls in My Mind, and Los Dos.  Others like La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata and La Máquina del Sonido also played original rock’n’roll music in Spanish, but not very well according to Agustín. Others like Los Sleepers were playing regular gigs and had a following, but most of the bands of the time doing cover songs in English. It was not until the late 1960s that the baby of Mexican rock’n’roll music had begun to crawl with the music of Rodrigo González. When José Agustín’s saw Rodrigo González, he says he was blown away. Agustín calls him “México’s Bob Dylan” and notes that by the time he finally saw him González was playing cover songs by his predecessors Three Souls in My Mind (p. 61).  It was in Rodrigo González, Agustín argues, that “we finally have, an entry, a rock that is more complex, critical, intelligent and very Mexican”(p. 62).



Las Dos Ondas: Connecting the rock Onda and the literary Onda

        The fact that when José Agustín finally saw Rodrigo González he was playing cover songs by Three Souls in My Mind points to the fact that Mexican rock was beginning to have its own history. Mexicans were covering other Mexicans bands and artists. Secondly, Rodrigo González covering Three Souls in My Mind also points to the lasting significance of that particular band. Three Souls in My Mind were born around 1968, claims Agustín, in the wake of student rioters that were killed by national police in México City and the culmination of La Onda, a reference to the sum of the counter-cultural movements in México. Agustín recalls that while the repression of rock music and culture was “intense” during the López Mateos presidency from 1958 to 1964, it was simply characteristic of the Díaz Ordaz administration from 1964 to 1970 (Agustín, 1990a, p. 224). By the late 1960s, the Mexican government headed by President Diaz Ordaz was publicly and officially against rock’n’roll music.  In the face of such repression, musical groups like Three Souls in My Mind and other onderos (Onda kids) would take up the cause and unite around the repression of the counter-culture. As Agustín recalls in his own analysis of La Onda, by 1968 people were talking about “la onda”, and precisely because of the ambiguity of the term, it was accepted as a generic label for all of the artistic, political, social and changes that united youth, who opted for rock music as a point of convergence [ii] (Agustín, 1974, p. 11).

        The connection between the counter-culture in literary form and counter-culture in music form is exemplified in a particular song by Three Souls in My Mind, who later became El TRI. In a song titled “Chavo de Onda” (“Onda kid”), the hard-driving electric guitar plays a distinctively 1950s rock’n’roll rhythm, sounding much like the guitar riffs of “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, while the lyrics can be read in the style of “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley. In “Chavo de Onda” singer Alex Lora expresses exactly what it was like to be caught up in the rock’n’roll counter-culture. Any reader will easily recognize the references to long hair, blue jeans, rock shows, and the fact that parents and others just can’t understand. The lyrics are followed here by my translation into English:


I like to let my hair down when I’m hanging out

I know the words to the songs of the Rolling Stones

I’m always wearing blue jeans, when I go to shows

I am an Onda kid and I like rock’n’roll


Poor old people, they just can’t understand it

I am an Onda kid and I like rock’n’roll


(excerpt from “Chavo de Onda,” El TRI, 2000)


What is most significant here is the fact that El TRI’s lyrical discourse actually refers to the name of the movement, “La Onda”, and exemplifies a conscious identification as part of La Onda. Given the public sentiment against rock music and counter-culture, the official Mexican government position against rock, and the harassment and massacre of people associated with this counter-culture, the significance of such a public statement cannot be overstated. As Carlos Monsivaís (2003) attests, “Around those times, everything that Lora was saying is whatever everybody else knew, but no one dared to say” [iii] (Monsivaís, 2003). Furthermore, the song illustrates how the literary wave and the rock’n’roll wave were not at all separate from each other. The band El TRI, like many others such as José Agustín, were part of La Onda as a counter-cultural movement and used their music as a medium for communication, perhaps creating La Onda or at least, advancing the cause.


