Category Archives: Cultura Chicana

Review: Johnny Hernandez ~ The Cottonpicker-An Odyssey

I just got done reading the autobiography of Chicano music legend (and friend) Johnny Hernandez. Titled The Cottonpicker–An Odyssey, Hernandez takes us through various phases of his life:  The kid who worked the cotton fields and went through a racist school system that left him in need of a formal education; the young teen dropout (I prefer pushout) who struggled job to job with a young family; the vocalist of an up-and-coming Chicano music band that made it big nationally and internationally; the successes of his songwriting and La Familia with him at the mic; the trials and tribulations that brought an end to the “Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia” era of the band; and his struggles as a solo act and a person.

All of this, along with familiar stories of family love, personal struggles with drugs, alcohol, women, and business, and much more make for a book that was hard to put down. Add some personal successes in overcoming these struggles, and finding success in the radio business, and one can’t help but to feel good that Johnny is still around and thriving.

What was the toughest read was Johnny’s depictions of his struggles with his brother. Frankly, I would think this is the part that people wanted to read most because for the longest time, people were too willing to blame Johnny for the “Little Joe/Johnny” break up. Like most band stories, there is much more to the story, and perhaps some bitter pills that we as fans must swallow. It is definitely an entry into musician life that we never experience.

Of course, disturbing to me were the challenges Johnny faced as he attempted a solo career after La Familia. Being met with unhelpful promoters, producing and marketing his own albums, and trying to keep a band together aren’t necessarily new stories in music. They are part the overall story of what became of the Tejano market, where (in my opinion) big corporations exploited Tejano music, picked favorites, and left the industry in disarray once the cash wasn’t as lucrative. For Johnny, adding the 800 lb. gorilla that he was no longer a part of the premier TexMex band (La Familia), and one can only imagine Johnny’s struggles.

As a fan of Johnny’s for a long time, I followed his solo career. I also noticed his long absence after his “big break” when Capitol EMI signed him, and his next return with various self-produced albums. This book fills in a lot of those gaps that many fans will appreciate.

I’ll also say that Johnny putting his story in print isn’t only good for the fans, but it’s good for Chicano history. Seldom has the story of our culture and music been put in print, especially by the people that make the music. I hope this is the first of many more projects put out by some of our graying, yet continuing, Tejano titans. Great job, Johnny!

Buy Johnny’s book at CreateSpace today.

Little Joe Wows MOT Crowd–Again!

Little Joe y La Familia headlined Friday night’s line-up at the 36th Annual Festival Chicano. Energized by another SRO-out crowd–including thousands seated on the hill–La Familia returned the favor with an energized show packed with hits and a couple of surprises.

Ljoe1Heading toward 75, Little Joe has not lost the voice and stage presence that made him an international superstar who has recorded and toured with greats, such as Willie Nelson and Tierra. Kicking off the gig with a medley of his early hits, such as  Cuidadito and La Bola Negra, the hits continued. Even Little Joe felt the energy of the crowd when the they joined him on Prieta Linda.

One surprise was LJ giving the main mic to bassist Mike Torres, III who belted out the salsa-tinged cumbia, El Alacran. Later, Little Joe would belt out Cartas Marcadas, Chicano national anthem Las Nubes, Borrachera, Cuando Salgo a Los Campos, and the tried and true Pa’ Todo El Año.

In between, Little Joe would bring out Neal Sharpe who would offer some R&B, as well as Houston Jazz pianist/keyboardist and La Familia alumnus Gilbert Sedeño for an instrumental version of Mañana de Carnaval–flawlessly and without having rehearsed prior to the concert.

LjoeDanielA poignant moment came when Little Joe brought out Festival organizer/founder Daniel Bustamante to recognize his most recent achievement:  Recognition by Mayor Annise Parker as an Hispanic Heritage honoree for Arts in the Community. Daniel will receive his award on Monday, October 5. A well-deserved recognition after 36 years of organizing an even which attracts thousands of Chicanos/Mexican Americans for a weekend of beautiful music and culture.

