Category Archives: Historia

QEPD Vicente Fernandez

I have a confession. I wasn’t that big a fan of Chente as many, many others have been. I was born to parents who grew up and loved the music of the other grandes before Chente: Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis, and Tony Aguilar.

Aguilar was the last one from that group who passed away in 2007. After the first three were gone, my Pop didn’t think much of Fernandez, choosing to keep listening to the vinyl he had of the others. (Pop thought he was too much of an Elvis figure and he didn’t like Elvis, either.) Mom, on the other hand, was more accepting and watched Chente’s movies and listened to his music on the radio until her passing in 2016. As well as whatever chisme was being produced by Mexican stars and chisme shows. I chose Pop’s path and kept on listening to other grandes, but I was known to throw out a grito at a few college parties when Chente’s Volver Volver came on the stereo.

Both, though, boasted about catching the other grandes in concert during the matinees at the movies in which they starred and sang. Mom even attended a Tony Aguilar concert in Philly (The Spectrum) with my sis’s family in the 90s, although, Aguilar didn’t take his horses for the jaripeo portion of the concert. So, I understand the impact these performers can have on people.

Still, there is no doubt that Chente was an iconic figure for Mexicans, Chicanos, and Latinos all the way up and down the Americas. In Texas, even the king of Country George Strait was a huge fan and recorded his hit El Rey a while back. Tony Bennett even called him up to do a duet of Return To Me. But for Mexicans in the US, he was something special. Gustavo Arellano at the LA Times wrote a great article about Chente and his impact on those who crossed over the river for a better life.

The star and his fans conquered el Norte by adhering to rancho libertarianism, a philosophy that celebrates bootstrap individualism in a way that makes Ayn Rand seem like a commune-dwelling hippie. His tunes documented the pain and pride he and his fans experienced through life. There were never any excuses offered for hardships — just pride in being able to beat them down.

Latinos became the largest minority in the United States as Chente and my dad’s generation became older. My generation went from hearing Chente as the forced soundtrack of our weekends — he remained on the radio even as we begged our parents to let us play Nirvana or 2Pac — to a nostalgia act. He, like our parents, moved on into the realm of myth, until no longer quite human but living relics.

And that’s how it’s been for the generations that followed.

I’ve been watching human reaction to the death of Chente. Along with the various heartbreaks experienced these last couple of years, his death only exacerbates the feeling of woe while celebrating a long life. Even this less than fan has been listening to his tunes since waking up Sunday to the sad news and watching old interviews. And while watching the human reaction, whether on the news, in social media posts from LAs Walk of Fame, or while watching the homage in Guadalajara, it touched a nerve for me. Another, possibly the last, of los grandes is gone. His son, Alejandro, Tony Aguilar’s son Pepe, and some others whose careers are just starting are left to carry the culture and perhaps expand its reach.

Chente leaves quite an impact on society because he was enjoyed by multiple generations. Was he perfect? Hell, who is? As Arellano reminds us, there are some whose lives must be considered in totality as a means of having some perspective. And Chente is one of those big star lives that must be considered because we were privileged to all the chisme and truths being put out by chisme shows on Univision while enjoying his career.

He may be gone, but his art is still available for all to continue enjoying.

Thoughts on Viernes…11192021

Abbott’s Steel Stupidity

We all remember that Greg Abbott parked DPS vehicles to form a “steel wall” on the border, right? Well, now, he’s added those steel shipping containers. They look old, the colors don’t even match, and, oh yeah, it’s all for show. Just as Eagle Pass was getting purty, Abbott adds eyesores (beyond his own presence). Who got the contract for this? And how much did it cost? Since there is a shortage of shipping containers, I’m sure it’s a pretty penny.

SBOE’s Pearl Clutching

The State Board of Education is burning banning books that teach sexual responsibility. Apparently, healthy practices like masturbation are an abomination, but by all means, let’s leave kids to learn on their own in the back of pickup trucks by the lake, just like their mommies and daddies learned, right? It’s irresponsible. I’m always thankful for good parents who not only explained responsibility to us, but got us better books than the “health” education provided at the schools (like the ones that will be left on their own to find materials to teach kids something).