        As Agustín (1990a), Morales (2002b), Zolov (1999) and others have noted, shortly after the 1968 student riots and the literal massacres that followed, the middle-class youth interest in rock’n’roll was beginning to dwindle, and Mexican society was becoming more and more repressive.  Again, the Mexican government of President Diaz Ordaz was publicly against rock music. A few years later at the 1971 Avándaro Festival, it all collapsed.  It was a “Woodstock-like” music festival in the suburb of Avándaro (Morales, 2000b), and the cultural trauma that ensued completely wiped out rock’n’roll music in México, at least for the middle class youth. After the Avándaro festival the government came down on bars and clubs, closing many of those in which people would go to and hear and play rock’n’roll music.  Rock’n’roll concerts were shut down. According to José Agustín, some rock musicians and fans were rounded up and “only” had their heads shaved, while others were harassed or jailed for being associated with rock’n’roll (Agustín, 1990a, p. 93). For Mexican rock there wasn’t very much going on after that, and these were the dark ages.  Yet out of those dark ages, came a kind of “guacarrock” renaissance.


What resulted was a Mexican rock that instead of dying and going away, went entirely underground and got better. Ed Morales writes of what happened after the 1971 Avándaro festival, “If rock became, for the most part, mass-marketed corporatized product and trivialized fashion in the U.S., in Mexico it was marginalized, creating a small, devoted community with strong, supportive bonds and a fierce resistance to cooptation” (Morales, 2002b). From the early 1970s through the early 1980s, Mexican rock was the activity of the poor and working class youth in México. In places called “hoyos funquis” (funky holes), Mexican rock was surviving and thriving.  Agustín (1990a) remembers that the funky holes were the places where only poor people would dare go. They were dives, ghettos, and nasty places where only the toughest of México City youth could survive. The Mexican bands that were making music during those times were La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata, El Epílogo, La División del Norte, Peace and Love, El Ritual, Sombrero Verde, Hangar Ambulante, Nuevo México, and Chac Mool. Other rock veterans included Javier Bátiz, Armando Nava and Los Dug Dugs, Ricardo Ochoa with Kenny and the Electrics, Federico Arana with Naftalina, Jorge Reyes, and Guillermo Briseño and Alejandro Lora with Three Souls in My Mind/El TRI (p. 111). Agustín also remembers that although there were many bands that came out of the hoyos funquis in the 1970s, the problem remained that a great deal of it still wasn’t very good, and when it was it was only copying what was going on in North America and Europe. Agustín only notes the progressive-rock band Manchuria as an exception, his only example of a “good band” in spite of also imitating what was going on outside of México. However, after several years of fermentation in the so-called funky holes “guacarrock” was starting to get good, and the end product was a thing Agustín calls the “rock rupestre” (proletariat, lowlife, trash rock) (pp. 111-112).


This association of rock music and lower-class “trash” culture, vulgarity, obscenity, and all things offensive can be compared to the association of rock’n’roll with the concept of “desmadre”. Zolov (1999) has written an excellent contribution to the history of Mexican rock and how its development resulted from transnational cultural processes, political economic imperatives, and (of all things) the legacy of México’s hyper-nationalism. Zolov writes:


“…in Mexico what came to matter in public discourse was the association of rock ‘n’ roll (and later rock) with desmadre.  An offensive, lower-class slang word, desmadre expresses a notion of social chaos introduced by the literal ‘unmothering’ of a person or situation.  This stands in antithesis to that other Mexican phrase, buenas costumbres, which encapsulates all that is proper and correct –‘family values,’ as we might say in the United States.” (Zolov, 1999, p. 27)


That emergence of “rock rupestre”, and the shift in association of rock’n’roll with the middle-class to the association of rock’n’roll with the working class and poorer classes, would come to signify for Agustín, a critical point in history when Mexican rock music was coming into its own. He adds to the history, commenting that although it began with Three Souls in My Mind, it reached its maturity through Rodrigo González. According to Agustín, the rock rupestre that was the best rock music México had ever produced, eventually gave birth in the early 1980s to new Mexican rockers like Botellita de Jerez, Jaime Lopez, and Cecilia Toussaint. Cecilia Toussaint was so good and so original, according to José Agustín, that he calls her the best example of México’s “rock nacional” (Agustín, 1990, pp. 111-112).


