“We've seen the whole face of America change,” says Los Lobos drummer Louis Perez in Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles, “and that face is brown.” Chicano Rock!, a new documentary scheduled to air this Sunday on PBS, examines this demographic shift through a cultural lens, exploring the musical fruits of the twentieth-century influx of Mexican immigrants to the United States. A recent article in the Indianapolis weekly Nuvo previews the film and talks to its creator, Jon Wilkman.
In the documentary, Wilkman traces the lineages of several groups of Chicano musicians. He looks at performers like Lalo Guerrero, who channeled traditional Mexican sounds, as well as bands like Cannibal and the Headhunters, who drew more heavily from U.S. rock influences. Wilkman seems most interested in a third group that bridged the first two; for him, they tell a story that’s bigger than the music they made, helping us see the cultural give and take that occurs as immigrant groups settle into new lives in the United States.
“We are, like Chicano musicians, beginning to blend cultures, just like they blended musical sounds," Wilkman says. "It's not only a story about the past; it's suggesting what our future is going to be—not only musically but culturally.”