$2 Million

I’m not surprised at Beto’s first day haul. I’m on a Beto facebook page not run by him and his fan base was chomping at the bit to start sending money to his campaign. Greg Abbott is already at $55 million given to the enormous price tag hanging from his hind side, so Beto needs to catch up. But Beto’s current tour, which started in South Texas has injected some energy to voters. The middle-of-the-week crowds have been pretty awesome and he has honed his message to really get voters excited. He is in Houston tonight at Discovery Green!

The Dean Is Running

Texas Senate Dean John Whitmire filed to run for re-election for SD15, but at his fundraiser/party he put rumors of running for Houston Mayor to rest by saying he would indeed run in 2023. Well, it’s still way too early to get excited about anything 2023 and the 2022 campaign has barely started. I’m waiting to see if I’m even residing in the city limits by then to get excited about anything. Anyway…

Trib Gets Chicanos Riled Up

There is a lot to unpack in James Barragan’s “Dems So White” Trib article. It’s the same old song about if the Republicans have some brown sell outs Latin@s, why don’t the Democrats? Texas AG candidate Rochelle Garza has the best quote about that: “It’s not enough that folks on the Republican ticket are people of color. You need to show your work,” she said. “What do you stand for? And who do you stand for? What we’re seeing on the right is folks that stand for corporations and big interests and don’t stand up for the little guy, for everyday Texans

It’s not like we don’t have a bench of experienced brown people who’d love to run statewide, but brown folks don’t have the fundraising prowess at that “Beto” level. We just don’t have those wealthy (non-Latino) connections to make us seem viable to white folks, so we keep running in our own neighborhoods and districts. Hell, the first challenge is convincing white Dems that one is qualified beyond their resume, like saying one is related to an Alamo “hero” or being a “descendant” of Sam the big statue or some pendejada like that. Having to jump through hoops and do a little jarabe tapatio (Mexican hat dance) for the powers that be just isn’t worth the task of serving as a sacrificial lamb. Because they will leave you out on your own, no matter if it’s Lupe Valdez or one of the Castros. They will find some excuse to go with whatever great white hype is offered up. So, I won’t get riled up. Go ahead, gabachos, run, represent, say all the things that need to be said. Just don’t sell us out or the first Tuesday in November will be lonely.

Joss Favela Gets A Turn at NPR Tiny Desk

Regional Mexican artist Joss Favela recently put on a 17-minute performance that was quite impressive on NPRs Tiny Desk Concert (at Home) series. It was a history-making performance as he was the first Regional Mexican artist to appear on Tiny Desk. Kudos to NPR for that effort.

Favela, from Sinaloa, MX, is a 30 year old composer, musician, and vocalist whose Latin Grammy-nominated music (Llegando Al Rancho) usually lands in the “banda” category as he is backed up by a Mexican horn band at his performances and on his albums, though he does take his music to the pop genre, too. By age 27, he had already been chosen as ASCAPs Songwriter of the Year. In fact, I didn’t know about him until Grupo Intocable recorded some of his tunes on their album, Percepcion. Soon, I found out his songs and videos had thousands and thousands of views and that he was in fact “a thing.” I’ve become a fan even though banda is not my thing.

This performance on NPR, though, took more of a Norteño pop feel as he belted out some of his popular hits backed by acoustic musicians, like Pienso En Ti and Me Vas A Extrañar. The former was originally recorded with pop star Becky G. My favorite is El Alumno. Favela’s guitar playing is also pretty impressive. Here’s his performance:

Tacho’s Sabado Playlist

I just added some great tunes to my playlist for all those drives around Houston. Add them to yours for your listening pleasure.

Chente Barrera – Amor Ingrato – Chente just released a tribute album dedicated to the legendary Roberto Pulido. The special thing about it is that Chente and his band Taconazo stayed true to Pulido’s Clasicos sound. The acordeon, the saxes, and the higher octave vocals are just mind-blowing. Of course, I’ve always been a fan of Barrera’s. Amor Ingrato is one of Pulido’s hits from the late 80s and Barrera sings it with the legend himself.

