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Puerto Rico isn't a country known for rock music. If we're talking recognition for salsa and reggaetón, sure, and hip-hop at times too. But rock? It's not what immediately comes to mind for most gringo music lovers. But San Juan's impressive five-man group Black Guayaba is trying to change that. Led by 27-year-old vocalist Gustavo Gonzalez, the band has made tremendous headway since forming a few years ago. It went from playing bars and house parties around the island to releasing the critically acclaimed Lo Demás Es Plástico in 2005, an album nominated for both a Latin Grammy and, the following year, a mainstream Grammy. It didn't win in '06, but with good looks and well-crafted pop-rock appeal, it's easy to see the group as sort of a Latin Maroon 5.
That combination earned Black Guayaba plenty of attention on television outlets like Mun2 and MTV Tr3s, and when the group released its follow-up disc, No Hay Espacio, in 2007, it won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock Album. Was the band surprised it won the second time around?
"Yeah, of course we were," Gonzalez says via phone from San Juan. "The competition was tough that year, and we were just a little rock band from Puerto Rico. Most people don't think rock when they think of Puerto Rico, so it was really nice that we won. People don't understand that there's a bunch of indie bands here and that the rock circuit is really big."
San Juan's under-the-radar rock scene has nurtured Black Guayaba's development over the years, and now the group sits at the forefront of the pack. Interestingly, Gonzalez hints that the band could be up for a change of scenery soon — possibly heading to Mexico or South America.
"There have been great bands in the past from Puerto Rico, but they tend to stay local," Gonzalez says. "We don't want to get trapped like that, so we feel like, if the career calls for it, we'll concentrate on another market."
With the number of Latin music fans in these parts, the band says it always gets a good reception in Miami. It looks forward to returning to South Florida this weekend. "It feels like we're at home, honestly," Gonzalez says. "Every time we play there, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. That's a good feeling.