        In the early 1980s, Mexican rockers for the most part were still singing in English and still copying whatever was going on everywhere else.  Around this time however, singing in English was not just uncritical imitation of North American rock’n’roll.  Morales notes,


“Singing in English was a wannabe desire of Mexicans to emulate North Americans or Europeans, as well as an unconscious rebellion against the official national culture, which discouraged La Malinche, or outside influence, and was imposed by the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), the institutional party ultimately responsible for the ’68 student massacre.” (Morales, 2002b)


It was not until sometime around the mid-1980s that the situation changed again. Morales cites a groundbreaking article by Rubén Martínez in the L.A. Weekly that calls the 1985 México City earthquake as a central event in birthing new Mexican rock bands. Other scholars have in fact noted this detail. Hernández (2000) writes that “On September 19, 1985, Mexico City suffered a devastating earthquake, and more than 10,000 lost their lives.  In light of the government’s ineffective response to the tragedy, numerous rock groups brought attention to the plight of the most marginalized sectors of life in Mexico City” (p. 108).


        While the 1985 earthquake in México City was a major factor in the growth of Mexican rock, others say that there were many factors and other changes in Mexican society were already underway. Zolov notes,


“If rock went from being a metaphor for modernity in the early 1960’s, to a symbol of its excesses at the end of the decade, in the 1980s los chavos banda –lumpenproletariat punk rockers in the capital– embodied the utter collapse of revolutionary promise altogether.  A stark sociological emblem of la crisis (Mexico’s ‘Lost Decade’ of the 1980’s), these punk rockers were now embraced by intellectuals as an authentic representation of popular culture.” (Zolov, 1999, p. 13)


According to Morales (2002b), the collapse of the Mexican oil business in the 1980s had ended the aspirations that the middle class had about achieving equality with the U.S. and being like “gringos”. For Mexican youth, the result was a full swing in other direction where it became desirable to be Mexican and to show pride in Mexican identity. The veteran Mexican rockers Three Souls in My Mind changed their name to “El TRI”, [iv] while Dangerous Rythms changed their name to “Ritmo Peligroso”. Shortly thereafter a compilation of music by El TRI, Ritmo Peligroso, Kenny y Los Electricos, and Mask had even reached teenagers in the suburbs of México City, and the baby of Mexican rock was no longer crawling. It was standing and getting ready to move forward. The decades-old rockers El TRI were able to sign with the WEA Latina record label, and others followed. According to Morales Botellita de Jerez “single-handedly revolutionized Mexican rock” as they jumped in the scene with a hybrid kind of rock’n’roll music that many others followed (Morales, 2002b).


        Around the same time, Spanish and Argentine groups like Radio Futura, Charly García, and Soda Stereo were gaining popularity around Latin America. They were being marketed by Mexican media giant Televisa as “Rock en Tu Idioma” (rock in your language), a slogan created by the Ariola International record company that essentially referred to the rock music coming from Spain, Argentina, and México (Esterrich & Murillo, 2000). José Agustín remembers other Mexcian rockers in and around Mexico City like Real de Catorce, Caifanes (who came out of an earlier ensemble called Las Insolitas Imagenes de Aurora), Santa Sabina, Tex Tex, Mamá Z, Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio (otherwise known as “Maldita Vecindad”), Luzbel, Ritmo Peligroso, La Camerata Rupestre, Iconoclasta, Trolebús, Follaje, Los Blues Boys, and Mara y Delirium (Agustín, 1991, p. 112). Along with the “Rock en Tu Idioma” music, Botellita de Jerez, El TRI, others like Caifanes and the ska-punk-funk combination of Maldita Vecindad (see Hernández, 2000) were turning the whole scene into a larger cultural phenomenon.  Morales writes,


