‘Decolonial Metal’: The impact and growth of metal in Latin America
Professor Nelson Varas-Díaz explores how heavy metal is impacting and benefiting communities in countries like Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Argentina.
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The long-lasting effects of colonialism — racism, political persecution, ethnic extermination, and extreme capitalism — are still felt throughout Latin America.
In Decolonial Metal Music in Latin America, Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz, a professor in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University, explores how heavy metal music in the region has been used to challenge colonialism, and its present-day manifestations.
Drawing on extensive ethnographic research in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, Varas-Díaz documents how metal musicians and listeners engage in “extreme decolonial dialogues” as a strategy to challenge past and present forms of oppression.
Published in late 2021 by University of Chicago Press, the book suggests that most existing work on metal music in Latin America has relied on theoretical frameworks developed in the global North. By contrast, Varas-Díaz explores the region through its own history and experiences, providing a roadmap for this emerging mode of musical analysis by demonstrating how to achieve decolonial metal scholarship.
One of the key moments quoted in the book is the launching of the festival 'Rock In Rio' in 1985. According to Loudersound, a music magazine, the Brazilian festival “solidified Latin America's ties with heavy metal as a genre, cementing the region as a new destination for bands looking to adoring crowds away from the usual routes of Europe and the U.S.”
Since then, only a few Latin American names in metal have shown up, with the Brazi's Sepultura being the only one to achieve some mainstream success.
Varas-Díaz is also the author of the documentaries The Metal Islands, Songs Of Injustice and Acts Of Resistance (available on YouTube), where he explored how heavy metal is impacting communities in countries like Cuba, Chile, Colombia and Argentina, among others.
"The book is an ethnographic account of people I met while traveling and filming [those] documentaries," Varas-Díaz told Loudersound. "It's a reflection of the people I keep meeting while traveling through Latin America are using metal music to inform others and to transform themselves in the process of becoming aware of the ongoing legacy of colonialism in the region."