School of Rock: BC prof plumbs roots of Latino influence in rock music

By 
Jonathan Rodriguez, Special to the Reporter
Jun. 10, 2010

Next Thursday, June 17, the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association will be honoring Dorchester resident, Roberto Avant-Mier, with a book-signing event for his recent publication, “Rock the Nation.” The signing will be held at the Neponset V.F.W. Post from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be accompanied by hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

The book, which will be available for purchase at the signing, sheds a new light on rock music’s relevance to the Latino/Hispanic community and the stereotypes that surround both.

“I think my book disrupts stereotypes and what people knew about rock music history,” says Avant-Mier, a professor at Boston College’s communications department. “And that excites me.”

The book takes the reader back through the ages of rock music while highlighting examples of Latino/Hispanic influence and even origins. Through his critical analysis of the rock music genre, Avant-Mier exposes the association of Latinos as outsiders while showing evidence of the Latino/Hispanic push both for and against American assimilation.

A Texas-born Mexican-American, Avant-Mier finds it necessary to subvert the ignorance that surrounds the Latino/Hispanic image in America. Growing up with dual heritage in a border state such as Texas has fueled his desire to expose the diversity and versatility of the Latino/Hispanic communities.

“The typical American association with Latinos is that we are almost Speedy Gonzalez,” he says “In reality, you have people who come from all over the world that meet in the Americas. So Latinos come in all colors and look all different, various ways. We’re diverse ethnically, culturally, racially, linguistically, and religiously.”

While studies on racial stereotyping may seem like old news, Avant-Mier’s approach through music is both fresh and exciting. Having earned his PhD in communications, which he received from the University of Utah, he discussed how many of his colleagues focused on the media of television, newspapers, and rhetoric. His choice to study music as a medium of intercultural communication puts him in an exclusive and almost taboo handful of researchers in his field.

He jokes about the snickers he receives for studying music, especially rock music, but he knows the importance of his work. Music transcends all boundaries and is very capable of influencing societies.
Avant-Mier, who is the first in his working-class family to have even attended college, admits that the idea of college was foreign to him until he started classes at University of Hawaii, while stationed there during a five-year stint in the Marine Corps. After six years as a BC professor, Avant-Mier seems to have adjusted nicely in his Dorchester neighborhood, where he lives with his wife and three children and attends the occasional meeting held by the St. Mark’s Area Civic Association.

He did mention, however, that the Mexican community in Boston is practically non-existent, a major culture shock when coming from Texas. He said that he and his wife joke that they may be the only Mexican family in Dorchester.

It is this sense of being an outsider that resonates so deeply with Prof. Avant-Mier. He is no stranger to fighting for his culture and that is apparent in his studies. Through the power of music, he sees the means to dispel the stereotypes that create the notion of an outsider, especially for the Latino/Hispanic community.

For more information regarding the June 17th book signing, call 617-282-4342.

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