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Quiero Mi MTV: The Golden Age Of MTV Latino

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This past October 1st was the 30th anniversary of MTV Latin America, the Spanish version of the popular cable TV channel.

It was created for Hispanic-American audiences in the continent, after a few years of the concept show “MTV Internacional,” broadcast by Telemundo, and hosted by Cuban-American Daisy Fuentes, since the late 1980’s.

The original line up of VJ’s for the new channel was:

Alfredo Lewin from Chile,

Ruth Infarinato from Argentina,

and Gonzalo Morales from Mexico,

All alongside Daisy Fuentes.

Daisy used to appear mostly on weekends for the weekly Top 20 Countdown, until she eventually left the channel.

As I wrote on the mothership, 1993 was not a good year in my personal life. And by the months from August to October, I wasn’t quite aware about what was on TV.

I’d heard that a Latin American version of MTV was about to be launched. But I didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen. I think that my cable system put the channel up in November.

The network was based in Miami, and the first producer was Argentinian Alex Pels.

The first video broadcast was “We Are Sudamerican Rockers” (also known as “We Are South American Rockers”) by the Chilean band Los Prisioneros, from 1988:

Televisa had already created Telehit a couple of months before MTV Latino.

And although my siblings watched a couple of its shows after school…

… we soon turned to the latter, mostly because of the videos that were aired, the VJ’s were really good… and I must say, the promos were creative and original.

I remember some of the videos that were on heavy rotation by the last months of 1993:

Smashing Pumpkins
“Today”

Björk
“Human Behaviour”

Culture Beat
“Mr. Vain”

Spin Doctors
“Two Princes”

From the very beginning, the channel was mostly rock oriented. So, alternative, grunge, and other such subgenres were very successful.

And of course: the Latin American bands that had the most rotation were rock bands.

One of the bands that had big popularity in those years was Café Tacvba, with songs from their critically acclaimed album “Re”, released in 1994.

Another band that benefited from the channel was La Ley.

One of the things that I used to like about the channel was that almost all of the countries in Latin America could know what everybody else was doing.

  • The Argentinians knew the Mexican acts…
  • The Mexicans knew the Argentinian acts…

And on the other side: Chilean and Colombian bands gained better recognition.

Some the channel’s most popular shows were:

Conexión MTV

Headbangers

MTV Clásico

and Nación Alternativa.

There wasn’t yet a Latino version of MTV News. Most of the information came from the MTV mothership. Argentinian Javier Andrade was later incorporated by 1995 to present the version of MTV Latino News.

I remember that the coverage of Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994 was almost broadcast in real time.

The same year, the MTV Latino Unplugged shows began.

The first one was with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

The next years we saw the Caifanes breakup after the album cycle of “El Nervio Del Volcán” ended and making the second overall MTV Unplugged. Sadly they went on a bitter note.

Later, Soda Stereo‘s ended in similar circumstances. (However, ten years after they broke up, they did do a farewell tour.)

I think that the network’s quality declined mainly for a couple of reasons:

One was the regionalization. This meant that they wouldn’t broadcast from Miami anymore, and led to create a “North signal” from Mexico, and a “South signal” from Argentina. Everything was more local- focused.

The other reason was the big return of bubblegum pop from 1998-1999, which put artists from this wave on heavy rotation. Audiences were not happy with this.

One of the last things that I used to watch on the channel was “Daria.”

But I only saw the series finale online many years later, because I gradually stopped watching the channel.

Firstly because I started college, and also because there weren’t good shows to see. The same thing happened to the VJ’s – it was just not the same anymore.

The fate of MTV Latin America was similar to the MTV mothership:

Throughout the years the videos were replaced with reality TV, and shows like Acapulco Shore (which: thank God I’ve never seen.)

And other adaptations are basically trash.

The first years of MTV Latino were my company in my teenage years.

I heard great music in those years and it gave my siblings and I great memories, besides it was what hat my then friends and I had in common.

It was a great era.

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Edith G

Single Hispanic female. I wish I’ve been a storyteller, but it is what it is.

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cstolliver
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October 11, 2023 5:15 am

Thanks for this look, Edith, at music video life internationally. It is sad that the cycle was the same — from the heady excitement of the new to the resignation to “reality TV.”

You talked about Cobain’s death and MTV Latino’s coverage. Was the coverage of Selena’s death similar or different?

rollerboogie
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October 11, 2023 7:08 am

This is fantastic. I can’t decide if my life is so much better or far worse, now that I know of the existence of Acapulco Shore. La Situación anybody?
I wasn’t a huge MTV person, but I do recall 3 out of those 4 English videos you mentioned. “Today” was a classic with the ice cream truck and just an amazing song. Bjork’s “Human Behavior” just blew me away. It was like nothing else out there. Those two right there are two of the best songs of the 90s, IMO.

I like hearing about what was going on musically in other cultures at the same time as here. The Latin trends seem markedly different than what we encountered. I don’t recall a bubblegum pop trend in English in the late 90s, though it could have happened.