“As the 80’s ended, there was an explosion: Café Tacuba, a less jokey variant of Botellita; Santa Sabina, a goth, prog-rock quintet; Fobia, jangly alternative; La Lupita, La Cuca, La Castañeda, Maná, and a growing array of pop, thrash metal, punk, and the still energetic rock urbano (prole rock) have turned Mexico City, with its integrated network of support and homegrown dynamism, into the Seattle that few outside the Latin world know.” (Morales, 2002b)


These new musicians and groups can be seen as what has since the 1990s been called “La Nueva Onda” (the new wave). The larger point of all of this historical contextualization is of course, the realization that the development of rock music in México was from the very beginning and on through several decades now, a particular music genre that developed in a specific relational context. Rock music in México, was and has continued to emerge in light of an unstable relationship between the U.S. and México, or perhaps North American cultural imperialism and Mexican youth. From the influence of North American icons like Elvis and early blues and rock’n’roll influence, to the counter influence of Mexican-American/Chicano rocker Ritchie Valens on the Beatles and many other rock-and-rollers (Eddy, 1997; Mendheim, 1987), to the use of songs in English and North American culture as the antithesis to a dominant culture and powerful political regime in México, to the resistance to English as a hegemonic force and the reclamation of the Spanish language and pride in Mexican culture, to the constantly changing perceptions of Mexicans themselves in relation to the U.S., to heightened nationalism, rock music in México had always existed in a specific relationship with the U.S. What cannot go unnoticed is the fact that the various factors of identity and identification that were going on with Mexican youth and the development of rock’n’roll music in México, were in large part yielded as a product of the transnational commercial processes at work in recorded popular music and mass media. What should not be forgotten is the fact that the development of La Onda was chronicled by José Agustín in a manner that was thought to be representative of Mexican youth turning Mexican culture on its head. It is my contention that the literature of José Agustín was and has been an integral part of this history, and in different contexts contributed to the development of La Onda roquera (the rock wave in México) as much as that rock wave contributed the other Onda, the literary wave. The two together represented Las Ondas de José Agustín.



“¡Qué Ondas!” (What waves!)

Some points of clarification are necessary here with regard to the significance of José Agustín’s literary Onda, as well as with the connections between the literary Onda and the rock Onda. With regard to the first issue, it is important to return to the issue of Onda’s critics. While the significance of Agustín’s rock Onda of which he wrote and the literary Onda which he helped to create with his writing have both been well-documented by many Latin-American writers and common knowledge amongst Mexican youth, it is interesting that the literature of José Agustín seems lost and almost forgotten to North America, at least after the scholarly critiques of his writing that surfaced in the 1980s.


As mentioned above, he was critiqued by U.S. literary scholars and was found to be a modernist, or at least, well within the modernist paradigm. Bruce-Novoa wrote that Agustín’s first novel, La tumba, is “consciously linked to high-culture texts, both musical and literary” and “that he is a cynical, disillusioned, and finally pathetic parody of the romantic hero makes him none the less a consciously literary creation well within modern tradition” (in Carter & Schmidt, 1986, p. 43, 47). Comparisons of Agustín to European literature found his works to be so similar to Western European classics that simply could not be considered new, fresh, innovative, revolutionary, or counter-cultural at all. A feminist critique that resulted from a previous presentation of this paper at a conference, stated that one must not ignore the gendered implications of José Agustín’s life, his writing and injection of such gender-loaded phrases such as the aforementioned “chingar” (to fuck) in the way it implies a male-centered use of language and discourse [v] . Correspondingly, one cannot ignore his personal life and the numerous affairs and relationships that also made José Agustín famous throughout México, and of course, there is always the issue of a male-dominated history of early Mexican rock. While Agustín’s histories have presented us with a wealth of information about male rockers in México, a recent publication has turned the focus toward the female contribution to Mexican rock music that presumably, writers like Agustín so sexistly ignored previously (see Estrada, 2001).


