La Pandilla was a teen music group of the 1970s, founded in 1970 by Pepa Aguirre. The group had members of both sexes, unlike most pop-music bands.
Aguirre's son, daughter, and niece formed the band; later, 2 boys were added. Their first album, Villancicos, was released in late 1970.
La Pandilla had initially a big impact in their home country of Spain. After a personnel change as some of the original members grew up, they experienced some backlash in the country for their song "El Alacrán" ("The Scorpion"), an innocent pop tune that made a coincidental reference to a clandestine group that was one of Francisco Franco's staunchest opponents. Franco's censors objected to the group, so they started touring Latin America more frequently.
Their appeal to youth in some Latin American countries bordered in collective hysteria, a reaction that evoked that of Beatlemania in the mid-1960s. During the 1970s, it was common to see La Pandilla-related items such as notebooks, posters, magazines, notebook covers, rulers, and dolls at department stores all over the Spanish-speaking countries.
La Pandilla was chiefly instrumental in the later success and development of one of history's most legendary boy bands: Menudo. In 1973, the future founder of Menudo, Edgardo Diaz, who was a medical student in Spain and lived next door to the Aguirreses, joined the band's entourage as a sound expert. Diaz turned out to be the bridge between La Pandilla and Puerto Rico, the country where La Pandilla's success was longest-lived. Thanks in part to him, Alfred D. Herger—who became known as the biggest pandillero in Puerto Rico—and Felix Santiesteban, the group became a teen favorite in the Caribbean island. Diaz became manager in 1974. In 1975, the band was received by a huge crowd of Puerto Rican fans at the Iberia Airlines terminal at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport at San Juan. Similar receptions took place in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela and other countries.
The definitive lineup of close-knit group La Pandilla literally grew up together, along with their fans. This eventually became a liability, as the youngest members' voices matured which made their original sound difficult to produce. Another liability, at least in Diaz's view, was that of having a female singer, Mari Blanca, for whom separate lodging, security, and chaperone arrangements were always necessary. This prompted Díaz to leave the management of the group and set up yet another, this time in his native Puerto Rico, in which only young males under age 15 would be used, to be replaced as they aged. After Diaz left and formed Menudo, La Pandilla's popularity slowly declined.