Is There Tejano Culture Without Tejano Music?

By Wuicho Vargas

Music, for me is more than just a bunch of notes played together at a certain rhythm. Music, for me, es vida!  I listen to all kinds of music, from the roots rock reggae to classical like Wagner or Chopin — but my all time favorite is Tejano. This music started back the 1800s here in Texas around the San Antonio area and has stayed put as the years have gone by, loyal to its humble roots.

In the 1900s it began evolving and turned into something of an anthem for Tejanos. We must thank the Polish and Germans who came to Texas for their accordion and polkas that proved a huge influence on Tejano, a largely bilingual genre. Tejano is a language, culture, struggle, history and a way of life Music makes up a major part but it does not conglomerates everything about being Tejano.

But times change and, recently, due to an increase in Mexican (national) population in the Rio Grande Valley here in south Texas, the only radio station that played Tejano music turned into an all Spanish station, and, no more Tejano will be played. The change made a lot of people angry, but, it was done due to money, plain and simple. Owners of the station needed ratings and the Mexican population is the one that listens to the radio and buys the CDs, not the Tejano music lovers.

But I think that this still is Texas and Tejano music was created here therefore, I think, we should still have Tejano music in the Valley.  Don’t you think?  Even if it is in the AM radio band, but keep Tejano in the Valley.

It is almost comical to hear such tremendous and painful truth.  When here, on our backyards, gave birth to Freddy Fender, Little Joe y la Familia, Gilberto Perez, Steve Jordan and many other Tejano music legends — legends! Their popularity may not still be way up there, but it never was. Tejano survived all this years because it is a reflection of Tejano culture, from the mastering in the usage and display of la accordión with the bajo sexto, to the musicalization of labor workers’ struggles.

Tejano Music is Texas, and Tejano music is our walking history.

Thanks to the merciful hand of Corpus Christi, our neighboring town three hours north on expressway 77, we still have a Tejano radio station. There aren’t any radio hosts yet; there is no more “la clica crew,” like there was on the other radio station. Without Tejano, we have been sent back at least a couple of hundred years, but at least without it, people will start appreciating it more. Especially because it will show the huge difference between Tejano music and some Mexican music genres, such as narco corridos or the “movimiento alterado,” which idolizes the narco way of life.

I’d rather listen to Tejano music and remember what love is every time a song comes up. I’ll remember my grandpa, tíos and tías working en la labor and remember how my ‘buelito would eat oranges while listening to Tony de la Rosa and Rubén Vela. I don’t believe that the issue here is that the radio turned into an Spanish station, because I am too a Mexican born and raised, but the simple fact that we are denying the importance of the music in culture is a tragedy.

This isn’t a cultural war won by Mexicans over Tejanos, but it is rather an exhibition of division. This has shown me that there is a big gap between Tejanos and mexicanos.  The constant influx of Mexican immigrants into this area is not informed about the culture; they are here for the money and security for their children. We, as Tejanos, should teach the newbies about Tejano culture and open up our arms to welcome them instead of creating barriers which divide and isolate both cultures from each other and in result create this gaps where this types of changes could be made.

For better or for worse, music is people, and if there isn’t any Tejano music, it is as if Tejano people are also absent.

[Photo By jimcintosh]

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