While it may be true that Onda, manifested in either José Agustín’s literature or his documentation of Mexican rock history by Agustín, is deserving of such critiques, my position is that neither is enough to warrant its dismissal by scholars of literature or popular music history. The aforementioned contradictions of a modernist literary tradition that manifested itself in a supposedly postmodern time and place, and the paradox of a supposedly rebellious and revolutionary wave that failed to recognize its own androcentric and sexist nature are exactly what writers like José Agustín were attempting to extort. In other words Onda, and especially La Onda de José Agustín (in literature), was in its essence all about self-parody and contradictions. As Bruce-Novoa also notices,


“Hence, his works are highly satirical of his own generation as well as the generation of the adults.  With respect to literary discourse, Agustín has never been a naïve writer or a nonliterary one.  Not only did he know traditional literature, but his first works openly establish intertextual links and obvious parodies that make the metaphorical reading essential to the understanding of his literary project.” (pp. 41-42)


It is worth mentioning here that Onda was exactly about such “failures,” that Mexican society (if not others as well) was full of such failures and could be critiqued from many different perspectives, or that society was “bullshit” and nothing was truly revolutionary. These insights about the hypocrisy of his own generation’s politics, perpetuated class-ism as well as sexism, are characteristic of Onda’s aesthetic. That Agustín was doing so when it wasn’t acceptable to do so, like Alex Lora of El TRI, is what makes such a history worthy of scholarly attention.


 Moreover, these responses are mentioned here not at all to detract from the previous insight and critique but rather, because those critiques should not negate the significance of either Onda literature or La Onda de José Agustín in particular. It could be said that Onda matters because people thought it mattered. Whether the Onda ethos was all in vain or temporary fad in retrospect (as North American literary scholars claim) should not deny the importance of what Onda was all about at that time – rebellion, resistance, revolution, counter-culture, vulgarity, obscenity, offensive language, local slang, common people, low-life, proletariat, rupestre, desmadre, and one cannot forget, rock’n’roll music.  It is in the context of the time and place where Onda existed, in the hearts, souls and minds of individuals perhaps, that Onda can best be understood.


Finally, my second point of clarification returns to the ambiguity of the relationship between the literary Onda and the rock Onda. There has been some recent debate concerning the unstable relationship between the literary Onda and the rock Onda. The connection between the two is in fact, not an easy one. On one hand insight on the topic would suggest that the connection between the two is a very problematic one related to early rock in México. Eric Zolov’s historical work on rock music in México (Zolov, 1999; Zolov, 2003) is telling in that connecting rock music to the counter-culture was contrary at first. Because early rock’n’roll music in México was associated with the privileged youth of the middle-class, there was no easy connection. In fact, the leftists, progressives, and intellectuals (as well as parents and official government policies) regarded early rock’n’roll music in México as simple, uncritical absorption of the influences of U.S. popular culture. As Zolov (2003) reveals, “there was no merging of Mexican rock bands and the student movement itself” (p. 218). Another recent return to Onda by Jaime López, who muses on the topic of “el rockerondero” (the rocker-waver) as Mexican cultural myth, also notes differences between the rock Onda and the literary Onda. As López puts it, “the acetate grooves became waves on paper, and LP records led to the new literature” [vi] (p. 396).  This suggests, that the rock wave came first and led to what was later the literary wave.

On the other hand, the changes that occurred after the 1968 student massacre and other significant events in México’s rock history place the two more squarely together and see onderos identifying with rock more than ever before. Zolov writes, “La Onda had evolved from a fashion statement into a vehicle of direct social protest” (p. 219). Further, while rock bands like El TRI declared that they were Onda kids, as Carlos Monsivaís recalls, saying what everybody else wanted to say, others connections between the literary and the musical included band names that, like the literary onderos, played with playful rhyme (El TRI versus el PRI) and through other manipulations of language seemed to suggest identifications with the U.S. (Los Dug Dug’s using an apostrophe [vii] ). And if they didn’t necessarily identify with the U.S., English, and rock’n roll, they were at least defying Mexican nationalism.