Little Joe y La Familia – Hernandez Brothers – Little Joe dropped a pretty good album of redone classics featuring himself and his brothers Rocky and Gilbert. Especially in the studio, La Familia is a precision-based horn band and they do not disappoint. For this playlist, I’ll post this tune featuring Rocky and Gilbert, Ingratos Ojos Mios. Recorded long ago by Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia, this is one of my faves on the album, as well as Pajarillo Barranqueño, with Rocky on lead vocals.

There Is A Human Rights Crisis On The Border

While bigoted republicans call it an “invasion,” and others call it a humanitarian crisis, the next phase of a media-exploited “crisis” on the border went to full-on human rights crisis as a Border Patrol with lax regulations and bigoted members rode horses and whipped Haitian refugees as they rounded them up for President Biden’s Title 42 immediate deportations.

Honestly, though, it’s always been a human rights crisis. The Border Patrol and border-area law enforcement has a deeply rooted history of violently mistreating humans escaping violence and poverty–all for political purposes, no matter who is in power. And no matter who is power, the government does a great job of blaming “the other” for the crises it has caused in the countries people are fleeing. Whether it is Mexico, Central America, or Haiti, US foreign policy of befriending and funding right-wing zealots and their elections as a means of keeping indigenous and poor people in control is why these crises exist.

The problem is that the US thrives on people’s ignorance regarding foreign policy–no matter which party is in charge. The narrative of “the other” being the problem works as long as they use fear-based terminology. And people eat it up because they are ignorant and it’s not like candidates and office holders are doing much to combat the narrative.

As depressing as the stories are of migrants and refugees, it’s the stories of fighting back that have given me hope. Whether it is those who have crossed back into Mexico to find food and water for themselves, or the Haitians who revolted on a Biden deportation bus. Sure, they are met with violence by Biden’s Border Patrol, but they are willing to fight. They are that desperate for a better life and the US response of human warehousing, whipping, and horse-led round-ups is a global embarrassment, especially when our President attempts to lecture other countries, or he attempts to show how much better he is than Trump on global affairs.

And then there is that failure of a governor, Greg Abbott, who blames everything on Joe Biden. I don’t know why. Biden is deporting Haitians and other migrants at a rapid pace because of Trump’s Title 42. Biden’s Border Patrol is whipping people. All the republican anti-immigrant porn is available to Greg Abbott, but he wants to be the one calling the shots. The photo ops make it obvious.

And some will defend Biden by reminding us that Biden mouthpiece Jen Psaki called the human rights violations “obviously horrific” and the Biden administration is “investigating” and “condemning.” But Biden is the President. He can end this. And he can get rid of people in the Border Patrol. And he can change agency policy with a signature. Who’s in charge? Biden or the bigoted Border Patrol (and their union)?

There is an old photo of Texas Rangers having murdered Mexican men and dragged them by horse from around 1915. Now, we have the Border Patrol trying to repeat history. Yes, only 100 or so years ago and things don’t seem to change.

A Little Political History for Heritage Month

Here’s a video in 3 parts featuring Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez (Professor Emeritus of History, UT Arlington) on Los Nuevos Americans–The New Americans. Given twelve years ago at Kingwood College, Gutierrez touched on the History of brown people in Texas and the US, political history, and population estimates. Given the new census, this a good foundation on where we’ve been and where we may be. And, given the attack on truth-telling regarding history (Critical Race Theory), it might be better to learn from brown scholars. And it might help you learn why the Trump era happened and why it must be stopped. Enjoy!

QEPD – Gregg Barrios

I’ve known about Gregg Barrios for a long time.

The former Crystal City educator impacted a lot of students’ lives, mentoring so many kids who became leaders in their respective communities, taught students during the 1969 Crystal City Walkout, and was even the print communicator of La Raza Unida Party with the newspaper, La Verdad. Of course, I wasn’t even born and/or was very young during this part of his life. But he left his mark on Cristal and I learned about it.