Earlier in the evening, we enjoyed the sounds of Cañonazo and Acordeon powerhouse AJ Castillo. So, it was a great night of dancing in your seats (since the union ushers didn’t allow any dancing in the aisles.) The best way to celebrate this event is with friends and family and I was lucky enough to enjoy it with both. Until the next Festival Chicano, ¡Que viva La Musica Tejana!

Kudos to Council Member Robert Gallegos for attending the event. It was a great opportunity for some hand-shaking, especially during the hour-and-a-half prior to the event while folks were picnicking. Too bad other candidates didn’t take this opportunity to do the same; although, I did hear of a few at the other festival down the street. Anyway…


Me and 10,000 of my closest friends.

Oct 1-2-3: Festival Chicano Houston!

It’s that time of the year, again! That time of year when thousands of Chican@s get together to enjoy three nights of Musica Chicana (Tejano, to others) to celebrate 523+ years of Chicanismo, and 36 years of Cultura here in Houston. Here’s the line-up.

Thanks to organizer Daniel Bustamante. And congrats to Daniel for being chosen for one of Mayor Parker’s Hispanic awards this year!


Arts Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol

by Fidencio Leija-Chavez, Jr.

TODAY is “Art Advocacy Day at the Capitol.” Why is this important to Texans? The arts produce over $4.5 billion in revenue and shape our states landscape. Last legislative session, our leaders decide to cut funding for the arts by 50%.

The majority of arts funds from the state are allocated to the Texas Commission on the Arts, which are distributed to non-profits, community centers and art centers throughout our state.

In comparison to other states, Texas only funds 11 cents per person – while other states like New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma provide over 60 cents per person. Oklahoma leads the way with $1.06 per citizen.

The next time you drive by a community mural or Talento Bilingüe de Houston, you’ll remember if you made a phone call today to let your legislators know that increasing funding per person is important to you and your community.

It only takes 3 minutes to call your representative and inform them that Latinos are also part of the arts. Don’t wait! Call today!

Find the contact information for your State Representative here.

Chip In and Support Los Angeles del Desierto

We’ve all heard the stories of migrants who cross deserts and treacherous waterways as they attempt to find a better life. Along with those stories are those in which migrants lose their lives in desolate, desert areas. And that includes Texas.

Los Angeles del Desierto is an all-volunteer search and rescue operation of lost migrants on the US/Mexico Border founded in 1997 by Rafael Hernandez.

For the last 15 years, Hernandez has dedicated his time, resources and financial stability to save lives, lay the dead to rest and ease the pain of countless families looking for their loved ones. Using his skills and training as a paramedic, Hernandez has conducted numerous searches/rescues of migrants reported missing or left behind in mountains, deserts and other isolated border areas in California, Arizona and Texas.

Hernandez and his volunteers, whom he recruits and trains, have evacuated an estimated 90 migrants in mortal danger when lost, physically ill, and suffering the consequences of extreme weather during border crossings.

As reported by the Chron, they were in Houston a few days ago to speak about their work. With three vehicles and 10 volunteers, they have now set off to South Texas, and, according to representatives are currently in Encinal, TX–about 70 miles south of my hometown of Crystal City and just north of Laredo.

Two of the largest ranches in South Texas have given permission to Los Angeles Del Desierto to look for missing migrants.Until now, our local coalition Houston United and individuals were able to cover the expenses needed to assist Los Angeles Del Desierto with their mission. On this occasion, we find that we do not have sufficient funds to get them beyond our city. We need your help now.

Over 127 bodies of migrants were found in 2012 around the Falfurrias checkpoint, double the previous year. The work done by Los Angeles del Desierto provides those families with lost loved ones some closure, and at the very least the security in mind that their loved ones were treated with dignity. But they need our help–whatever donation you can give is greatly appreciated.

You may click here to make your contribution. Share this post or “like” them on Facebook and share them.


3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Politics is the Art of Compromise?

by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

The most overused saying among liberals is that politics is the art of compromise, and it gripes me to no end. Liberals repeat it with such smugness as if they were sages. I find it so pretentious — to the point that I consider it a bunch of toro dung.