Moreover, it cannot be left unsaid that much of the early history of Mexican rock music exists because of the work of José Agustín. Well before the rock Onda had fully merged with the literary Onda, Agustín was documenting rock music for Mexicans through his journalistic endeavors and several books and continued to do so for several decades - La nueva música clasica (1964), El rock de la cárcel (1985), Contra la corriente (1990a), Tragicomedia mexicana 1 (1990b), La contracultura en México (1996), El hotel de los corazones solitarios (1999). While the connection between the rock Onda and the literary Onda is contextual and debatable in some ways, José Agustín’s place in both of them remains unquestionable. His contribution in fact, that he was directly connected to both of them and remains an important link for both the rock Onda and the literary Onda.  One might conclude that the significance lies in the way he simultaneously chronicled La Onda and (re)created it through his own literary production. 

Perhaps because of the solid connection of writers like Agustín, musicans like Alex Lora proclaimed that they were “chavos de onda” (Onda kids) and further solidified the connection between the music genre and the literary genre.


What this essay has shown here is first, that the literature of José Agustín is significant in its connections to Onda. Through Agustín, the literary genre of Onda and the rock genre of Onda became a part of each other. They were in fact intersected, interconnected, and inter-related, at least by José Agustín. This essay has also shown how the life experiences of José Agustín contributed to his development as an Onda writer. Finally, this essay lays out a history of Mexican rock music that articulates it with other counter-cultural movements and societal changes in México throughout the past 30 to 40 years. In conclusion, I offer a final point about the significance of Las Ondas de José Agustín in contemporary times.



Concluding remarks:  Beyond Onda

A final point about Onda remains.  In a recent reflection on Onda and rock music, Jamie López (1996) reveals something more about what exactly Onda was. As López astutely observes,


“We [Onda kids] were born when the train of the [Mexican] revolution was on its way out and the dream of modernity was coming in. That’s when everything changed. We saw that we were full of contradictions in a country that’s all- border.  And in these contradictions is where we found our identity.” [viii] (López, 1996, p. 400)


This sentiment seems to echo that of José Agustín in an early analysis of Onda. As Agustín asserted, waves are about energy and motion. They are circular movements that permit communication [ix] (p. 12). And it is Onda as a form of communication that I wish to expound upon here. As Agustín wrote,


“At its core, La Onda represents change, the common inalterable spirit that leads to transformation. Only on the surface is Onda all of the other waves and manifestations of transformation: the argot, the clothes, the marijuana, the long hair, etc.” [x]   (Agustín, 1974, pp. 12-13)


For José Agustín, La Onda provided a language, a medium, a means of communication for youth in an era of strict adherence to a romanticized and nostalgic Mexican nationalism and serious oppression of rock’n’roll and youth culture by parents, government policies, and Mexican politicians. In this sense, La Onda was a form of communication for youth that found themselves in an ambiguous relationship between the traditions of México, and the future that pointed north toward the U.S. This is to say, this perspective speaks to the reality of cultural convergence and cultural influence. It was through the discourse of cultural convergence that La Onda gains its significance. And it is this manifestation of youth culture that represents a larger, inter-ethnic, inter-cultural dialogue between the past and the future, or perhaps, the past and the present. By this I mean that the defining characteristics of La Onda are still being contested in Mexican society as well as in the neo-conservative politics in the U.S. The culture and society that gave birth to Onda politics, we might say, have never been more present than today.


