The impact of “Rebelde” on a young Latin American pop-punk generation


There are TV shows so good you would cross a border for them.

Stephanía Lara-Cuéllar grew up on the dividing line between the United States and Mexico. Every morning, she crossed the International Bridge with thousands of other students from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Texas, to go to school. And every afternoon she would come home to watch the early childhood teen show Rebel.

“School ended at 3:00 pm and we crossed the bridge back to Mexico to get back in time for the 6:00 pm slot. We would watch it and as soon as it was finished, my friends and I would log into MSN Messenger and talk about it all night, ”she laughs. “We would change all of our icons and screen names.”

Growing up between two cities, Lara-Cuéllar, now a marketing professional, knew how to choose between Mexican culture and American culture. But when she remembers her teenage years, almost two decades later, she always comes back to Rebel.

First broadcast on Televisa, one of Mexico’s largest cable networks, in 2004, the show revolves around residential school students and their unwavering desire to form a pop group. The Spanish speaking audience grew up with actors Christopher Von Uckermann, Christian Chávez, Anahí, Alfonso Herrera, Dulce María and Maite Perroni, watching them transform from young teenagers into icons of world music over a span of 440 episodes. RebelThe leaders then formed their own band, RBD, to tour the world with 2000s sound that rivaled Green Day and Paramore.

It’s hard to overstate the reverberating impact of the series; he demonstrated to audiences around the world that the stories Latinx presented were not just about street gang-fueled violence and steamy sex. During prime time, Monday through Friday, tweens would come home from school, take off their sneakers, and sit in front of the television to manifest a life that Rebel the children had.

“What had dominated back then were people like Britney Spears and NSYNC. We went to school everyday and saw it, but it was like an accessibility glass ceiling. So when things filtered through to the other side, it was like a cultural reset, ”explains Lara-Cuéllar. “It opened up this possibility of being something else. It made me more Mexican.

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Like most elements of Latinx youth culture at the time, RebelFashion has been filtered through an American lens. Costume designers Gabriela Ortiz, Hector Flores and José Tapia ensured that the It girls on the show carried the Y2K trends seen in the United States. Cable-knit cardigans, sequined handbags and dazzling denim personified a fictional generation living off the wealth and nepotism of their parents. It’s a fantasy that many have tried to emulate, says writer and designer José Criales-Unzueta.

For children who grew up in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, American brands like Juicy Couture and Abercrombie & Fitch were symbols of luxury and wealth. Some families made annual shopping pilgrimages to the United States, creating vacations from trips to shopping malls in cities like Orlando and Dallas. For those who couldn’t jump on a plane, impatient tíos and tías– uncles and aunts – could bring back suitcases filled with the hottest items for their communities to enjoy. While Criales-Unzueta couldn’t get the same top that fictional pop star Alma Rey wore on the show, he certainly could wear one like this.

“My interaction with American fashion took place through the accessibility filter. When you put Rebel in the photo, this is the style we all imitated, ”explains Criales-Unzueta. “The leather bracelets that all the boys wore, pop your button down collar and open it up a bit, wearing heeled boots with your uniform skirt… it didn’t look what we thought it did,” but in our heads we were like, ‘You are Diego. You are Miguel. You are the girl.'”

miami september 22 anahi of the band rebelde poses in the press room at the 2nd annual premios juventud awards at the miami university convening center on september 22, 2005 in miami, florida photo by alexander tamargogetty images

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miami september 22 dulce maria of the group rebelde poses in the press room at the 2nd annual premios juventud awards at the miami university convening center on september 22, 2005 in miami, florida photo by alexander tamargogetty images

Alexandre tamargoGetty Images

Criales-Unzueta remembers buying Rebel fantasy with his friends. In their Bolivian Catholic school, they would channel their favorite characters of the day, like a real form of cosplay.

