May 21, 2016
By Maria Anglin
In the ’90s, sometime between Freddy Fender and the Banda sound and somewhere between Garth Brooks and Mana, something really cool happened in South Texas.
Tejano music exploded.
For those who had long been fans of conjunto and the sounds familiar to Spanish language radio, it was a long time coming.
There were Mexican-American musicians in Texas singing in Spanish and groovin’ on keyboards back in the ’70s when The Doors were all the rage.
But for many of us, Spanish-language music was what our folks made us listen to in the car on weekend road trips to Laredo or the Valley; we wanted to hear Michael Jackson or Journey or Olivia Newton-John. Kids, after all, don’t like to be different from the other kids in the classroom.
Thing is, parents are aware of the differences between the people in the front seat and the little ones in the back seat, especially cultural ones. How important is it to fit in with your English-speaking classmates? Very. My parents wanted me to sound like ONJ singing “Please, Mr. Please” and not like a José Jiménez bit.
But how important is Spanish? Very, because they wanted me to communicate with Grandma, who spoke Spanish; because Spanish was the language they preferred; and because, as a Mexican-American, Spanish is an inextricable part of who I was and who I would become.
By the ’90s, Tejano artists married the language of our families and traditional sounds with more American elements. The style was exciting: the boots, the hats, the keyboards, accordions and, most of all, the love songs — all performed in Spanish! It was hard not to be won over by the energy of this wave of Latino talent. Even those of us who didn’t understand Spanish or who weren’t a fan of big rodeo belt buckles were drawn in, because it was really cool to watch. And it was a lot of fun.
Watching a Tejano band play on an open stage at an outdoor venue such as Market Square or the Poteet Strawberry Festival or Laredo’s Jalapeño Days was like a party at a relative’s house. The mood was always familiar; it was impossible not to dance a little and it was tempting to dance a lot. And that’s where South Texas fell in love with Selena and Emilio.
Corpus Christi’s Selena Quintanilla Perez, who was known as The Queen of Tejano, was on the verge of crossing over to mainstream pop when she was killed in 1995. With her luminous golden skin and beautiful dark hair, she stood out among the pop princesses.
And then there was that voice.
And San Antonio’s Emilio Navaira, who was huge in the Tejano scene, brought many fans into the fold.
His good looks and stage presence put him on commercials for Ford trucks, Coca-Cola and Miller Lite. While many saw a mustache-wearing Latino who dressed like Garth Brooks, others saw a star who looked and dressed like their cousins who grew up on the ranch.
And then there was that voice.
Last week, when news of Navaira’s death became public, it brought back memories of the Tejano Nineties. Things have changed a bit, maybe because Tejano’s time in the spotlight happened. And that was important for many Americans.
We’re here, and even if everyone doesn’t understand the lyrics, we’re not so different.
Source: My San Antonio