Category Archives: History

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.

Judge Lina Hidalgo Files for Re-Election

As I mentioned in my Thoughts on Viernes, HCDP has a running album of folks who have filed for the 2022 Primary. I mentioned that I prefer seeing candidates in the order of filing, rather than alpha-order, because I want to see who has their stuff together, who is dawdling, and who makes a grand entrance.

Well, County Judge Lina Hidalgo took a nice-sized group of supporters with her for her filing, exhibiting the grassroots support with which she began and that put her in office a few years ago. I don’t expect much to change as she has been able to strengthen that grassroots support by accomplishing much as the County’s top executive; especially during the pandemic.

DosCentavos will proudly support Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for re-election. I supported her when she tossed her hat in the ring back in 2016 and never doubted she could take down a long-time incumbent. She has led well.

That said, as Kuff tells us, Judge Hidalgo has a couple of opponents. One is a perennial candidate and the other is a minion employee of a local wannabe kingmaker and bachelor party coordinator. The candidate also happens to be on the county education board. Anyway, I’m sure Kuff will be asking all the right questions in his interviews of all the candidates. As the candidate financial reports come out, we will find out who is funding the opposition and also who is feeding from that trough.

La Fiebre On the AC Cruz Podcast

The Monsters of Tejano Rock. The Pride of Pasadena. And now, the Latin Grammy-nominated. Those are a few descriptors for Tejano legends, La Fiebre.

Riding high with the release of their album, Historico, and a single that continues to top various Tejano charts, Cuidala, La Fiebre is getting ready attend the Latin Grammys later this year. The legendary radio personality and music promoter, AC Cruz, got them into his studio (virtually) for an interview.

Within a 30 minute platica, AC and Luis, Joe, Rudy and the guys go through some Tejano music history, La Fiebre’s start as a garage rock band, their 90s tours with other big name bands, and the story behind their biggest radio hit, Borracho De Besos. All this and more about their Latin Grammy-nominated album. Give it a listen here.

And make sure to listen to all of AC’s interviews, including talks with Abraham Quintanilla regarding his recent book.

Tomas Q. Morin’s Machete

While I am awaiting the arrival of my copy of Tomas Q. Morin’s latest book of poetry, Machete, the Texas Standard provides us an interview with the accomplished poet, Rice U professor, and personal friend of mine from our days at Southwest Texas State University.

In his new collection, “Machete,” Mórin questions how to prepare his son for life in modern America. He explores the country’s legacy of racism and the importance of joy as a survival tool.

Texas Standard

Morin is currently on a virtual tour giving readings of his latest work and will be in Houston on November 2 at the Houston Public Library in conversation with recent Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras Schwartz. More details soon.

Click here for interview. Purchase book here. And read the first poem in the book at Poetry Society, I Sing the Body Aquatic, as well as a few words about it.

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.

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!

Fact-Checking the Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Whether it’s Greg Abbott (and Republicans, generally) blaming migrants for COVID-19, or the Biden Adminsitration continuing a Trump deportation policy because of COVID-19, or the Trumper Mayor of McAllen joining in, or now, a Democratic State Senator from the RGV also doing the same, along with Democratic law enforcement all over South Texas who are just seeking free money for toys and overtime pay, the bottom line is that they are full of BS.

John-Michael Torres, of the humanitarian group La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) in the Rio Grande Valley, penned an op-ed in the Rio Grande Guardian detailing actual facts about migrants entering the US seeking asylum.

Some of the highlights:

  • People seeking asylum at the border and who pass credible fear interviews and are permitted to proceed with their asylum cases in the US are the most tested and vaccinated population in Texas. The latest available numbers (page 44 of this court filing) show released migrants continue to test positive at a lower rate than Texas’s statewide rate.
  • Those migrants who need to be vaccinated are volunteering to get them from local public health officials — 90% vaccination rates in one of the largest Texas shelters — and those who require quarantine are being quarantined in shelters and hotels, per CDC guidelines. Records from the Holdings Institute, the primary shelter in Laredo, show nine out of ten of migrants volunteer to receive the vaccine (pages 43-44 of this court filing). In contrast, Texas’ general population has a disappointingly low vaccination rate: just 44%.
  • Migrants at the border in Texas make up a tiny percentage of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Texas, a state with low vaccination rates.

Here’s another one:

Texas COVID-19 positivity rate has increased, jumping to 16.9% as of July 31. That is after Governor Abbott lifted all restrictions — including mask mandates and local governments’ ability to impose their own restrictions. The state’s vaccination rate continues to lag behind the national average.

It’s sad that Democrats are joining in on the anti-immigrant whining and rhetoric considering many South Texas counties are among the least vaccinated in Texas because of Greg Abbott. It is political laziness on their part and being on the same side as our bigot governor does not help the overall cause. Instead of being educative of their constituents, they fall for the anti-immigrant whining and join in. All these years in office, some of these Democrats have become furniture that needs replacing.

Divide and conquer tactics have always been around. The tactic was effective when done by Democrats in the 70s and now when Greg Abbott is calling the plays. Appeasing racists is never a good thing.

Jessica Cisneros Announces for TX-28

After an impressive grassroots campaign in 2020 to unseat a long-time incumbent, Jessica Cisneros announced this week that she will once again challenge Henry Cuellar in Congressional District 28 in the 2022 Democratic primary in. I’m rooting for Jessica, an immigration and human rights attorney working in border communities, who released this powerful campaign video.

No doubt, Cuellar will pull out all the stops, raise corporate and special interest PAC money, and even get the help of Nancy Pelosi, who will fail again at getting much in return from Cuellar on Democratic issues. It’s time for change and Cisneros offers a voice to lead that change in DC.

Anyway, follow Jessica’s campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and donate to her campaign.

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.