Monday, October 16, 2017

Texas Farmworkers Union "March for Human Rights" (1977)

On Feb. 26, in San Juan, Texas, there was a gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Texas Farmworkers Union’s “March For Human Rights”. Exactly 40 years earlier in 1977, the TFWU started a march in San Juan that took them to Austin by April, then ultimately to Washington, D.C., in September. Altogether they marched more than 2,000 miles demanding human rights for farmworkers and to repeal ‘Right to Work’ laws protected in the Taft-Hartley Act. This video from Abel Orendain, one of the son's of Antonio Orendain, has footage from this famous march in Rio Grande Valley history. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Upcoming Lucha Libre in the Rio Grande Valley

The weekend of October 21-22 is a major one for professional wrestling in the Rio Grande Valley. In the lower Valley, Hallowmania 9 is taking place on Saturday night, October 21, with the Lucha Brothers (Penta el Zero M and King Fenix) in action at the Jacob Brown Auditorium in Brownsville. In the upper Valley, Robles Promotions is presenting a lucha libre extravaganza that is set for Sunday afternoon, October 22, headlined by top AAA star Psycho Clown. It will be taking place at Famoso Fuego in McAllen, starting at 3 PM.

The show will is schedule to include many luchadores, including Pagano, Hijo del Fantasma, Texano Jr., former TNA star Hernandez, Ramses, La Mascara, someone being promoted as Nacho Libre, Big Neurosis, Corazon de Barrio, Christy Jaines, Mystique, Aguila Azteca, Black Cougar, Al Cruz Jr., Rey Negro, Brysin Scott, Danny Chance, Veronica Brazier, Myzterio, Nite Mare, Pete Pain, Rey Kuervo, Aqua Fish, cult favorite Ronald El Jorobado (a Ronald McDonald hunchback character...), Minion 1, Mini Spiderman, and an appearance from legendary lucha libre pro-rudo commentator Arturo Rivera. No word yet on what matches are going to be taking place, who will be fighting who, between all these luchadores.

This show is being built off last months “Gran Homenaje Brazo de Plata (Super Porky)” event at Famoso Fuego on September 17. Porky is the father of Psycho Clown, who is one of the many members of the legendary Alvarado wrestling family. Clown has been climbing up the ranks at AAA (one of the top professional wrestling companies in the world; based out of Mexico) in the past few years and had his breakthrough match on August 26 at Triplemanía XXV.

On that date, Clown took on lucha libre icon Dr. Wagner Jr. in a ‘Lucha de Apuesta, Mascara vs Mascara’ (Mask vs Mask) match, the biggest type of gimmick match one can have in Mexico. After 28 minutes of back and forth action, and lots of mask ripping and plenty of blood from both men, Clown defeated Wagner Jr. with his version of the ‘Code Red’. Wagner Jr. was thus forced to remove his mask, which he has had since 1985, and reveal himself for the first time in public as 52-year-old Juan Manuel González Barrón. The biggest win a luchador can have is beating a legend in a Mask vs Mask match, and this cemented Clown as the top star in AAA.

The match was a huge success for AAA and Clown. The card drew over 20,000 fans to Arena Ciudad de Mexico. It aired on Twitch for viewers around the world in English and Spanish, and the Clown-Wagner showdown also aired on Televisa in Mexico on the same night as the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Conor McGregor fight. With both matches being aired for free on Televisa in Mexico, Clown-Wagner drew an amazing 22.8 television audience rating, edging out Mayweather-McGregor's 19.9 television audience rating on that same channel.

This will be Clown’s first appearance in the Valley since his career-turning match with Wagner Jr. Presale tickets for the event are going for $20.00, and can be bought at Novedades Martinez in Pharr. For more information on this lucha libre extravaganza, one can call at 956-681-7998.

There is so many lucha libre shows going on at this point in time in the Valley, that it's difficult to keep track for those that don't listen to Spanish-language radio or go to Mexican restaurants where flyers are up. Right before press time, I found out that there is yet another show happening this Saturday night, October 14, at the South Texas Fighting Academy in Mission, Texas, at 7:30 PM. The show will be main evented by Caristico, who formerly went by Mistico during the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) boom period of the mid-2000's, and who used the Sin Cara moniker in the WWE from 2011 to 2013. During his glory days in CMLL, Mistico had a memorable feud with the late, great rudo Perro Aguayo Jr. and his group Los Perros del Mal. Attempts to make him into the next big Latino star for the WWE didn't really pan out and he's back in the lucha libre circuit.

Joining Caristico for Saturday night's card will be Los Ahijados del Dracula, Los Reyes, Black Cat, Misterioso Jr., Temblor, Gemelos Pantera I y II, Pantera Blanca, Turok, Imagen de Oro, Principe Celestial, Aslum, Turok Jr., Temblor Jr., Mariposa Salvaje, Panda, and Imagen 2, who got Monitor headlines in 2013 after the FBI and SWAT invaded a lucha libre show in McAllen because they confused him for a drug-trafficking luchador that used the same Imagen 2 name. Someone didn't alert the FBI that luchadores use the same (or similar-sounding) names way too often.

Pre-sale tickets are $20.00 for adults, $10.00 for kids, and for more information you can call 956-570-0174.

