Saturday, April 28, 2012

The 1955 Weslaco Panthers

When I was young, I would be really excited to watch Dave Brown's Friday night broadcast on KRGV. I would be excited to see the high school football highlights and hope that the PSJA teams did well. I found this video, it looks like it was produced by the Weslaco school station that aires on channel 17. I really liked it, just a simple, nice video about Weslaco's 1955 season, told through newspaper clippings. Also, the video puts Bobby Lackey over as quite the high school player that year. If you would like to read more about this season of the Weslaco Panthers, I would recommend this article.

Another Wally Gonzalez?

I was recently visiting the graves of family members that have passed away at the Palm Valley Memorial Gardens cemetery with my aunt. While we were there, my aunt pointing out something she thought would be of interest to me. She showed me a large beautiful tombstone of a man named Wally Gonzalez. This peculiar tombstone had a high quality engraving of a Hohner Corona II accordion. She remarked that this is where the famous Wally Gonzalez was buried. I tilted my head to the side and I kindly corrected her, "the" Wally Gonzalez (whose last name is also sometimes spelled Gonzales) is still alive, he recently celebrated his wedding anniversary. Also, this deceased Wally passed away in 2005, "the" Wally has been in the public eye throughout this entire time (including being featured in a lovely article by Crystal Olvera). I'm now wondering, who is this Wally Gonzalez? Is he a talented accordionist that has been overshadowed by the much more successful Wally? Is he someone whos story should be told and highlighted?

This reminds me of a two things I've been thinking about lately. The first being two people that share a name and participate in music genres that are perceived as being similar to one another. There are two Ramon Ayala's in the Rio Grande Valley, one in Hidalgo (although he is originally from Mexico) and one in Donna. It's lead to some confusion and now one of them is much more famous than the other. The first Ramon Ayala was from East Donna, the son of the legendary Pedro Ayala. He was also a bajo sexto player for the great conjunto act Los Hermanos Ayala. The other Ramon Ayala is the famous accordionist, but he is credited with the birth name of Rey Reyna III on Wikipedia, as well as being credited with another name, Ramon Cobarrubias (which was also the name of his father). So whether it's Rey or Ramon as his first name, the thing that cannot be denied is that his actual last name is not Ayala. The rumor, according to a good buddy of mine, is that Paulino Bernal insisted on the name change after he discovered the young accordionist from the Cobarrubias family. So it's a situation that has unfortunately made one Ramon Ayala (East Donna's great conjunto bajo sexto player) less known than the other Ramon Ayala (the great Norteño accordionist).

The second thing I thought of, more in a joking matter, is that maybe he could be an imposter Wally, which has happened in other entertainment avenues. There have been bizzare cases where some people conned their family, friends or reporters into believing that they were famous pro wrestlers. David Bixenspan wrote a great article about this phenomenon of pro wrestling imposters. Both pro wrestling and conjunto have a niche following, so could it be possible that "this" Wally was trying to pass himself of as "the" Wally? I thought about it but I can't see it being too likely. Wally is too well known to conjunto fans and has such a memorable appearance. So many people here in the Valley have heard his iconic "Que Me Entierren en Wal-Mart", his amusing satire on obsessive consumerism and dealing with lack of affection/attention during a long time marriage. In the song, he concludes with the the morbid and animated idea of wanting to be buried in Wal-Mart, so at least that way, he could be in his wife's presence.

So who is this other accordionist Wally Gonzalez that passed away in 2005? Hopefully, I'll find out who he is and we'll all find out together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vintage TV Footage - Entry # 6 - McAllen High School (1980's)

Time machines have not been invented yet but here's the next best thing if you want to see what all the cool McAllen kids were doing in 1980's. They were shooting videos for KMAC, their broadcast television class in McAllen High School and goofing off in videos that are the epitome of cheesy and corny. And I love cheesy and corny.

Everytime you wince, take a shot. You'll be drunk before the video is over. 

A more serious video from our good friend. 

Now back to more fun. The following videos will make your eyes roll, make you tilt your head with one eye close, and make you laugh (not sure whether you will be laughing genuinely, ironically, sarcastically or with pity). 

Let's hope our good uploading friend puts up more of his great videos on YouTube. Thanks. 