It is like saying that politics is the art of the possible, an equally absurd, pretentious and irritating notion. What happened to the impossible dream? Shouldn’t we always strive for something better?

If we have to have a standard wouldn’t a better saying be that politics is the art of principle after all politics is not a game. It involves people, and consequences.

In my own little world, I have seen too many Chicana/o studies programs compromised out of existence with administrators convincing Chicana/o negotiators that it was impossible to give them what they wanted, not enough money. At the same time the president of the institution draws down $300,000 a year, and gets perks such as housing, a per diem, and an automobile. One recently retired university president that I know sits on two corporate boards of directors, and draws down an extra $300,000.

This is academe’s version of one potato two potatoes three potatoes, more.

The game gets ridiculous. Faculties at institutions of higher learning supposedly have shared governance. In fact, every committee is merely advisory to the president who can accept or reject the recommendations.

For the past several years California State University professors have been playing footsies with the administration or better still the chancellor’s office over the budget and pay raises. This is a Catch-22, however. Faculty members also say that they are concerned about the escalating tuition; note that students pay as much as 80 percent of instructional costs. So where is the additional revenue going to come from? Professors love students, but not enough to forgo raises or out of principle go on strike to trim back the number of administrators and the presidents’ salaries.

It really gets ridiculous at times. At Northridge, Chicana/o studies was threatened that if it exceeded its target enrollment that the department would be penalized and its budget cut. Our former chancellor wanted to pressure the state legislature to cough up more money by turning back students. The administration minions at the disparate campuses justified this by repeating the party line that numbers do not count. In fact they laid a guilt trip on us saying that Chicana/o studies professors we were not team players because we were admitting too many students.

As a result, this semester we have a crisis. The institution did not admit enough students; the rationale was if we had fewer students, then we would spend less. But it does not work that way. At state universities even the allocation for paper clips depends on how many students you are taking in. That is why most departments are now being told to beef up their enrollment or lose a portion of their department budget.

Good old compromise got us there as well as the illusion that faculty has power. In fact there were other possibilities. Compromise was not necessarily one of them.

The word compromise is insidious. President Barack Obama has been trying to play Henry Clay and show that he is a great compromiser – forgetting that he is not bargaining for a used car.

President Obama compromised and got his Obama care package. A half a loaf is better than none my Democrat friends repeated, smiled, and nodded. But, according to the New York Times, “Americans continue to spend more on health care than patients anywhere else. In 2009, we spent $7,960 per person, twice as much as France, which is known for providing very good health services.” An appendectomy in Germany costs a quarter of what it costs in the United States; an M.R.I. scan less than a third as much in Canada.

The U.S. devotes far more of its economy to health care than other industrialized countries. It spends two and a half times more than the other countries do for health care; most of it is funneled through giant health corporations. Why do we pay more? Could it be because Obama compromised on the single payer?

I have been to France, Spain and Germany; I can testify that the quality of care is on a par and often better than in the U.S. and the earnings and prestige of doctors is equivalent or better.

Why is this? Could it be that they don’t have giant medical corporations making tremendous profits? Just Blue Cross of California has annual revenue of $9.7 billion. This not for profit corporation made $180 million in excess profits in 2010.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that Obama was suckered into believing compromise was necessary and that politics was the art of the possible instead of sticking to principle.

Let’s be honest for a moment, immigration was put on the back burner until the Democratic party realized that in order to win that Latinos better be invited to the dance.

However, Mexican Americans, Latinos or, whatever we call them, play the same ridiculous game as white people do.

Go to the neighborhoods, ask Central Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Ask Cuban Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Many resent the fact or want to ignore that Mexican Americans make up two-thirds to 70 percent of the Latino total.

So, let’s not rock the boat, Mexicans will call any politician with a tenth Mexican blood a Latino and call them compadre. They are happy to be called anything but Mexican.

I don’t know how we are going to get out of this bind when we have to vote for people without principles. Are we going to support a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz because they have Spanish surnames, or George Prescott Bush because his mother was Mexican, and forget that he was once called ”the little brown one.”