Beyond Cristal, he impacted even more lives as a journalist, writer, poet, playwright, cultural critic, and recognized literary figure. To call him a genius and a force of nature doesn’t do him justice because he already knew he was both. Gregg passed away suddenly last week.

He is being remembered by many on his FB page–so many stories. I’ll forever be proud of being included as “Dos Centavos” in the acknowledgments of his poetry work, La Causa, as I had shared some of his works and linked to many of his writings in Texas Monthly, LA Times, and the San Antonio Express-News on DosCentavos.net as a way to support him.

I wrote a lot about his play, Rancho Pancho, which he debuted in San Antonio in 2008, staged in Provincetown, MA at the Tennessee Williams Festival, and finally, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque to rave reviews . It was during this time when I finally met him. It was during the trip to catch Rancho Pancho in New Mexico when I found out he had mentioned me in La Causa, which really touched my heart.

Rancho Pancho is the story of Williams’ tempestuous relationship with South Texan Pancho Rodriguez. Racism, classicism, the nature of superior/subordinate relationships, and the influence of Rodriguez on Williams’ work are just a few of the themes touched on in this play.

And my nephew was cast in the play as Pancho just after he graduated from university and as he was headed to LA to begin his professional acting career. So, needless to say, I became quite the follower of Gregg’s work and exploits as he kept in touch with my family over the years.

On October 15, 2021, Gregg was to be honored by San Antonio Writing Center, Gemini Ink, at their annual Inkstravaganza with the Award of Literary Excellence. So, I’ll steal from them the bio they used on Gregg:

Gregg Barrios is a first-generation playwright, poet and journalist. He is also a graphic digital artist and film-maker. His award-winning plays have been produced in San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Provincetown, and New York City. He has received a Rockefeller Grant, a Mark Taper – CTG Fellowship, and an Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant for his theater work. The San Antonio Current has called him “A Texas Treasure.”

Barrios’ journalism has appeared in The New York TimesFilm Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSan Francisco ChronicleFilm CultureLos Angeles Times, and the Texas Observer. He is a former books editor and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He was a founding editor of the local Spanish language daily Rumbo, and an editor of La Verdad, the Raza Unida Party newspaper. Barrios received a USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2013, and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2015. He received a Golden Gavel for his literary work from the Texas House of Representatives, and was the 2015 Fall Visiting Writer at Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently serves on the executive board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Barrios credits his time at Andy Warhol’s original Factory as transformational. He made an experimental film, BONY (1967), with/about Warhol “superstars” poets Gerard Malanga and art critic René Ricard. He later collaborated with Warhol on a Nico music video. His short film Desperately Seeking Dionysus (1968) was part of the Velvet Underground NYC exhibit in 2018. Excerpts from Barrios’ original Bowie-inspired rock musical Stranger in a Strange Land (1976) were featured in Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists… exhibited at Blue Star Contemporary, also in 2018. In 2019, the Austin Film Society honored Barrios for “bringing film culture to Austin through Cinema 40 Film Society” that he founded as a UT student in 1965. Recently, his digital photography was part of the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture at the Centro de Artes exhibition for the New York Foundation of the Arts. 

Barrios has written four poetry collections: Air-Conditioned Apollo (1968); Healthy Self (1979); Puro Rollo (1982); and La Causa (2010). His poetry has appeared in Hecho en Tejas, Latina Magazine, Harvard Review, Aztlan and Vietnam, Fiesta en Aztlan, New Orleans Review, and Home Front: An America at War Reader, Lowrider, and El Quetzal Emplumece. An anthology of his poetry “My Life: The Poem I Never Wrote: New & Selected Poetry 1968-2021” (Hansen Poetry) is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

Barrios served in the USAF as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He appeared in “Telling SA,” The Tobin Center’s theater production, and on the PBS national broadcast of San Antonio veterans. He was a Harvard Fellow in 2017 and a Yale Fellow in 2019. Recently, he endowed Urban-15’s Mega Corazon with the Gregg Barrios Beautiful Words Prize for the Best Poetry Performance. His new play “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of Candy Barr” will premiere at the Gregg Barrios Theater at Overtime in early 2022. 