Brownsville's George Gavito recalling the infamous Constanzo and Aldrete cult case.

Here's a short documentary with Brownsville's former Deputy Sheriff George Gavito. He discusses the infamous case of cult leaders Sara Aldrete (alumni of Brownsville High School and Texas Southmost College) and Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo. Not sure why but George refers to the most famous victim of this case as "John". His actual name is Mark J. Kilroy, and it is common knowledge to people who were around during the height of this case.

If you're not familiar with the case, it deals with narcotics, Juan Benitez Ayala, brujeria, kidnapping, cannibalism, superstition, cultism, human sacrifices, a mass graveyard, etc. The documentary footage of the actual ranch is deeply fascinating. Watch the video but I must warn you that it contains some gruesome images.

Rituales de Sangre (2007)

A decent portion of the audience for this blog comes for the music. So I imagine a few of you probably want to hear this tale in corrido form, correct? Lucky for you, Los Suspiros de Salamanca created this cancion back in 1989. It details the story of this unforgettable event in South Texas-Northern Mexico history. The song became a hit here in South Texas according to this newspaper article. Here is "Trajedia En Matamoros".

If you want to see another documentary based on this and you know Spanish, you can watch this.

Hank Ayala

Earlier this week, I was searching for photos of Pedro Ayala and Los Hermanos Ayala when I ran into this blogpost. The blog oddly uses the word white even though the members of the group are Henry Ayala, Eddie Ramirez, and Manuel Peña (one of the greatest Tejano and conjunto historians we have today). They were a trio from Weslaco named Hank Ayala and The Matadors. There seems to be a lot of good information in Peña's book and on this site about them. Neat tune from Weslaco.

Little Joe y La Familia

Festiva editor Brandon Garcia hooked me up with interviewing Little Joe a few days ago. It was a great opportunity, Joe and I talked about a wide variety of topics. This article will be coming out in today's Festiva in The Monitor. While technically Little Joe isn't from the Valley, he's performed here so many times and is so much a part of the local culture that I shall deem him an honorary Valley citizen. Here's the article:


On Saturday night, Little Joe y La Familia will headline a Tejano showcase that will also feature Jimmy Edwards, Joe Bravo, Aviso Band and Lucky Joe. The show, which will take place at the Pharr Events Center, will be a celebration of Little Joe's 50 years in the music industry. The five-time Grammy Award winner has lived a legendary career that has made him one of the most beloved figures in Tejano music.

Joe Hernandez grew up in a working class home in Temple, Texas. As he was growing up, Joe would listen to country music on the radio, which would become an influence on his music. Spanish music on the radio was only found at very early hours.

"There was one little Spanish music program here in Taylor, which is about 30 miles from Temple, and we only got about 30 minutes from 4:30 in the morning to 5:00," Joe said. "I only heard it cause my dad would get up to go to work and turn the radio on."

Joe goes on to credit his father and his compadres for teaching him many Mexican songs during his youth.

Little Joe and the Latinaires first started recording professionally for Corona Records in San Antonio in the early 1960's. After that, they would go on to tour throughout Texas and make their first stop here in the Valley.

"Los bailes grandes brother, back in the 60's," remembers Joe when asked about his first tour to the Valley. "I'm just amazed how the people in the Valley have been so kind to me."

Chicano Activist

As the 1970's emerged, Joe would go on to change the name of the band to Little Joe y La Familia. Joe moved to California in the 1970's and experienced an awakening in the Bay Area. He got to meet and hang out with musicians from all over the world. He felt a change was needed, both in name and style.

"So Latinaires sounded dated, and I wanted something different. And I wanted to change the music as well. So that's how I came up with the name La Familia, and the big change was when I recorded 'Las Nubes'. I used the symphony strings from the ballad symphony. The first time that I know of any Chicano band using symphony strings for recording. I just continued to grow with that."

The song "Las Nubes" would become a turning point in the career of Little Joe y La Familia. The song would strike a chord with farm workers and working class families, it would soon become an anthem for their cause. The song would go on to make Little Joe an icon in Chicano culture.

"The album that contains "Las Nubes", along with others, but more so that one, is still used in the Chicano studies," Joe said proudly. "They use the album and of course, the United Farm Workers picked up the song "Las Nubes" as their marching song. Which is still hailed as that today."