There is a lucha libre and independent wrestling renaissance going on right now, and I just love it. So much great, great stuff going on right now, it's fun to keep track of everything that is happening in the world of professional wrestling.

Remembering Danny Yanez

Danny Yanez and Esteban Jordan. Photo by George Ovalle. 

Over the years, the Rio Grande Valley has produced an incredible amount of great accordionists. There are so many wonderful ones here in South Texas that we sometimes take them for granted. One legendary figure is from Donna: the late, great Danny Yanez.

I very much fell in love with Yanez’s unique accordion style when I first saw his videos. My dad would talk about him over the years, since he grew up in Donna and was very familiar with Yanez and his family. According to Yanez's son, he played guitar with Elsa’s Esteban Jordan and he considered Jordan his favorite accordionist.

Yanez would later start his own band called Danny Yanez y Los Chavos. He recorded several albums, including recording at Ramiro Cavazos’ Discos RyN, and was clearly influenced by Jordan's accordion style and music. Yanez even recorded his own takes on “Borracho de Gusto” and "Squeeze Box Man", classic Jordan tracks.

Donna was a place that was fertile ground for Tejano, norteño, and conjunto music in this region. Yanez grew up in an area where Pedro Ayala and Los Donneños pioneered this music, where his peers were acts like Frankie Caballero, Los Hermanos Ayala, and Mexican Generation. The nearby El Rincon del Diablo was a place where many of Donna’s musicians would find themselves playing at. 

Yanez recorded with his accordion hero, when he and Jordan collaborated on the song "El Parrandero", released on Little Joe y La Familia's record "Nosotros La Familia de Little Joe" (1974).

Later in life, Yanez was usually found playing at Christian churches and using his great skills there. He joined Paulino Bernal in the niche category of conjunto accordion-playing evangelists. During this phase of his life and career, he became known as the "Puro Holy Ghost" accordion player.

To get a sample of how he played at church, look up the video "Danny Yanez & his Accordion" on YouTube. Wonderfully jazzy and unique. He was still clearly influenced by Jordan as he took Jordan’s "Gozalo Mulata" and turned it into "Gozate con Cristo". You can also find that “Gozate con Cristo” performance video on YouTube, which would ultimately be Yanez’s final concert ever. He would pass away 7 months after that on Feb. 3, 2011.

Yanez was a great talent, and someone I really regret not getting into when he was still alive and playing locally. Luckily I’ve heard a lot about his skills from my dad, including learning that two of my uncles played with Yanez, and from a friend who saw Yanez many times over the years. Also, I’m glad we live in an era where the sharing and distribution of videos is so easy, and that we get to enjoy the stylings of Yanez on the internet. Definitely one of the best accordionists in South Texas history.

Friday, October 6, 2017

26th annual NMCAC Conjunto Festival

This week, I'm going to be recommending different recent videos from 2017 to check out of top conjunto musicians who were originally scheduled to perform at the now cancelled 26th annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival.

“Mi Ranchito” by Los Donneños - Ramiro Cavazos, who celebrated his 90th birthday in February and who is one of the great pioneers of music in the Rio Grande Valley, is still playing the bajo-sexto and singing at his shop in McAllen, on 23rd street. Cavazos first recorded with Mario Montes in the late 1940s for Falcon Records, where they were named Los Donneños by label owner Arnaldo Ramirez. In this video, he is joined by longtime his longtime accordionist Beto Espinoza, as they do their rendition of “Mi Ranchito” at Cavazos’ shop. Cavazos, along with Montes, appeared in a few films that starred Piporro, and with Narciso Martinez in the Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz documentary “Chulas Fronteras”.

“Eva Ybarra Honored at the 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert HD at Concert” - Eva Ybarra showcases her unique and progressive accordion-playing style in this new video recorded by the National Endowment of the Arts. Ybarra is a San Antonio native, and developed a completely unique style that stands out on its own as one of the best in conjunto music. Ybarra became the first conjunto musician ever to be an artist-in-residence at a major university when she was invited to be one by the University of Washington’s Ethnomusicology Department in 1997. That experience inspired her to record an album titled “Space Needle”. Ybarra has been a regular at the major conjunto festivals over the decades, including both the Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio and the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival in San Benito.

“Los Texmaniacs at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival: “México Americano’” - Los Texmaniacs have become conjunto music ambassadors, and this is another example of them doing just that. Led by bajo-sexto player Max Baca, his accordion playing nephew Josh Baca, and Edcouch-Elsa native and bass player Noel Hernandez, the group performs a great take on the classic “México Americano”. Baca has been playing the bajo-sexto since he was a child, and learned under the legendary accordionist Flaco Jimenez and bajo-sexto maestro Oscar Tellez. Baca also collaborated with Jimenez and the Rolling Stones for the album “Voodoo Lounge”.

"Linda Escobar on Domingo Live" (07/30/2017) - Linda Escobar has been singing for conjunto bands since she was a child, and continues to do so in 2017. A few years ago, she celebrated her 50th anniversary in conjunto music, just to give you an idea of how long she’s been doing this. In this video, she appears on the Corpus Christi-area program “Domingo Live” to sing several songs with her conjunto, Conjunto Amable, and to promote “Vi Una Nube”, the groups’ new album. The last time I saw Escobar perform in person was at the 23rd annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival, where she performed with the iconic Edinburg conjunto Los Dos Gilbertos.