No doubt, there was much more for Gregg to accomplish and more lives to impact. I only hope the projects he was currently working on are continued to their completion.

Gregg Barrios, ¡Presente!

QEPD – Ruben Cubillos

There were some good articles and tributes posted yesterday for Ruben Cubillos, Tejano Music advocate, graphic/visual artist, and performer, who passed away over the weekend. I never got to meet him, but I knew and appreciated his work. We also became FB friends and I partook of some of the intense and productive conversations he would start on the state of the Tejano Music genre.

Regarding articles, check out Tejano Nation and Joey Guerra’s piece in the Chron. My FB friend and Austin PR exec Paul Saldana also had one on FB.

If you’ve ever bought a Selena tee, poster, album, or anything with her logo, you owe it to Ruben Cubillos. Ruben put Tejano music imagery on the map, developing concepts and images for Tejano music album covers when the big record companies were finally investing in the genre in the early 90s. Bands like Mazz, David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and Selena enjoyed his top-notch and creative concepts, which added much value to their albums.

Along with his professional PR career and his career as a vocalist with the legendary Latin Breed, he was also an advocate. Always willing to offer up some advice to up and coming musicians, he never candy coated it. He was quite honest, especially when it came to how a band should develop their image. Especially during the forced break during the pandemic. But he was also an advocate.

Ruben was one of the leaders of those demanding the HoustonRodeo bring back Tejano music acts after it decided to concentrate on regional Mexican and banda acts. Beyond this, the protests were also about pay parity for Latino acts, equity in distribution of scholarships given from the thousands of dollars made from sold out concerts, and more diversity in rodeo committees. Well, Tejano is still missing from the line-ups, the undocumented are still passed over for scholarship money, even though that’s who attends the banda music concerts, but the message was sent to the rodeo people and Ruben was one of the chief advocates. All the rodeo people did was whine that anyone would complain.

Anyway, Ruben was one of the good ones in an industry that has historically been taken advantage of by corporatism, whether it came from Miami-owned radio stations, LA-based record companies, or corporations who used it to make a buck. When the profits slowed, the genre was cut-off and left to die. But much was learned and the music and culture continues. And Ruben is one of the reasons it continues.

Gracias, Ruben.

OMG! That Girl Looks Nothing Like JLo!

And that’s how some of the negative “fan” reviews began this weekend about Selena: The Series.

Once you get other little things out of the way, like, there are no mountains in Matamoros and Tejano dancers dance around the dance floor and not in one spot on the floor, well, the rest is an actual attempt at a biography of a struggling, yet short, and ultimately successful career that achieved much in terms of musical quantity and quality.

For folks whose love of Selena started at Amor Prohibido and Carcacha, or worse, for those whose love of Selena started at Dreaming of You, there seems to be disappointment in the series. For those of us who lived in the 80s and enjoyed 80s, big haired, weird outfit wearing Selena, this series has definitely been a treat and even a respite from current realities.

For those of us who have been fans of the genre for a while, we’ve enjoyed the mention of other artists and events that many of us experienced, such as the importance of the Tejano Music Awards. Whether folks want to accept it or not, there is a lot of history in this genre of music and I really appreciate an attempt to put it out there.

Now, I wasn’t going to be “that fan” who binged it. I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can, so, I only watched the first three episodes, thus far. But some of the criticism has been vicious. Some call it sanitized and white-washed. Others are blaming the patriarchy. Some even blame Netflix. I don’t really see any of what is being criticized in this regard. I’m just trying to enjoy some entertainment that touches on a little history about my culture.

Maybe people don’t want to see Selena’s family’s struggles. The food stamp scene brought out some emotions from me. The scene where the restaurant closes because of the economy tanking hit home with me, too. The scene where Abraham tells his kids that it’s OK to ask for help from the government as he paid his taxes was a speech I heard from my own Pop when we were struggling and I told him about what school kids would say about families on food stamps. It hit home.