He would eventually become friends with Cesar Chavez and become a major figure in the civil rights movement.

"When I started touring California and became aware of all that was happening, I also discovered the United Farm Workers movement. Started playing benefit concerts for the union and I met Cesar Chavez. Of course, me being a cotton picker myself, I understood what the farm worker plight was about. I immediately wanted to do all I could to help."

Joe is still close with the movement and plans to perform in Bakersfield, California for the 50th year anniversary of the formation of the union in June. He is grateful that he was able to become close with the family of Chavez and with Dolores Huerta (co-founder of UFW). He is also incredibly touched about a recent honor that was bestowed upon him.

"They asked if I cared to be honorary co-chairman, I just don't feel I warrant that kind of respect or title," Joe said. "Naturally I can't refuse that, but that's something I just don't feel I earned. There are many people that are more deserving of that."

Along with being a part of the farm workers movement, Joe would also shed light on racism, police brutality and other serious causes that affected minorities in America. Now in 2012, Little Joe is still passionate about his beliefs and doing his best to get his message across. Earlier this month, Joe performed in Arizona and had a lot to say about the recent ban of Mexican-American studies there.

"There is no way you can teach American history without teaching Chicano history because we are very, very much a part of the fabric that America history is about," Joe said passionately. "But for those that don't understand or care about that, our kids are being denied. But not just our kids but all kids, all American kids, are being denied the true history of American history, which includes the Mexican-American experience. This country could not be what it is without the Mexican-American and Chicano Experience, and it's just a damn shame that politicians have now ousted that curriculum."

Joe has always been a leader to causes such as these and is hoping that the youth of America stands up for their right in learning a multicultural history.

"What students could do and should do is demand that [Mexican-American] history is taught," Joe said. "You know, for a while they wanted to erase the name of Cesar Chavez from the history books, and that's bull."

As for the future, Joe hopes that the youth of America learns about their roots and where they came from.

"We should take pride in who we are, what we've done and what we want to accomplish in the future."

La Musica

As a Tejano legend, Joe feels he owes a lot of credit to his brothers, Rocky and Johnny. Joe singing with his brothers was always an electrifying experience to anyone that witnessed it.

"They are my heroes," said Joe emotionally. "It was a natural combination. When you work together like we did, you just know what you're going to do next. It wasn't just work, it was fun and it was a big, big important part of my career."

While Little Joe falls under the label of "Tejano orquesta" and is most known for "Las Nubes" and "Borrachera", he experiments with soul, funk, Latin jazz, rock, country, and conjunto. A song of his called "Anna" from the album "Total" is one of the most revolutionary and experimental pieces of Tejano music ever, it's an amazing funk/jazz/orquesta masterpiece that is mind-blowing. Throughout his career, Joe's also been someone who would frequently collaborate with fellow legendary musicians spanning many different genres. Recordings of Little Joe can be found of him performing with legends like Flaco Jimenez, Roberto Pulido, Esteban Jordan, Willie Nelson, Valerio Longoria and Luis Gasca. Music has brought Joe closer with his musical peers and he hopes his audience will experience that same emotional satisfaction from his live shows.

"Well hopefully they'll have a lot of fun, and experience the diversity of music, the different genres and styles," said Joe about new fans attending his show. "Music is the best way we can communicate our feelings to one another, that's our soul coming through our music and this is the best way we can reach one another's soul. Most of all, have a good time, that's what the music is about. Hopefully we can also learn from it and bring us all together with more harmony and love for one another."

While Joe is currently looking at new material, he feels that it's hard to find songs that will capture the magic of Tejano classics.

"I like the classics, some of those old beautiful songs, to the young generation they are new and I just feel that we don't have any writers like the old days that wrote all those beautiful songs."

Last month, Joe received a star at the Palm Springs "Walk of Stars". It was a happy occasion for Joe, something that he would like to share with his longtime fanbase.

"The star doesn't belong to just Little Joe y La Familia, it belongs to everyone that has supported my music and everything that I've done."

To people who are just getting into Little Joe's music, he would recommend listening to his old albums and for them to work their way up to his latest work. To his older fanbase that has been with him throughout the decades, he hopes they continue enjoying life.

