In the year 1995, writers Lara Sterling and Maria Leon set out to document the burgeoning LA rock en español scene. At the time “the scene” was just a bunch of bands with members hailing from countries like Mexico, Argentina and Peru, who had come together out of the necessity to create rock, punk and ska in their native language while living on this side of the border. The rockeros lived, practiced and performed in the shady outskirts of LA proper, where crime and urban deterioration were juxtaposed against the modest homes where immigrants lived with their families. Banda music was the norm of such neighborhoods, reflecting the fact that the majority of such immigrants had emigrated from the rural parts of Latin America.
But then something magical happens. These rock en español bands started to get “mainstream” recognition from the English-language “Anglo” rock world where their music wasn’t shunned just because the lyrics were in Spanish. Suddenly, the bands were rocking out in such seminal rock ’n’ roll landmarks as the Roxy, the Whiskey and the House of Blues. With the growth of rock rock en español this side of the border, more and more big-name bands from Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia began to tour Stateside. All this was happening against the backdrop of growing opposition to immigration, which was manifested in legislation, such as Proposition 187.
Sterling and Leon spent their many of their nights moonlighting from their tedium of their day jobs in clubs and bars, filming and interviewing the bands and fans of the rock rock en español scene. With no formal filmmaking training, the filmmakers were often left to “wing it” as they shot footage on one of the first digital cameras to be introduced to consumers and edited on an analogue editing station and later with the hyper-expensive Avid editing bay. Sterling and Leon performed all of the duties of the documentary processs – from arranging interviews, clearing shots at concert halls, interfacing with band and label managers, carting all the equipment around on their literal backs, and, of course, falling in love with the sincerity of the bands and the fans and their stories, many of which included traveling over the border by foot, selling oranges on freeway street corners and navigating life in a foreign country that was often antagonistic to their presence here.
The filmmakers traveled both to other cities, such as Austin, Miami and New York, to document the scene that was growing throughout the United States as well as to Mexico and Puerto Rico to shoot the LA groups as they started to tour. As a means to further their cause, the filmmakers also organized concerts in Los Angeles as well as conferences in Texas. As definite experts on this music phenomenon, they spoke on the subject at universities in Mexico and the US.
In the year 2000, after five long years of toiling at these projects, which were paid for exclusively out of the filmmakers own pockets, Sterling and Leon called it quits. But this was not without completing a short that featured one of the most popular groups of the LA scene, Maria Fatal; a feature-length documentary about the band Pastilla (Sony) Pastilla, the Film; and a short that documented the entire US scene called Rocanrol. There were plans to edit a feature-length version of Rocanrol, but, as the result of growing financing issues, licensing squabbles and pure exhaustion, the filmmakers never finished it.