Rebel allowed me to understand the extent to which all my friends could exist. Like some girls say, “Oh, I’m such a Carrie,” we were talking like, “Oh, I’m such a Lupita. “It started with the characters and it bleed into fashion,” he explains. “It was going back to these archetypes of [characters] and saying to me: ‘Do you feel more tomboy? Are you feeling cranky? Do you feel punk? “

Punk was a new idea that was not often associated with monjitas which ran Catholic schools, let alone a conservative Latin American society. For a generation that grew up with the dial-up internet, the idea of ​​rebelling against tradition was appealing, whether it was hemming dresses beyond their full function or wearing star stickers on their foreheads during class. of religion. The style revolution was celebrated by Latinx teens, much to the chagrin of their old school parents.

At the time, Rebel was the only show that looked like a true depiction of female-led sexuality, says Mario Lugo, an advertising consultant. The characters on the show wore what they wanted just because they wanted to, inspiring viewers to do the same. When a character like Mia Colucci or Roberta Pardo showed up at the mall wearing high heels and a bikini top, the outfit wasn’t primarily used to flatter the sleazy male gaze, but rather to embody his personal style.

“Young children, especially young gay children, could turn on the television and see how the male and female characters presented their identities in the costume,” says Lugo, who identifies as non-binary. “In Mexico there is an overwhelming sense of a conservative male dominated culture perpetuated by old ways of thinking. Anything beyond this binary is vilified. Rebel It was the first time that the fight against a confined society had been validated “in a mainstream way.

While RBD, the show’s companion group, was on tour, it wasn’t hard to find leather corsets, plaid dresses, and chunky boots on stage stomping on me. The pop-punk aesthetic, catapulted by stars of the time like Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams of Paramore, made its way in Latin America and abroad. For a society built on toxic machismo, Rebel was a culture shock to the system. It showed that women who dressed revealingly could have brains. Those men who dyed their hair like Giovanni Méndez López – whose actor stepped out after the show – weren’t strange merchandise. That people who wore ragged jeans to school and used slang could be respected, even celebrated.

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Rebel walked like this Elite– another telenovela on wealthy, Spanish-speaking students – could be broadcast. TO Rebelfictitious boarding school, a rotating list of New England-inspired prep uniforms was the garment of choice. Red blazers with matching tartan ties and miniskirts shorter than the storylines of the series were worn by all. Frances Solá-Santiago, fashion editor at Refinery29, says the show’s costumes reflected the quintessential style of the time. Last month she wrote a room on the importance of school uniforms on the show, citing their impact on developing personal identity and style at a pivotal age.

“We think so much about low-rise jeans and Y2K skirts, but we forget about the school-girl and preppy aesthetic that also popped up in the 2000s. We see Olivia Rodrigo, especially in the ‘Brutal’ clip, channeling that image so much into this moment, ”explains Solá-Santiago.

For many characters in the show, the personalization was an act of insurgency. No one at Elite Way School followed the dress code. For every ironed white dress shirt and perfectly tailored pair of pants, a distressed denim jacket or teenage crop top. The outward rejection of societal standards did not come just from scandalous storylines, but rather from skimpy outfits that left little to the imagination and unorthodox accessories that defined an era in Televisa’s history. It’s punk if you’ve ever heard of it.

As a restarted version of Rebel is gearing up to hit Netflix next year, many are holding their breath to see if the original’s pushing-back style will translate into the new decade. There will always be country uniforms, romantic ballads, and locks of box-dyed hair for nostalgia sake, but the show looks fit for a Gen Z crowd revolutionizing what it means to be proudly themselves. .

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Rebel 2.0 costume stylist Nayeli de Alba said ELLE Mexico that it attaches greater importance to local brands. The idea could turn out to be radical, redefining what computer brands are for Latinx communities, Criales-Unzueta says. After all, these fantastic tales that revolve around wealth usually use European or American brands to tell their stories. An influential and avant-garde figure who showcases the talent that flourishes in his own garden could be monumental.

“The proposal could do a lot for the industry in Mexico,” he says. “If they’re wearing a local designer and they want the brand, that means you, the viewer, should want it too. If the new Mia Colucci wears any Mexican brand with her pink razor [phone], I’m in. I buy what she buys.

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