"Keep enjoying life and if music is part of your daily medicine that makes you want to get up and keep going, by all means, turn up the volume on the Little Joe CD!"


This is the song I referenced in the article, what a masterpiece:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

South Texas Colonias

ABC's Nightline had a feature on Hidalgo County colonias last night. I think John Quiñones did an excellent job on the piece and in interacting with the local people. Great that he did this to get the word out on this situation in the Valley. The video is below the break.

Frankie Caballero on Acordeones de Tejas (2012)

As some of you readers know, this blog is a huge supporter of the skills of East Donna's Frankie Caballero. He's an exceptional accordionist that has recorded with so many different artists. He made two appearances in 2012 on the local PBS affiliate show "Acordeones de Tejas". First episode, has him performing with his son Frankie Jr. on a double bill with Rio Jordan (the sons of Elsa's Esteban Jordan, his kids, and his protege Juanito Castillo). That episode is fantastic, the way Caballero makes the accordion sound is simply beautiful. The second video is a rare interview with the enigmatic Caballero, it starts at the 12:08 time mark. Thank you Lupe Saenz for this show.

More on Tito Santana

Merced Solis #24 on the Mission High basketball team.

As some of you may know, Tito Santana (real name: Merced Solis) is originally from Mission, TX and grew up here in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2012, I was reading some thoughts by my friend Daniel (ohtani's jacket) on Tito Santana and I decided to check out these two matches. First one is from 1993, the last year that Tito Santana was in the World Wrestling Federation. Here he is teaming up with Virgil to wrestle The Headshrinkers with Bill Alfonso as the referee. The airing date of this match is January 4, 1993:

The Headshrinkers vs El Matador Tito Santana &... by TSteck160

Good tag team match. Virgil eats a painful looking suplex, Santana puts in a good performance and the Headshrinkers are fun (and great bumpers). For those that don't get the finish or are pro wrestling fans, certain pro wrestlers of certain races were portrayed as having "hard heads". Yeah I know. Wish it was longer, fun match. Mission High Eagles finest.

Here is a match from Saturday Night Main Events, as Tito Santana squares off with "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. It's from the Summer of 1990:

Exciting match. As usual, Hennig is bumping like crazy, taking absurd but visually pleasing bumps from chops. Santana is usually good at selling a beating, so it's no surprise to see some good selling from him on display here. Not a classic like Santana's bouts with Valentine and Savage, but this match was still excellent. Loved the nearfall that was based off an inverted atomic drop, an atomic drop and a clothesline. This match is also a reminder that Santana was really loved by the WWF crowd, the audience went crazy every time he was on the offense. Look at them get up on their feet, count along when Tito would go for a pinfall and even a "Tito" chant is heard in there. Puro Mission charisma right there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Delia Gutierrez Pineda

A few weeks ago, I was in Austin hanging out with some great friends and enjoying a great week there. I ate some great food at a place called Veggie Heaven and got to go watch Rio Jordan (the sons of South Texas' Esteban Jordan and Jordan's brilliant blind avant garde accordionist protege Juanito Castillo). During my time in Austin, I got an email from the daughter of Delia Gutierrez Pineda, and she sent me some information about their great contributions to South Texas music.

So as soon as I got back down to the Valley, I started looking up some information about them and spent some time with them. Delia, along with her daughter and son-in-law, treated me so nicely while I learned about their history. I got a wealth of great information and it ended up becoming my longest article yet for The Monitor. For those that missed the article, it can be found below this paragraph. I am really happy I wrote about Delia, her father Eugenio Gutierrez and her husband Moy Pineda. Thanks Delia for all your sweet help and wonderful contributions to Valley music.


Preserving family memories is very important to Delia Gutierrez Pineda. She remembers exactly where she came from and the life she's lead thanks to the great people who have surrounded her. Many people remember her charming nature and her great singing voice that was featured over the radio waves. However, Delia quickly points out that she wouldn't have had all this success if it wasn't for her father Eugenio "Tatita" Gutierrez and her husband Moises "Moy" Pineda.

