11 Things We Learned from the Movie ‘La Bamba’

La Bamba gif

La Bamba, the movie about the life and tragic death of singer Richie Valens, came out waaaaaay back in 1987. And the film, directed by Chicano theater legend Luis Valdez, STILL stands up today. If you haven’t seen it in a while, get on it and look for some of the not-so-obvious lessons the movie has to teach. Like…

You don’t have to be a Latino to play one in a movie.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens

Lou Diamond Phillips does a kick-ass job portraying Ritchie Valens, the granddaddy of rock en Español. He’s played many other Latino characters since, but he’s not actually Latino – he’s Filipino and Native American – even though some people would bet their lives on it.

Whoever cast Esai Morales as Bob Morales is a genius.

Esai Morales as Bob Morales

La Bamba is just as much about Ritchie’s brother, Bob Morales, as it is about Ritchie. Esai Morales NAILS the part – you wanna hate him, but you just can’t.

If you go for the bad boy, guess what you’re going to get?

Sweet innocent Rosie couldn’t resist Bob’s bad boy appeal. Eventually, she ends up being surprised that Bob ain’t nothin’ but trouble. Ladies, listen up: sometimes what you see is what you get.


READ: 11 Iconic Movies that Make Your Heart Burst With Latino Pride

Never underestimate a Latina mom. NEVER.

Ritchie’s mom, Connie Valenzuela, was broke and falling behind on her mortgage. Regardless, she used her welfare check to rent out the veteran’s hall “so Ritchie’s band could play their first gig.” That’s how much she believed in her kid.

READ: 15 Reasons You Should Watch Stand & Deliver Again

There’s always one pinche drunk in the crowd…

…that ruins it for everyone. And it’s even worse when you happen to be related to the borracho.

America couldn’t handle a Valenzuela.

Ritchie’s given name is Richard Steven Valenzuela. Bob Keane of Del-Fi records suggested he go with Ritchie with a “t” to stand out from all the other Richies at the time and Valens instead of Valenzuela to appeal to a white *ahem* larger audience.

READ: 15 Reasons Everyone Should Watch ‘Stand and Deliver’ Again

When in doubt, go to Tijuana.

Bob takes Ritchie to Tijuana to forget about his troubles and get laid. Is it the best plan? Who knows, but they’re definitely not the first or last ones to go with it.

You might be a Valenzuela, but you’re still a pocho.

Sure, you may be discriminated in the US for being Mexican, but as soon as you cross the border, everyone including Tijuana prostitutes will call you out for being a pocho.

Wait, is that Los Lobos rockin’ pompadours?

Why yes, yes it is! And they rock hard on the soundtrack.

You don’t have to speak Spanish to record a hit song in Spanish.

Ritchie Valens rock-n-rollified the Mexican folk song “La Bamba” and turned it into a Top 40 hit in the US. Never mind that Valens didn’t really speak Spanish and had to learn the song phonetically.

This movie is hella meme-worthy.

There’s this…


and this…

This is true. #labamba

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AND, of course, it gave us one of the greatest scenes in Latino movie history:

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I’m telling you, the movie is still tight. Go watch it, but before you do click the share button below!