Great job. More please.

Phylum of Alexandria
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October 11, 2023 7:22 am

By 1988, I imagine that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer would be envious of Los Prisonieros. They’re clearly influenced by The Clash, but they embody so much of what made them exciting.

The only band mentioned here that I know is Cafe Tacvba, who I love.

If you were to write more about your favorite Rock o Pop en Español acts, I would totally be on board!

Virgindog
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October 11, 2023 8:18 am

Thanks for filling in a hole in my music history education. I know next to nothing about South American music, aside from Sepultura, Astrud Gilberto, and Chico Science.

How were, say, Mexican and Argentinian music different? Was one more pop or more rock than the other?

thegue
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October 11, 2023 9:17 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Is this research for your ongoing series?

Virgindog
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October 11, 2023 9:22 am
Reply to  thegue

LOL, could be! I have very little info on the non-English speaking world and wasn’t planning on covering South America, Africa, or Asia. We’ll see.

Virgindog
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October 11, 2023 12:22 pm
Reply to  Edith G

Excellent, thanks! I need to look into Soda Stereo. I’ve heard the name but have never heard them.

Also, my wife and I have Mexico City and Buenos Aries on our list of places to visit, so I should learn something about them beforehand.

JJ Live At Leeds
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October 11, 2023 2:23 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Bit of background reading on Soda Stereo. Soon as I saw the name I remembered reading this article about them earlier this year. Very good reminder that there’s a big world out there beyond the confines of our English speaking music markets.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/may/17/soda-stereo-argentina-biggest-band-rediscovery

thegue
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October 11, 2023 9:21 am

I had no idea the rise and decline of MTV was similar in multiple regions. When I lived in the Middle East I had a satellite TV, and used to watch MTV Asia which was out of India. It was in English, but mostly Indian music (which is where I discovered Amitabh Bachchan’s “Kahbi Kahbi”, one of my favorite songs of that period, produced by Bally Sagoo. I’d share it with you on here, but the only copy of it on YouTube is horrible.

I also watched France’s MCM (Monte Carlo Music), which was their response to MTV Europe, which is where I discovered Ophelie Winter’s album.

https://youtu.be/gmuyfiJKFaA?si=q4KXFXW9LJUKqvT-

mt58
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October 11, 2023 11:04 am
Reply to  Edith G

Editors note:
With regard to the launch date of the MTV Latino channel, Edith G had cited “November“ in her article text. I always do a little fact checking here and there, not because I don’t trust our authors, but I just like to try to confirm things, and get things right.

Anyway, my research said that it was December 1 for the launch of a channel, so I was was the one that flipped it over to December.

But I think we’re going to defer to Edith G on this one, because clearly, she has a great memory.

Well done- and November, it is!

Phylum of Alexandria
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October 11, 2023 3:46 pm
Reply to  Edith G

Aterciopelados is great too!

cappiethedog
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October 11, 2023 4:18 pm
Reply to  Edith G

Cafe Tacvba was on live American television. It had to be Letterman, but I can’t find any evidence of it. I bought s/t. I like “Maria”.

I was psyched when Francisca Valenzuela appeared on Elvis Costello’s Spanish Idol. I like Chilean history. Violetta Parra was my entry point for the country’s cultural side.

And I second the greatness of “Bolero Falaz”.

LinkCrawford
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October 11, 2023 10:57 am

This is good stuff, Edith! I know VJ Daisy Fuentes from her time as a co-host of America’s Funniest Videos in the late 90s. That’s about it.

It is a funny thing to think of how much music exists in the world that I know nothing about. Maybe I wouldn’t like a lot of it…but even if I only liked 1% of it, imagine how much cool music I’m missing out on!

We appreciate the Latin perspective.

rollerboogie
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October 11, 2023 1:15 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

I seem to recall that Daisy Fuentes was everywhere at one point.

stobgopper
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October 12, 2023 6:39 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Illuminating, Edith! Although I don’t recognize many of the artists mentioned here (I promise to dip at least one toe in la agua), I do remember Daisy Fuentes’ clothing line. (?)

JJ Live At Leeds
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October 11, 2023 11:21 am

Thanks for this Edith. Fascinating to read of the differences and similarities of MTV across regions. As others have said, sad to see that one of those similarities is in the way it declined by moving focus to reality TV.

I had a friend at uni in the mid 90s that would tell us how great The Real World was and tried to get us into it – MTV showed it here as well. It was like nothing else on TV, you got to see the real lives of these young Americans. Little did we know where that would lead us to. I try not to succumb to the phrase that it was better back in the day but I can make an exception for most reality TV.

Great that you have the memories of when it was in its prime to accompany your teenage years though.

rollerboogie
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October 11, 2023 1:15 pm

Yes, I was really blown away by The Real World the first time I saw it, as real people were interacting with each other in ways I had never seen in a TV show. After it changed tv forever and spawned an unholy movement, there were very few times I recall having any appreciation whatsoever for the “reality” shows that followed. There has never been a better use for air quotes.

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