Eugenio Gutierrez was born into a family of farmers in Runge, Texas at the turn of the century. Eugenio quickly established himself as a boy with musical talent at a very young age. As a young prodigy, he even made his own violin as he loved playing that instrument. Growing up working in the family farm, he found time to take violin lessons and also accompany his teacher to perform concerts. Later on, Eugenio moved to Weslaco and met Melida Ayala from the famous musical Ayala family of the Rio Grande Valley. They would have one child, Delia, who was born on July 5th, 1931. Like her parents, she would also grow to have a love for music and would develop into being a fantastic singer.

As she grew up in Weslaco, Delia would take singing lessons and perform for school events. She would also perform opening acts for movie stars that would make appearances at the Benitez Theater in Weslaco. She recalls being influenced by the music of Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee. Delia remembers that she was 12 years old when she started singing in her father's orchestra.

"My dad thought I was kind of young and he was kind of iffy about it," Delia remembers. "But he started teaching me how to read music and how to sing."

After World War 2, Delia and her father's orchestra would regularly perform at celebrations for all the returning soldiers to honor their service.

"It was so much fun because all the boys were coming back and everybody had parties for them," Delia said.

Delia was still going to school at this point in her life, so she remembers those early days as being really busy when she first started singing with her father at La Placita in Weslaco. Eugenio, who was known as "The Glenn Miller of the Valley", was very open-minded and his dream was to create an orchestra that would play both English and Spanish music.

"It was a lot of work but I wanted to help my dad because his dream was to have an orchestra that would play a variety of music. And he did it and we did it. That made us very happy."

Delia remembers her mother being the backbone of the group and the person that would hold everything together. Melida was a tremendous seamstress and was the person behind all of Delia's evening dresses. Delia feels very blessed to have had her mother there with her along the way.

The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra first started making recordings for Discos Falcón in the late 1940's, just as the local record label was getting started.

"When we first started recording, [Arnaldo Ramirez] was just starting out," recalls Delia. "But he was a fantastic promoter, I was very happy and my dad too. He gave us a lot of advertising, publicity, pictures and everything. We went on [that first] tour and it was a fantastic tour."

This orchestra is interesting for several different reasons, one of which is that they were Falcón's first orchestra. The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra would go on to tour Texas and the states surrounding the Lone Star State.

"It was a big band, it was a 12 piece orchestra, and that's the one we traveled with. My dad agreed [with Discos Falcón] to go ahead to go on tour to publicize and get advertising for the records."

Eugenio Gutierrez did something that was groundbreaking, he decided to add the accordion to his orchestra to create a unique sound. He acquired the services of his wife's cousin "El Monarca del Acordeón" Pedro Ayala to record with his orchestra. From this novel approach of combining two different styles arose "El Naranjal", one of their greatest hits.

In 1950 after their first tour, a dazzling trumpet player from McAllen High School by the name of Moises "Moy" Pineda would join the orchestra. Shortly after joining, Moy got the great opportunity of appearing in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata, the Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn film that was shot in Roma. Moy would eventually fall in love with Delia and marry her in 1954. They would have three daughters: Cecilia Diaz, Norma Perez, and Melba Carvajal.

"[My daughters] are my pride and joy, they were our biggest fans."

The orchestra would visit Edinburg's KURV studios every Sunday morning to perform for the live radio audience. They were regulars there for so many years but it wasn't the only station they performed on.

"We went to all the radio stations, we went to KGBT when they were just starting out," Delia remembers.

Along with their recordings at Falcón, they would also made trips to Alice and San Benito to record for Armando Marroquín's Discos Ideal. Some of their most popular songs with Falcón and Ideal were "La Carta", "Pasito Tun Tun", "Mi Marianita" and "Blue Moon" (in Spanish). If you listen to their classic music that's currently available through Arhoolie Records (Arhoolie bought out Ideal's library), you will be able to appreciate how fantastic Eugenio, Delia, Moy and the rest of the orchestra were together.

"Those years were so much fun, we didn't have much but we had love and music. To us that was a lot."

Along with being a brilliant saxophone and clarinet player for his orchestra, Eugenio would also fix string instruments in his small shop in Weslaco. Unfortunately in 1972, Eugenio Gutierrez would pass away after a battle with cancer. After his death, Moy would form his own group, The Moy Pineda Mini-Band. Moy's right hand man for his musical ensemble would be Jose Peña, who he would play with for over 30 years. After the death of Eugenio, Delia thought that her singing career was over.