It gets ridiculous — like that game played in the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices that features articles asking, do you know that this actor or actress has Latino blood? It is as stupid as the game of compromise or the art of the possible.

It reminds me of my grandfather and uncles who worked on the railroad (Southern Pacific) for fifty years who would say that a certain foreman was simpatico, they just knew he liked Mexicans. Why shouldn’t he? Mexican workers bought his lottery tickets and junk jewelry.

Support should be based on principle. I support Central and Latin Americans not because their numbers swell opportunities for politicos, but because they have suffered European and Euro-American colonialism, and come to this country for a better life. They deserve what every other human being should have.

We are not going to get a thing through compromise. Every time I look at John Boehner, Eric Cantor and their buddy in the Senate who reminds me of the bloodhound Trusty in “Lady and the Tramp”; I am reminded that a fair deal is based on integrity. I would not want any of these jokers to come to dinner – not in my house!

Before we start compromising and calling anyone our amigos remember that Boehner called a 2007 bipartisan immigration bill “a piece of shit.” This is what he thinks about us. I use the generic word Latino because I care about my Latin American family – not because I want to be Italian.

Obama is now at a crossroads. He is going to have to make a decision, and that decision does not only encompass immigration and gun control. It is about whether politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible, or whether it is about principle.

My advice is to tell his three Republican amigos to take a hike and mint the damn trillion dollar coin. It is better to be right and to be respected than to be liked.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair Weekend in March!

I’ll let the good folks from the Texas Talent Musicians Association tell you all about it.

SAN ANONIO, TX (01-15-2013) – Texas Talent Musicians Association (TTMA) presents the Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair 2013. Set for March 14-17, 2013, thousands of Tejano Music Fans from across the country will travel to Historic Market Square in Downtown San Antonio for the Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair 2013.

The four-day event will showcase over 125 bands from across the U.S.A to include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Illinois. The TMA Fan Fair draws over 90,000 die-hard fans each year. The Fan Fair offers an up close and personal atmosphere with live music on five stages featuring emerging acts to top veteran performers.

The family oriented event offers plenty of traditional food, beverage and vendor booths and Tejano Music merchandise. Fans will get exclusive access to their favorite artists participating in the special autograph sessions scheduled during the four days of Fan Fair.

The Tejano Music Awards continues to shine each year by producing one of the largest Tejano Music events in the country. Performing this year Michael Salgado, Gary Hobbs, Ruido Anejo, Jaime y los Chamacos, Los Hermanos Farias, Los Palominos, David Marez, Hometown Boys, Ricardo Castillon Y La Diferenzia , AJ Castillo, Monica Castro, Ricky Valenz, Jessica Sanchez and Tejano Highway 281 more artists to be announced.

San Antonio “Tejano Capital of the World”, will host the 33rd Annual Tejano Music Awards Show for early fall of 2013.

For the latest information on 33rd Tejano Music Awards and TMA Fan Fair 2013 performance schedule and hotel information please visit


Texas Talent Musicians Association (TTMA) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote professional excellence; a better understanding and greater appreciation for Tejano music; and to provide a public forum for songwriters, performs and musicians in order to recognize their artistic efforts and achievements through the annual Tejano Music Awards and related events. TTMA is based in San Antonio, Texas.

DCs Top Posts of 2012

Music Reviews – Top 3

The Mavericks – Suited Up and Ready

Los Texmaniacs – Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds

Johnny Hernandez – Gracias…Por Los Exitos!