The slow ascent to success that Selena went through was also important. Having to find an indie record label to produce, record, and distribute her music without much promotion was tough enough, but the struggle to come up with good songs and dealing with unhelpful songwriters was very telling about what Tejano bands have gone through in their careers. You can’t become a YouTube sensation when Al Gore hadn’t even invented the internets. Hell, just keeping the van and trailer running is something that still occurs in the present-day Tejano business. Showing Selena as appreciative of those that came before her (Laura Canales) was heartfelt, at least as a scene in the show.

The first three episodes provided a good foundation about Selena and the importance of her family in her success. Some of the criticism that the series is all about the dad and brother seems a little whiny. This was a family business. Selena was the main talent, but they all played a part in getting this business started, so, the story needs to be about all of them. I was even appreciative of Suzette’s struggles as a non-musician turned instant drummer for the band and the criticism from within the band as they discovered drum machines and electric drums to get the sound right. Without Abraham’s experiences in his own music career as a What Not To Do List for Selena’s career, and AB’s own struggle to become the family’s musical director, there is no Selena.

Let’s remember that even Beyonce started as a family business and that’s what it is now.

Anyway, I’m enjoying it. The early recordings featured, like Dame Un Beso, or her sped-up version of La Bamba, makes me miss my Tejano cassette collection and the GPX boombox my parents bought me at the Carrizo Springs Wal-Mart.

I’ll keep watching it. Watch it for entertainment or watch it for a little history about a Mexican American icon. But if you are watching it for a different take on the “washing machine” scene from the movie, then it may not be for you.

Selena: The Series Has Captured My Interest

Twenty-five years after the murder of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, her fandom continues to grow, including fans who weren’t even born during her days on the stage. No doubt, Selena, the movie, did a lot to bolster the icon and spread the fact that she existed. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

When I heard of Selena: The Series, I didn’t know what to think. After the movie, what else could be said? Well, for those of us who grew up with her music, watched her in charity softball games, or even stayed around after her early shows, we knew a lot more could be said that hadn’t already been said.

The Selena I remember was thirteen years old, opening for La Mafia at the Crystal Ballroom in Crystal City. My sisters had come to visit from Austin and took me to the dance as the designated bailador for them and their friends. Of course, we knew who La Mafia was. They’d been around for a few years and their innovative, brightly lit, and loud stage shows were already nipping at the heels of bands like Mazz, Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos, and La Movida.

The place was packed, obviously, but the radio ads hadn’t made mention of an opening band. As a thirteen year-old kid myself, I became interested when I saw a fellow teenager getting up on stage wearing some shiny purple outfits, along with a bunch of young musicians. When they started to play, they had the same professionalism as the other Onda Chicana bands I’d seen, except they were young. Then, the vocalist began to sing and that was it for me. A trip to the K-Mart in Uvalde a few weeks later had me buying one of her cassettes recorded on an indy-label. A few weeks later, she was on Johnny Canales.

In the early 80s, there weren’t many female vocalists that drew big crowds, except for Laura Canales. Stories abound about how badly Laura was treated by promoters and managers and other musicians as she was growing into her career. Selena’s story also tells of her struggles with the pendejos who didn’t take her seriously. Because of my sister’s love of music, I was quite the fan of Laura Canales, too.

There was one guy who was the best promoter of La Onda Chicana at the time and that was Johnny Canales. Canales put bands like Mazz, Laura Canales, Roberto Pulido and so many others on the map through his TV show, El Show de Johnny Canales. And when younger bands like La Mafia, La Sombra, Los Chamacos, and Selena came around with bigger and brighter stage shows, Johnny was at the forefront of promotions–even taking the bands on tours to cities in the Mid- and Northwest where his syndicated show was popular.

So, when I hear the stories that the new Selena netflix series was going to include scenes with actors int he roles of Laura Canales and Johnny Canales, I thought, “Finally!” More of the history of the music and culture is being told, rather than the sensationalized and Univisionized versions put forth through bad chisme talk shows, and yes, even the movie.

So, I’m happy that the show is happening. On top of that, it’s great to see more brown folks on screen, too. I’ll start watching this weekend.

Tejano Nation has more.