"At the time, I thought 'I'm not going to play anymore, I'm a housewife, I'm just going to take care of my kids.'"

As the gigs started rolling in for Moy, he asked Delia to join him and become the singer for his orchestra. She joined her husband as they would perform at conventions, clubs, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and balls for all types of people. When Moy was not playing, he would usually be found managing the Klinck's drug store in McAllen, a position he held for almost 40 years.

Moy would also love to honor fallen soldiers and veterans by playing "Taps" at military funerals. Moy was not a veteran but he wanted to pay tribute to veterans with his exceptional trumpet skills. He was very much respected by the local veterans for everything he did for them.

"They even dedicated a brick in the Veteran's War Memorial on 29th street in his name," Delia said. "That's how much they thought of him."

Delia would go on to sing professionally with her husband until she officially retired in 1990. That same year Delia was interviewed and had her career documented by Dr. Clay Shorkey of the Texas Music Museum. She was asked to attend Shorkey's exhibit titled Musica Tejana: The History and Development of Tejano Music. Unfortunately she couldn't make it that year but she is proud to have been included in that exhibit with fellow great singers like Juanita Garcia and Lydia Mendoza.

In 2002 Delia was given the great honor of being inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame for her achievements as a professional singer. Other people who were inducted into that class of 2002 include Freddy Fender, Ventura Alonzo and Tony "Ham" Guerrero.

Tragedy struck the following year as Moy would lose a battle with cancer and pass away on June of 2003. Even though it's been 40 years since Eugenio passed away and 9 years since Moy passed away, people still come up to Delia to talk about them. She's very gracious that people are still keeping their memory alive.

"To me, it's very important that people remember my dad and my husband. It's more important to me that the people remember them."

Delia hopes to be remembered by the music she created with Eugenio and Moy. She currently resides in McAllen and loves to spend time with her three daughters, her six grandchildren, her two great-grandchildren and her son-in-laws (Bobby Perez and George Diaz). She still keeps in touch with so many musicians she's worked with over the course of her lifetime like Jose Peña and Rene Sandoval.

"It's been so many years and it's still fresh in so many people's hearts," Delia said. "I want to thank our fantastic musicians that worked with us, not just from the Valley but from all over. To all of our fans, my family and friends, I want to thank you. Our music lives on."

Here are two of their most well known songs:

Friday, April 6, 2012

South Texas Ocelot

This is a sweet video by Richard Moore, one of the coolest guys in the deep South Texas region. If you don't know who he is, here is a quick bio from his website:
As an independent photo/journalist, Moore has complete control of story selection and does all videography, writing, voicing and editing. This is a rare feat in today’s television market where numerous assignment editors, producers, reporters, and video editors often contribute to any given story. 
“I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and grew up a dedicated hunter and fisherman. I do most of my hunting with a camera now, as the seasons are endless and there are no limits. Rather than seeking to extinguish the life-shine in a creature’s eye, I strive to capture that flicker of wildness and share it with my audience.”
Moore is an important figure in bringing attention to the local nature and environment of South Texas. They capture two ultra rare ocelots here in South Texas, and it's documented by Moore. Beautiful creatures. 

Border Love on the Rio Grande: African American Men and Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas (1850-1940)

You learn something new every day. I was messing around on Google trying to find Rio Grande Valley photos of the late 1800's when I came across this fascinating article by Albert Rodriguez (you can read more about who he is here) on

This article is about how the Valley was an area that seemed to ignore racial miscegenation laws in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Never knew this part of Valley history and was very glad that I came across it. Here is Albert's article, it's really interesting:

Border Love on the Rio Grande: African American Men and Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas (1850-1940)
by Albert Rodriguez
The area of South Texas known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley became in the period between the U.S. Civil War and World War I one of the few regions south of the Mason-Dixon Line where racial miscegenation laws were frequently challenged.  As a consequence a small but significant number of prominent black-ethnic Mexican families emerged to complicate both the Anglo-Mexican and black- white racial dichotomies so common in the rest of the nation. In the article below historian Alberto Rodriquez describes that process.   
The U.S. Census of 1900 for Cameron County, Texas, which today is dominated by the cities of Harlingen and Brownsville, showed an unusual statistic.  According to that census, 177 blacks formed 18 households in Cameron County.  Of those eighteen households, seven or 38% were interracially married.   In neighboring Hidalgo County, where the largest cities are Donna, McAllen, and Edinburg, Texas, there were 18 out of 25 families interracially married or 72% of the black population.  These two counties had the highest rates of interracial marriages involving at least one black spouse in the United States at that time. 
Most of the black women and men of Cameron and Hidalgo Counties migrated from the Deep South to the southern most region of Texas.  These were farm families.  Out of the 18 interracial households in Cameron County, nine families (50%) owned their land while nine families rented.  In Hidalgo County, 10 out of 25 or 40% of the interracially married couples owned land.  If blacks acquired land in South Texas, it happened in one of two ways.  Either they had economic success which provided the resources to purchase land, or they married into the landed ethnic Mexican families of South Texas.     
These interracial marriages along the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the most part were black men marrying ethnic Mexican women or first generation Tejanas (Texas-born women of Mexican descent).  Typical of these marriages was the union of Louis and Angle Rutledge of Hidalgo County.  Louis Rutledge was a black male born in Alabama who lived in the county's Second Precinct in 1900.  In 1886, he married Angle, an ethnic Mexican woman who was born to Mexican parents.  The Rutledges, who had been married 14 years by the time of the 1900 census, had seven children ranging from two to thirteen years of age.  The census also shows that all the children attended school.   
It was more common for blacks and ethnic Mexicans to cross racial lines and marry at this time and in this area of Texas than any other section of the state.  Since ethnic Mexicans were considered white by Texas officials and the U.S. government, such marriages were a violation of the state's anti-miscegenation laws.  Yet, there is no evidence that anyone in South Texas was prosecuted for violating this law. 
Moreover, there seemed to be little stigma attached to these marriages from the families involved.  In 1900, Juan Zuniga’s daughter, Redacinde Jackson, lost her black husband. She then returned with her children to her father’s home.  Interracial families were often what would today be called blended families since both husband and wife brought children from previous marriages into the new households.   Juan Singletary of Hidalgo County had two stepsons, Ballagar and Davie Solis, living with him.  Both were sons of Antonia, his ethnic Mexican wife.  Nagario Jackson also had a stepson living in his household.  His name was Christ Visnuevo, the stepson of his ethnic Mexican wife, Eugiruia.  As the given names Juan and Nagario suggest, these "black" men themselves had ethnic Mexican mothers and thus represented a second generation of racially blended families.   
The roots of this unusual interracial marriage dynamic can be traced into the 19th Century.  Many black men who moved into the Lower Rio Grande Valley after the Civil War married into ethnic Mexican families soon after their arrival.  They joined black women and men who from the 1850s onward found sanctuary on the U.S./Mexican border. Although the black population in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas can be traced back to the mid 1740s with the settlement of the Afro-Spaniard José de Escandon, most black migration to the Rio Grande Valley happened in three periods: 1.the Underground Railroad era with enslaved people fleeing from the slaveholding southern United States into Mexico between 1836 and 1865, black settlers on the border between 1850 and 1900, and 3. twentieth century black migrants who arrived between 1900 and 1960.    
In 1849, for example, slave-owner Lad Kinchlow of Wharton County, Texas, freed and sent one-year-old Ben Kinchlow, his older brother, and his mother, Lizaer Moore, to Matamoros, Mexico.  Although Ben does not give any explanation for his family’s emancipation, he does state that he never knew his white father, Lad Kinchlow.  Ben worked both sides of the border as a ranch hand and cowboy in the 1860s and 1870s.  During that period he reported friendly interaction with ethnic Mexicans both in Texas and Mexico.  When Kinchlow was five years old, his mother Lizaer (Eliza) Moore, married Juan Rios, an ethnic Mexican from Brownsville, Texas.  Although Kinchlow did not claim any lineage to his ethnic Mexican stepfather or siblings, he found love within the South Texas ethnic Mexican society. Kinchlow said in a 1937 WPA interview that he "fell in love" with Antonita Flores:   
Antonita was the one I fell in love with… Of co'se I had chances to talk to her some.