Political Posts – Top 10

Did Ann Just Lose The Other 30% of Latinos? (Romney Mouth)

Dude, This Election Makes No Sense (Post-Primary)

Tacos and Votes – To Protect the Vote (Latino Vote)

Endorsement:  Vote FOR the City of Houston Bonds

RIP – Texas Senator Mario V. Gallegos

Helena is Doing What and With Whom? (City Council)

Tacos and Votes ~ All About Engaging the Community

Fort Bend Dems Open HQ

Finally, Let’s Move Toward November (Post-Primary)

Dos Centavos Endorses in Dem Primary (Post Primary)

Top 3 Posts w/ Staying Power (Pre-2012)

Celebrating 40 Years of La Raza Unida Party (by Carlos Munoz)

DC Reviews ~ Intocable – 2011

2010 Profiles ~ Kathy Cheng for the 209th Court

Top 5 Cultura and Community Posts

Tejano Music Awards Fanfare is Coming

FIEL Announces Deferred Action Assistance Program

RIP – Shaun Chapa

Houston – 33rd Annual Festival Chicano

RIP – Mike Kelley

DC Reviews: Jay Perez ~ New Horizons

The Voice, Jay Perez, is back with a new production, New Horizons. The 12-song release is quite the piece of work, produced by Grammy-winning Gilbert Velasquez and supported by Freddie Records. Perez’s recent works have been on mostly indie labels, but his new label provides a lot of backing in regards to marketing and promotions. The tried-and-true Perez style is not lost as Velasquez has worked with Perez many times before–even being a part of his original band.

Kicking off with Tu Ultima Cancion, Jay’s fans immediately hear the signature ranchera sound–keys, sax, acordeon and a hard-driving beat, and some great lyrics giving someone the kiss-off. Known for his slowed-down,  acordeon-driven zapateadas, Perez does not disappoint with the first single, Lo Tengo Que Admitir, an ode to the girl who gave him everything.

And the cumbia stylings do not disappoint, either, with their R&B flair. Demuestrame, with it’s catchy chorus, and Vivir Sin Ti, will definitely be live favorites. Especially Vivir, with some awesome percussion providing the rhythm.

Perez brings out a horn section, a-la Latin Breed, to give us a fine ballad, Tu Amor No Me Pertenece. The guitar, horns, and acordeon provide a smooth foundation on which Perez provides a soaring vocal.

Perez offers up plenty more signature rancheras to keep toes tapping and feet on the dance floor. Tengo Miedo and Dos Caras with some powerful lyrics and smooth rhythms are some personal favorites. But Perez also dusts off a couple of songs previously done by the late Laura Canales during her comeback in the 90s. Amor Escondido,with a driving sax solo, and Yo Quiero Que Vivas Conmigo are very welcome by this Laura Canales fan.

Finally, Quien Te Dijo and Tu Partida close out the catalog on rancheras, showing Perez is very committed to keeping La Onda Tejana alive and kicking ass. Partida with an excellent sax/acordeon solo, and Quien Te Dijo with a driving ranchera rhythm. Finally, Perez closes the release with an R&B tune, All of Me, which shows off his vocal abilities.

Providing the power behind all of the tracks was Perez with some of the best vocals I’ve heard from him. The man just knows how to deliver lyrics in a way that makes the listener feel their meaning. Combined with a tight band, he is also able to deliver these songs live like few can.

Get your copy at just about any store that features Latin music, or online at Freddie Records.

You Callin’ Me F’urn?

Well, according to SA Mayor Julian Castro, the Republicans sure as heck think of Latinos as something foreign.

“What they’re not getting is that it’s not just about changing the tone, it’s not just about not talking about electrified fences and not being uncivil. It’s also about fundamentally changing the policies that they embrace. Being more willing to engage in conversations and discussions and actually get comprehensive immigration reform done. Get the Dream Act done. Think about and include the Latino community as a part of the fabric, the family of the Untied States which it clearly is and always has been. When they think about the Latino community you can tell in both in tone and in policy that they think of it as something foreign.”

Well, I’m glad someone with national prominence finally said this. Of course, there are a few Dems that do/have done that, too. And the Democrats have fallen over each other to support right-wing, anti-immigrant Dems here in Texas. I won’t bother rehashing the names, but we all know it’s true.

The GOP still has not begun to learn any lessons from their 2012 thrashing at the hands of Latin@s, but they are attempting to write the lesson plan to their own liking. Obviously, Castro reads them like I do.

Ultimately, when we begin to hear these type of remarks from people who do not look like Castro, then we will begin to see a lot more stirring from the Latino community.