I offer these thoughts in response to recent discourse on Latino/as in the U.S. such as that which recently surfaced in scholarly forums like Foreign Policy, where Harvard University professor and political scientist Samuel P. Huntington recently argued that Latino/a peoples in the United States threaten to divide the United States. Framing his arguments through metaphors of war, Huntington employs “invasion”, “beach-heads”, “entrenchment”, and “turf wars” to make the claim that Latino/a people’s refusal to assimilate is a major threat to life and culture in the U.S (Huntington, 2004). Similarly, others in the U.S. are very vocal about their intercultural fears. Before the big election day in the U.S. last November, a woman from Valley Center, Kansas was quoted in the Wichita Herald as saying, “It's pathetic that the United States wants to cater and appease these illegal aliens because they want cheap labor,” she said. “Illegals try to force us to adapt to their language and values -- the very culture which they are trying to escape” (Woods, 2004).


Given such statements, questions related to the relationship between Latino/as and the U.S. should be seen as complex social issues worth pursuing. If Latino/as appear threatening to anybody because of the presumption that they will not, do not, or cannot assimilate to English and mainstream U.S. culture, I argue that it follows that Latino/a culture warrants further investigation. Beyond that, I contend that the history of Onda reveals a much longer “battle” between “Mexicans” and “Americans”, although one that puts the advantage, if one can call it that, with the U.S.  But fearing that I too have fallen prey to the discourse of war and invasion, I would like to move away from such language and offer an alternative perspective that cultural manifestations like music and literature are evidence that with relation to the U.S., cultural influence is overwhelmingly in favor of other nations having to engage and contest the hegemony of U.S. culture. Furthermore, the history of Las Ondas de José Agustín that is presented here reveals a much more hopeful view of the relationship between the U.S. and México. And that is, that literature and music are modes of (intercultural) communication, and they just might be worth further investigation in how they help individuals assuage the tensions of globalization, transnationalization, and culture shift. With respect to the supposed Latin music “explosion”, “invasion”, and “booms” in the U.S. in recent years (Cepeda, 2003; Cepeda, 2001; Ehrenreich, 2001; Roberts, 1999; Roiz, 2001), I must add that such musical articulations of music and culture have been around for a rather long time, and it is rather unfortunate for most of us that we have been missing out on its rich contribution to and rock’n’roll, popular music, and of course, literary history.


Editor’s note: The second part of this article – “Las Dos Ondas: Connecting the rock Onda and the literary Onda” - will appear in the Autumn 2005 edition, Issue 4 of Chapter&Verse




[i] The term, “Latino/a” is closely related to the English term “Latin American” and is rooted in the Spanish word latinoamericano.  In recent scholarship, the term “Latinos” can be applied to Spanish-speaking peoples throughout the world and especially those in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In the United States this term has recently become somewhat synonymous with the term “hispanic” so as not only to designate Spanish-speakers and/or Latin immigrants to the U.S., but something approximating a demographic category that also includes the U.S.-born descendants of Spanish-speaking peoples as well.  I will therefore be using the term “Latino” to denote a more neutral identifier that approximates “Latin American.”  Perhaps more important, my use of “Latino” reflects a pan-American, pan-Latin, “diasporic” view of culture, irrespective of nationality or citizenship (Gilroy, 1993).  Further, following Johnson (2000) “Latino/a” will be used here consistently, emphasizing the masculine and feminine forms together in order “to avoid androcentric interpretation of the term” (p. 167).


[ii]   Original quotation: “Ya durante 1968, en nuestro país, se hablaba de ‘la onda’.  Y ese término, precisamente por su vaguedad, fue aceptado por todos para “etiquetar” un fenómeno artístico, politico, social y económico que reunió a una gran cantidad de jóvenes y que optó por el rock como punto de convergencia” (Agustín, 1974, p.11).


[iii]   Original quotation: “Desde aquellos tiempos, todo le que Lora decía todos lo sabían, pero nadie se atrevía decirlo” (Monsivais, 2003).