I used to go by Antonita an' smile an' pass her a sign an' she always answered.  I would
have married her if I had stayed on there but I was young an' hadn't even joined up with [Texas Ranger Lee] McNally [of Brownsville, Texas] yet an' when I left their [sic],
I drifted farther away an' never did go back. But Antonita stayed in my memory a long time.  She was good an' kind an' as pretty as a rose. I thought lots of her an' I knowed she thought lots of me. We used to ride together but most of the time the old
man was with us. Sometimes I got to talk to her an' I could slip in a nice word while we were off together. 
Kinchlow's brief fling with Antonita reflected the complexity of race and ethnicity in South Texas at that time.  Although Antonita was legally white and thus their relationship was a violation of Texas miscegenation laws, according to Kinchlow, Antonita Flores’ father knew about them and allowed the courtship to continue under his supervision.  Antonita’s father thus obviously had a different understanding of the miscegenation laws that existed from the Civil War through the mid-20th Century.   
Even Anglos found the Lower Rio Grande Valley a haven for mixed race relationships.  John Webber, an Anglo from Travis County, Texas, married one of his former slaves, Silvia Hector, soon after he founded Webberville.   Yet Webber and his interracial family, which by this time included three children, were forced to flee the town he founded because of opposition to their status as a mixed race family.  They moved further south in 1853 and settled near Donna, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  The Webber family eventually acquired 27,000 acres of land along the Rio Grande.  Three other black families, the Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges, arrived in South Texas with the help of the Webber family.  Their descendants married ethnic Mexican men and women.  Black-white marriages like that of John and Silvia Webber, however, remained rare.       
The Webbers, Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges, all of whom acquired large ranches, established a pattern of interracial marriage that was copied by other African American migrants into the region after the Civil War.  Thus the Census of 1900 confirmed a half century of interracial blending between blacks and ethnic Mexicans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Today most of the Lower Rio Grande Valley people who carry the last names of Webber, Jackson, Singletary, and Rutledge are all Spanish-speaking people who claim Mexican descent.         
By the early 1900s, new waves of black settlers in South Texas were becoming an integral part of the growing agro-business economy in the region.  Many of them worked on the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexican Railway.  Ironically the demand for their labor and the growing residential segregation that finally swept into South Texas from the rest of the state, allowed their small communities to flourish.    
Although the four major interracial families--the Webbers, Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges-- increasingly identified as ethnic Mexicans, they nonetheless continued to support the black newcomers who arrived in the area.  One of their most important contributions was Jackson Chapel, a Methodist Church found in 1874 on Jackson Ranch between the communities of Donna and Hidalgo, Texas.  The one room church served both as a school and community meeting center and still serves that purpose today.  The church became the center of the small but growing black community while the school, for many years, provided the only educational opportunity available to African American children.  As vital as it was to black South Texas, however, Jackson Chapel also provided a space for Anglos, blacks, and ethnic Mexicans to meet, exchange culture, and interact in their daily lives.  
Jackson Chapel led the way for all-black churches in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  By 1930 Brownsville, Raymondville, Harlingen, and Edinburg all had such churches.  As the African American population in the Lower Rio Grande Valley grew in the period between 1880 and 1920, these churches helped establish a sense of African American autonomy from both the Anglo and Mexican worlds and for the first time black communities became a distinct part of the increasingly diverse South Texas racial makeup.  Yet, the growth of racially exclusive neighborhoods for Anglos, blacks, and ethnic Mexicans limited and discouraged the interracial and interethnic contact that had been common in the mid-19th Century.           
With the post-World War II influx of Mexican immigrants and Tejanos from other areas of Texas as well as the steadily increasing black population, the size, number, and influence of the early black-ethnic Mexican families declined.  While the border region of the Lower Rio Grande Valley continues to be a space of interracial-interethnic marriage freedom, it is important to recall how the process began that allowed this far south region of Texas to quietly challenge the rest of the United States on the question of interracial marriage.  The South Texas past may well suggest one type of future as the black and brown populations continue to grow in numbers and influence throughout the nation.         
Sources:Ben Kinchlow, American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, Interviewed by Florence Angermiller [accessed 10 June 2003], 10-11; U.S. Bureau of the Census. Cameron County, 1860-1930. Prepared by the Geography Division. Washington, D.C., 1860-1930; The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection.