The contemporary rockabilly subculture is often thought to primarily reflect, embody, and celebrate the white Southern American culture that gave rise to the music and fashion in the 1950s. Accordingly, some have suggested that the active participation of Latinxs seems perplexing. This article draws on ten years of ethnographic research to explore why Latinxs do not view their enthusiasm for Southern-born rockabilly music and culture as an incongruity. This essay first considers why rockabilly resonates with Latinx participants, underscoring and documenting its relevance across several generations, then examines how Latinxs have uniquely engaged with and customized the subculture in ways that reflect their bicultural heritage and experiences. This work draws ethnomusicological attention to the reasons Latinxs have identified with rockabilly culture and the ways they have contributed to it, contesting assumptions of the characteristic “whiteness” of this subculture. The documentation, acceptance, and acknowledgment of Latinx involvement in rockabilly is not without political significance, particularly given the subculture's historical incorporation of Confederate imagery. The growth, strength, and recognition of Latinx rockabilly represent a meaningful rewriting of the genre's racial politics, highlighting the historical involvement of non-Anglos in the scene and encouraging diverse participation today.
Viva La Razabilly: The Cultural Politics of Latinx Rockabilly1
Kim Kattari is an assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University. She earned her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology and a doctoral certificate in cultural studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on the ways in which individuals express and perform identity through subcultural activity, style, community, and collective ideology. She has conducted ethnographic research on reggaeton, rockabilly, psychobilly, electronic dance music, steel pan ensembles, and regional Burning Man events. Her monograph, Psychobilly: Subcultural Survival, is forthcoming from Temple University Press.
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Kimberly Kattari; Viva La Razabilly: The Cultural Politics of Latinx Rockabilly. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 December 2019; 31 (4): 95–120. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2019.31.4.95
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