[iv]   As Zolov (2003) notes, changing their name to El TRI was a very conscious and bold move by the band in that in the Spanish language El TRI sounds a lot like el PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), México’s dominant ruling party for over 70 years.  It could be argued that by invoking the political, El TRI were making a statement about their music and message as a form of politics, or perhaps as something related to politics.  Interestingly, the name El TRI also carries other nationalist associations with the number three as in the “tri-color” of the Mexican flag.


[v]   The author wishes to thank Michelle Habell-Pallán for her comments on this issue.


[vi]   Original quotation: “Y los surcos en el acetato hicieron olas en el papel.  Los fonogramas, en masiva explosion de consumo, generaron una novedosa perspective en la literatura” (López, 1996, p. 396).


[vii]   Eric Zolov (2003) tells us that bands like Los Dug Dug’s used the apostrophe in their name knowing that the apostrophe does not exist in the Spanish language.  Others bands like Los Yaki anglicized the spelling of their name (Yaki instead of Yaqui).


[viii]   Original quotation: “Nacimos cuando el tren de la Revolución se iba y el sueno (de la modernidad) empezaba.  Ahí cambió el siglo.  Y vimos que estábamos hechos de contradicciones en un país que es todo frontera  Y aquí encontramos nuestra afirmación” (López, 1996, p. 400).


[ix] Original quotation: “Así pues, una onda “ondera” es energía, movimiento circular que propicia la comunicación” (Agustín, 1974, p. 12).


[x]   Original quotation: “Lo profundo, la onda, es, entonces, el cambio: lo inalterable, el espíritu común que permite la transformación.  Y lo superficial son las demás ondas: las manifestaciones de la transformación, lo transitorio; en este caso, el caló, la ropa, la mariguana, el pelo, etcetera”  (Agustín, 1974, pp. 12-13).







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Zolov, E. (2003). “Armando Nava and Los Dug Dug’s”.  In J. M. Pilcher (Ed.), The human tradition in Mexico (pp. 211-224). Wilmington, DE.: Scholarly Resources, Inc.



‘Chavo de Onda’* – El TRI 

No importa si es en un concierto o en una audición,
Yo siempre me siento contento en el reventón
Me pasa cotorrearme chavas, cuanda a las tocadas voy
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

It doesn’t matter if it’s at a concert or at an audition,
I always feel happy at the party

I like to play around with girls when I go to gigs
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll

Pobres de los viejos, ellos no lo pueden entender
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

Poor old people, they just can’t understand it.
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll

Me gusta oir la guitarra cuando empieza llorar
Me gusta oir la batería, redoblar
Siento que el cuerpo se me enchina
y que las piernas me empiezan a temblar
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

I like to hear the guitar when it start to wail
I like to hear the drums redouble
I feel goose bumps on my body
and my legs start to shake
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll
Pobres de los viejos, ellos no lo pueden entender
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

Poor old people, they just can’t understand it.
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll
Pobres de los viejos, ellos no lo pueden entender
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

Poor old people, they just can’t understand it.
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll

Me gusta soltarme la greña para andar en el rol
Me sé la letra de unas rolas de los Rolling Stones
Siempre ve visto de mezclilla cuando a las tocadas voy
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

I like to let my hair down when I’m hanging out
I know the words to the songs of the Rolling Stones
I’m always wearing blue jeans, when I go to shows
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll
Pobres de los viejos, ellos no lo pueden entender
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

Poor old people, they just can’t understand it.
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll
Pobres de los viejos, ellos no lo pueden entender
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol

Poor old people, they just can’t understand it.
I am an Onda kid and I like Rock’n’roll
Yo soy un Chavo de Onda y me pasa el rocanrol I am an Onda kid and I like Rock ’n’roll

*  “Chavo de Onda” appears on !!Que Viva El Rock and Roll!! (compact disc), a greatest hits compilation by

    El TRI, produced and distributed by Fonovisa, Inc., 2000.


Roberto Avant-Mier
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