It was never a phase for us, despite what our parents may have thought. We always knew we would support our boys forever. Every single one of the boys too, all 32 of them. Thirty-six when you count the 4 who joined after the group’s name was shortened to MDO and the age requirements were dropped. Yes, we are Menudo fans, ayer y hoy.
The vast majority of us who happily own our Menuditis or Menudo Mania as it was declared by the American press have maintained friendships and/or reunited with other fans. Long before the internet connected people with similar interests, we found each other by reaching out via pen pal lists. Let’s say I wrote a letter to Yoli in Chino, CA. I would include a sheet of paper with my name, address, age, and who were my favorite group members. Yoli would add her information and mail that to another fan. This sheet would travel around the United States and often times to Mexico, parts of South America, and Caribbean islands before making it’s way back to me. When the list was returned to me, I had new pen pals to write.
Then there were a crazy amount of fan clubs and newsletters solely based in the U.S.A. I had one called Los Chicos de Menudo for a few years starting when I was 12 or 13 years old. Fan clubs were well respected by the guys in Menudo, their parents, and management. To this day, our boys who are now grown men recognize the girls who not just ran fan clubs but who also attended the parties and events. They see us at reunion concerts, CD and book signings, and the new worldwide fan parties. Even as grownups, us girls can’t get enough of them.
Former members of Menudo and the fans are connected now more than ever. As adults we are able to put our talent, knowledge, and education to work for the exes. I have a friend who has written press releases for several guys and another friend who was on payroll and ran the official fan club for another. A great number of fans are now journalists and Spanish teachers. I as a photographer, have photographed 20 out of 36 of the guys and am published internationally. Many girls or women as our age now defines us, count former Menudo members as close personal friends. I’m included in that wonderful equation. Talk about una aventura llamada Menudo, a few ladies managed to snag ex-Menudos as husbands. Johnny Lozada’s wife Sandy was a big fan of Ricky Melendez, whose wife Muñeca favored Johnny.
The group recorded albums in Spanish, English, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, and Tagalog. A huge benefit of having friends in various countries was having them buy foreign releases and shipping them to the United States. Websites like eBay, Gemm, and Amazon have made tracking down rarities easier, even 20-something years later. The goal hasn’t changed, collect every recording ever made. Organized fans have spreadsheets listing what albums they own, the format, and country of origin. Album cover images are also important as they changed according to the group’s lineup and release location. Why go to all this trouble? Because we need mas, mucho mas.
As a whole, Menudo fans have broken world records. El Salvador ceased fighting when the group played Estadio Cuzcatlan with newspapers reporting that Menudo stopped the war. A new record in ticket sales was established at Radio City Music Hall. 250,000 fans in Argentina filled the streets to see Ricky Martin in action a few short years into his solo career. El Reencuentro’s (the reunion of 6 members) initial concert series in Puerto Rico broke records with 6 sold-out concerts in 2 weekends. The plan was for only 1 concert but the response was so enormous that they toured and still perform together 13 years after the initial regrouping.
The sad truth is that many of us were teased and tormented solely for our music preference. A high school classmate of mine told me after graduation that she was also a Menudo fan but feared telling anyone because off all the crap the kids gave me. I’ve never understood why the singers who make me happy would be fodder for someone else. Frankly, we don’t care what you think because Nefty, Fernando, Carlos, Oscar, Ricky Melendez, Rene, Johnny, Xavier, Miguel, Charlie, Ray, Roy, Robby, Ricky Martin, Raymond, Sergio, Ruben, Ralphy, Angelo, Robert, Rawy, Cesar, Adrian, Jonathan, Edward, Alex, Andres, Abel, Ashley, Ricky Lopez, Didier, Anthony, Daniel, Pablo, Troy, and Caleb will forever be los ultimos heroes.