Friday, July 15, 2016

18th annual "Conjunto of the Year" Award Ceremony in Mercedes

The late Gilberto Garcia of Los Dos Gilbertos (Edinburg)
On Sunday night, the South Texas Conjunto Association (STCA) will be hosting their 18th annual "Conjunto of the Year" award ceremony at the KC Hall in Mercedes, TX. The annual Rio Grande Valley extravaganza honors the very best in conjunto music year after year.

This year's ceremony is dedicated to the memory of the late Gilberto Garcia, of the Edinburg conjunto Los Dos Gilbertos. He passed away on September 21, 2015.

"Gilberto Garcia was an icon in conjunto music as a member of the Los Dos Gilbertos," said Lupe Saenz, STCA president.
A special painting of Gilberto Garcia by local artist Roel Flores will be presented to the Garcia family at the beginning of the evening.

"He was one of the most consisted conjunto musicians that kept the genre going strong even in the face of (conjunto music) disappearing during the strong presence of Tejano music in the 1980's and 90's, when radio stations were making the switch to the Tejano genre."

Los Dos Gilbertos were crowned the "Conjunto of the Year" in the year 2000.

How are the winners chosen? Saenz explained the process to me.

"Early in the year, we start to make inquiries to the public about who should be the next conjunto of the year. Then, we start to follow and watch those conjuntos that are making an impact and are having a strong year. We, then ask a 10 member committee from Houston, San Antonio, Laredo, Austin, and the RGV to make nominations based on this information. We also get input from record companies around the state and suggestions from radio personalities. We then make a ballot and let the people decide who wins in each category."

Different categories also honor the top album, single, accordionist, vocalists, bajo-sexto player, drummer, and bass player in conjunto music.

There will also be "Lifetime Achievement" awards handed out to six conjunto legends — Gilberto Perez, Sr., Efrain Solis, Cande Aguilar, Sr., Ruben Garza, Temo Lopez and Tomas Vasquez.

Throughout the program there will be over 15 different conjuntos performing, including but not limited to: Conjunto Kingz de Flavio Longoria (San Antonio), Boni Mauricio y Los Maximos (Corpus Christi), Ruben de la Cruz y su conjunto (Elsa), Katie Lee Ledezma y su conjunto (Brownsville), Los Badd Boyz del Valle (Elsa), and Gilberto Lopez y sus Hijos (Edinburg).

The event will be streamed via audio on online radio stations "El Magico Show", "DJ Dora Da Explorer Radio", and "Tejano Radio", and will be broadcast on public television at a later date in August. It will eventually be uploaded online for fans to check out later in the year.

As for the rest of the year, the local organization does have some more things on their plate, and continues to urge fans to continue to support their local conjunto events.

"We have other events on the schedule including more dances and more conjunto concerts," Saenz said. "People must continue to support conjunto music in the Valley or it will be gone."

What: 18th annual "Conjunto of the Year" Award Ceremony.
When: June 17th, 5 PM to 10 PM.
Where: KC Hall, 150 N Ohio Ave, Mercedes.
Tickets: $10.00
Contact: For more information, call 956-454-2207

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tito Santana

Tito Santana

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Remembering Antonio Orendain


By Benito Gonzalez and Manuel Torres, 4/13/16.

The first time that we met Antonio Orendain was in 1966. Orendain and some other organizers from the United Farm Workers (UFW) had come to talk to the farmworkers at the Weslaco labor camp, to unite the workers with others in Starr county. Orendain was the man with the black hat, as he was known then. The Valley, for the farmers and ranchers, was the “Magic Valley”. They would make huge profits from the crops that they planted like onions, tomatoes, melons, oranges, grapefruits, and many others. But for us, who work the land and harvest the crops, it was the “Valley of Tears”. That’s how Antonio would explain to the farmworkers, that we too had to put a price to our labor. Just like anybody else in the world, that we too are professional, like a doctor, or a lawyer.  And with that, he started his legend. From there on, the farmworkers were not afraid of being united as a group. Even further, Antonio and the union here understood that here in the border, we have to organize with immigrant workers. “The workers from Mexico are not our enemy.”

So every morning, we would get up at 4 AM and pass out flyers to the farmworkers at the Hidalgo bridge, where they would cross in the hundreds. The key to winning any strike or work stoppage was to organize the undocumented immigrant worker. After so many years of educating and organizing farmworkers on both sides of the border, they started to look up to Antonio and the Texas Farmworkers Union (TFWU). Whenever there were some problems with the crew leaders or the packing sheds owner, you could hear “Huelga! Huelga! Huelga!”

In the late 1970’s and 1980’s, hundreds of thousands of onion workers clipped onions in the fields throughout the Valley. At nighttime the workers would go looking for the TFWU office, looking for help from the organization and Antonio. One night a plan was formed with TFWU organizers, with Antonio as the lead organizer. It was agreed that the main reason that workers wanted to carry out a work stoppage was because they were not making the minimum wages of $1.25 per hour. Their pay was .25 cents a bucket (5 gallons), or .50 cents for a sack of 100 lbs. They also asked for use of bathrooms and clean drinking water.

That was one of the hundreds of strikes and work stoppages organized by the TFWU, here in Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties back in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, besides the ones in West Texas, Pecos, Plainview, Muleshoe. Times have changed ever since NAFTA, with so much agricultural work moving south into Mexico and in other southern countries.

The legend of Antonio Orendain will live forever, and his goals of seeing a just society, where every farmworker is paid equally, treated fairly, and lives comfortably in a happy economy and political system for all. RIP our friend, our general, the struggle continues! A new movement is growing for a new world!