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Directors Message

Arte Amricas crowned our 25th anniversary programming with the Smithsonian Touring exhibition, American Sabor: Latinos in US Popular Music. How could we not take this opportunity to highlight our valleys own musical heritage? For 25 years we have worked to develop a centernuestra casa de culturawhere we present our local artists along with some of the great masters. Our concerts over these years have featured Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, Pete (and Sheila and Paris) Escobedo, Eddie Palmieri , Lalo Guerrero, Lila Downs, and the Tro Los Panchos. We brought them all to Fresno. We turned in this Sabor del Valle program to another valley treasure, Dr. Manuel Pea, to document for us some of our valleys music history before it fades from our grasp. It has been 35 years since Dr. Alex Saragoza rst documented our Fresnos Hispanic Heritage and almost that long since the Golden Age described here. We understand the need to capture, record and preserve our cultural history and recognize Arte Amricas role in contributing to the larger task. This modest effort to document a part of our music history represents our commitment to continue the story and our mission to make the valley a ourishing place for Latino arts. Manuel Pea is so well qualied to take on this task. Hes an ethnomusicologist, an author of ve books and many articles on Mexican American music and cuture. Hes a musician and part of the valleys music scene himself, beginning as a guitarist with Manuel Contreras orquesta and later as a trumpet player with Beto Garca and the GGs. He took on this task with enthusiasm and the connections needed to do it. And more than a job or a gig---it seems to have been a labor of love and passion. We cannot repay him enough for that. Gracias, Manuel. Your work on Sabor del Valle has brought back so many happy memories to so many people---the Rainbow , the Palomar, the Sanger Ballroom, along with the music of Manuel Contreras, Johnny Dela O, Benny Gallardo and La Union Mexicana, and El Dueto Los Morenos, just to name a few of the valleys most talented musicians. Our valley Sabor will be treasured for years to come. Elva Rodriguez, Executive Director Arte Amricas

Exhibition and Program Book Notes: Dr. Manuel Pea Layout and Design: Tony Carranza Video Interviews: Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC) Technical Assistance: Mara Pea

Based on interviews and collections of Carmencristina Moreno, Ray Camacho, Johnny de la O, Ronnie Gallardo, Alex Rubalcava, Irene Torres-Pacheco, Juan Rodrguez, Tony Benavdez and Isabel Verduzco.

2012 Dr. Manuel Pea

Sabor del Valle exhibition and program booklet were researched and written by Dr. Manuel Pea as a complementary project to the local showing of the Smithsonian traveling exhibition, American Sabor. The project was supported by a grant from Ford Motor Company Fund and in-kind services provided by Arte Amricas and our members.

Introduction
People of Mexican descent have been part of Fresnos history since its incorporation as a city in 1885. But they do not appear often in publications documenting the communitys early years. For example, one has to look hard to nd them in the pictorial, A Portrait of Fresno, a Centennial book published in 1985. Their absence from pictorial histories notwithstanding, Mexicans comprised a substantial part of Fresnos population by 1930, perhaps as much as 30 percent (16,000). Their numbers soared after World War II, when, rst, waves of immigrants from West-Central Mexico arrived to work in the agricultural elds. Later, in the fties and sixties, a second wave of immigrants, this time from Texas and northern Mexico, augmented the Mexican population. Since then, sporadic surges of Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans have further reinforced the Hispanic population, which made up nearly half of the population in the San Joaquin Valley by the beginning of twenty-rst century. Despite their absence from the historical records of Fresno and its environs, the people of Mexican descent contributed in important ways from early on to the economic development of the San Joaquin Valley. Their expertise in mining migrated to the Anglo-Americans who ocked to the area after the discovery of gold, and much of the knowledge about horse-and-cattle culture was also adopted by the American immigrants transplanted to California. But the Mexicans principal contribution is attributable to a less romantic aspect of the Valley economyagricultural labor. As Alex Saragoza noted (in Fresnos Hispanic Heritage), It was in his role as worker that the Mexican made his greatest and most obvious contribution. The Valley became one of Americas premier agricultural areas with the indispensable aid of Mexican labor. In fact, in the spectacular growth of agriculture that began in 1900, the Mexicans had become an indispensable labor force by 1930, due chiey to the banishment of Chinese and Japanese labortwo groups which had formed a large reservoir of agricultural workers in earlier years. Thus, by 1930, Mexicans constituted between 60 and 80 percent of the farm labor force. Their virtually exclusive role as farm workers with an ascribed, separate ethnic identity isolated most Mexicans from Anglo society, an isolation that was not without its social repercussions: there was rampant prejudice and discrimination against them. As one farmer commented, The Mexican is not aggressive, he is amenable to suggestions and does his work. He is a man who lends himself very well to ranch labor, a man who gives us no trouble at all. Adding to the perception of the Mexicans docility were the comments of another farmer, who observed approvingly that, The Mexican does not intermarry with Ameri2

cans, and is not, therefore, a menace to the American bloodstream (as quoted by Saragoza in Fresnos Hispanic Heritage). Despite relative poverty, and despite their struggles in the face of ethnic and other forms of discrimination, ever increasing numbers of Mexicans succeeded through resolute self-determination in escaping the ignominy of back-breaking labor in the agricultural elds to become lawyers, doctors, business people, teachers and other occupations that lead to leadership positions in the general community and beyond. What is most remarkable is the generational progress the people of Mexican descent achieved: impoverished as many may have been when they arrived, countless of their children went on to make the transformational leap from the agricultural elds to positions of social and economic leadership in the community. To this day, if one visits Fresno State, for example (or other California universities, for that matter), we will see students, children of parents who still toil in the sun. In sum, Mexicans continue to assert their presence in the Valley, just as they have long been important contributors to the progress and socioeconomic growth of Fresno and its environs. They have, in short, come a long way from their ascribed status as lowly farm workers and fellows easy to handle. Besides the ever increasing population of Mexican-descent people in the San Joaquin Valley, an additional factor in their endurance is the resilience of their culture, and its long-lasting inuence on Valley communities. Again, as Saragoza noted, reminders of that inuence (think city streets: Mariposa, Merced, Fresno) are everywhere: Every day, symbols of a distinctive culture and history surround us: real estate ads sell Spanish-style homes, Mexican eateries beckon hungry drivers, and se hable espaol signs greet us as we enter stores [everywhere]. Throughout the Fresno area, despite little recognition, the Valleys Hispanic heritage thrives and endures.

Mexican/Latino Music: An Enduring Heritage


As the Mexican heritage has endured, so has one special art: its music. From the very rst settlers in the Valley to much later arrivals, a Spanish-Mexican music culture has made its presence felt in Valley communities, sprouting deep roots over time. We do not have any sort of systematic documentation of the music of the original californiosthose Spanish-Mexicans who were here before the arrival of the Americans. However, scattered reports from nineteenth-century American travelers inform us that much like their counterparts in New Mexico and Texas, the californios reveled in musical activities at every opportunity. As one American commentator observed, californios would hardly pause in dance for an earthquake, and would renew it before the vibrations ceased. Or, as the historian Hubert H. Bancroft put it, Dancing was a passion with the [californios]. . .If a few people got together at any hour of the day, the rst thought was to send for a violin and guitar, and should the violin and guitar be found together in appropriate hands, that of itself was sufcient reason to send for the dancers. But it wasnt until the turn of the twentieth century that a more ethnographic approach toward documenting the living music of the californios was initiated. Around that time, Charles F. Lummis began collecting folksongs from various individuals in Southern California, including the prolic singer, Manuela Garca, from Ventura County. Among the common tunes he collected were the songs, Don Simn, La cocinera and Versos del alba, all of which had a history in other regions of the Southwest. Much like the 19th century, the music Lummis and others collected was accompanied by the violin and guitar, which also happened to be the most prominent instruments for making dance music, of which the waltz and polka had been very much in vogue since the late 19th century. However, even in the early twentieth century, fully equipped ensembles such as orchestras were rare or non-existent. Hispanic music in the San Joaquin Valley no doubt shared the characteristics of Southern California and, indeed, those of the Hispanic Southwest generally. We have no historical resources that document local musical developments, but as was the case with Southern California, it was no doubt a music derived from Spanish-Mexican sources, much of which came originally from Spain (the canciones and romances) and other European countries (the dance music of the waltz and schottische, for example) via Mexico, where considerable hybridization took place. In any case, by the 1920s the Mexicans of the San Joaquin themselves had begun to document in incidental fashion the music that lightened their lives as hard-working proletarians. Especially as the colonias acquired a sufcient level of civic involvement and cooperation (for example, in mutual aid societies like La Sociedad Morelos), they began to engage in socially
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organized dance and other musical activities. It is in the 1920s, then, that we get a rst glimpse of how the Mexicans of the San Joaquin used music to celebrate special occasions and strengthen their sense of ethnic community, no matter how marginalized from Anglo social life. An important event in the social lives of the Mexicans of the San Joaquin was the estas patrias associated with Mexican Independence Day, or el diez-y-seis de septiembre, as it is still known. Throughout Mexican America, the estas patrias invariably involved patriotic music. Saragoza mentions in Fresnos Hispanic Heritage that the rst documented diez-y-seis de septiembre celebration took place in 1920. He does not indicate the nature of the celebration, but we may be certain that, among other activities, it included what was already the traditional public dance, featuring perhaps an orquestita (small band) like the one shown in Figure 2. In any case, by the late twenties extant program pamphlets demonstrate that such activities, including a gala dance, were an established tradition in the city of Fresno. The program inserted below (Figure 1) is a typical exFigure 1: Fiestas Patrias Program ample of the kinds of activities the celebrations included. By 1930, a well established colonia mexicana was ourishing in Fresno, as in other Valley cities. With the cooperative efforts of a stable working class and a nascent middle class, the socio-musical life of the people was thriving. During that decade, the musical activities expanded, creating room for a number of cancioneros and cancioneras to make their mark on the musical scene, as well as a few orquestas and other sundry ensembles which also established themselves. Besides estas like diez-y-seis, orquestas performed for Saturday dances that groups such as La Sociedad Morelos organized at places like the
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popular Ryan Auditorium. Interestingly, according to the late orquesta musician Manuel Contreras, orquestas like that of Francisco Reyes and Jess Torres did not play Mexican music, except for estas patrias, when tunes like La Marcha Zacatecas and El Jarabe Tapato were required inclusions. For dancing, American music was the rule, with the swing the predominant choice after the mid-thirties. This was an important development, since it attests to the degree of cultural assimilation that had occurred among the well-established Mexicans in Fresno, as opposed to those immigrants who arrived later and, indeed, continue to migrate to the area to this day.

Figure 2: Jess Torres Orquesta (old-styled)

Among the cancioneros of the 1930s, the most prominent were Los Moreno, composed of don Luis and doa Carmen Moreno, a duet of cancioneros that was one of the rst of the californio singers to record for major labels like RCA Victor. As indicated above, among the orquestas those of Jess Torres and Francisco Reyes were some of the rst to acquire enduring popularity. In the late thirties, still other orquestas gained prominence, including that of Frank Dominguez, who, according to Contreras, played strictly swing music and had a pretty good band. Meanwhile, the advent of the 40s and the Second World War was about to usher in important changes for the Mexican community in the Valley, as many young men were conscripted to serve their country. When the soldiers returned, they and their kin who had stayed behind were ready to launch a new phase in their sociocultural lives, in particular their musical heritage: the soon-to-unfold Golden Years.
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The Golden Years


The Golden Years of Hispanic music in the San Joaquin Valley extend from about 1940 to 1980, although stylistic evolution quickens after World War II. This is a period when all of the major Mexican/latino types of musical ensembles sprouted roots and ourished in a highly active musical community, reaching levels of artistic performance that merit its designation as a Golden Era. Beginning in 1945 and culminating around 1980, the principal singing and ensemble styles, derived both from Mexico and the United States, reached their pinnacle, both in performance practice and in popularitythe orquesta, the tejano/ norteo conjunto, the mariachi, and the cancionero tradition, including the vocal trio. Let us examine each one individually.

The Orquesta
From the outset, orquestas (or makeshift, orquesta-like ensembles) formed the cornerstone of Valley Hispanics musical life. As such, orquestas were used principally as dance music. In the earlier years, they were improvised ensembles consisting of sundry instruments, but throughout their history, orquestas remained the most important source of entertainment for the Mexicans of the Valley, when it came to domestic and public celebrations involving dance music. Until 1930, they were employed chiey in weddings and other family celebrations. For example, the venerable Manuel Contreras recalled that in 1929 he was present at a wedding where his sister Carmen was a madrina, and, as he said, a thrown-together orquesta provided the music: It was out in some farm house, and I remember there were two violins, a clarinet, and a guitar and tololoche [string bass]. In the 1930s, publicly sponsored musical events featuring orquestas became increasingly common, many under the auspices of mutualistas like La Sociedad Morelos. It was also in the 1930s that public ballrooms began to proliferateplaces like the Ryan Auditorium, the Palomar, the Marigold and the Casadome. Not coincidentally, this was the moment when better organized orquestas made their appearance. Again, until the 1920s, makeshift orquestas of various and sundry instrumentation were the norm in the San Joaquin Valley (see Figure 2). But in the late 1930s and 40s they began to take on more of the characteristics of the modern orquesta, as it had taken shape both in the United States (the swing bands) and in Mexico, from both of which the local orquestas took their cue. These more modernized ensembles typically consisted of one or two trumpets, one or more saxophones, piano, bass and drums (see Figure 3). As indicated previously, in the 1930s orquestas tended to play American music of the swing variety. Mexican music did not form part of the repertoire. But after 1940, the surging popularity of Cuban genres such as the guaracha, the rumba and, in the fties, the mambo and cha cha cha, all contributed to the Latinization of orquestas throughout the Southwest. Also in the 1940s, the Mexican bolero reached maturity, and that genre was enthusiastically adopted by the locals.
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By 1950, local orquestas like that of Manuel Contreras and Frank Bernal had begun to concentrate on the new Latin music, with American swing and the foxtrot serving mainly as contrastive interludes. Lastly, in the late fties, the popularity of a new polca ranchera style, originated by the legendary tejano band of Beto Villa, swept through the San Joaquin Valley, and the local orquestas adopted that as well.

Figure 3: Jess Torres New-Styled Orquesta

By the end of the fties, the basic repertoire of the Fresno area orquestas was established, although further variations kept seeping in during the next decade, variations such as the introduction in the mid-sixties of the cumbia, which took Mexican Americans and latinos in general by storm. In the late sixties, a refashioned polca ranchera, now with sung lyrics, was introduced from Texas by Little Joe y la Familia, and that style (known as La Onda Chicana) also gained popularity in the San Joaquin Valley. By that time, Mexican/latino music constituted the largest portion of the repertoire. However, that repertoire did include the occasional country western song, as well as traditional American pieces like In the Mood and Sentimental Journey. As rock gained popularity, orquestas also incorporated some of the hits of the moment. Meanwhile, by the mid-sixties, an expanding cadre of newer orquestas had begun to overshadow the earlier ones of Manuel Contreras, Amador Lopez and Nacho Ramos. The newer ones included Johnny de la O, Paul Sauceda, and Adolph Mendoza. Among the younger orquestas surging into popularity was Ray Camacho and the Teardrops (later the Ray Camacho Band), unquestionably the most successful of the Fresno orquestas. Camachos band toured
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extensively with the USO and throughout the Southwest, and it was one of the few local orquestas to achieve success recording commercially. Other orquestas active in the local dance circuit included Beto Garca y sus GGs, a transplanted group from Texas that achieved considerable popularity. The GGs performed regularly at the Rainbow Ballroom, as well as at numerous weddings and many of the events sponsored by the musically active Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 8900. The Rainbow Ballroom, managed by Emil Torres, one of Fresnos most prominent dance music promoters, was also a major venue for Mexican American music. It was a magnet for young and old dancers, who thronged to the night spot every Sunday to enjoy the music of Beto Garca, Camacho and many other local orquestas.

Figure 4: Rainbow Ballroom

Yet other orquestitascombo groups that consisted of a saxophone, a trumpet and harmony and rhythm instrumentsincluded Art Cavazos, Octavio Ruelas and Rufus Acostas Combo Clave Azul. An orquesta unique for its tropical style was that of Gil Castellanos. One other well-established orquesta was that of Albert Garcias Rhythm Kings, from Delano. Like Ray Camacho and other youth-oriented groups, the Rhythm Kings easily adapted to the surging soul rock style then sweeping the nation, as personied by James Brown and other soul groups of the time. Also prominent among the younger-generation groups that featured the instruments of the sixties orquesta (trumpets, saxophones, bass, guitar, drums and organ/electric piano) were the Stattons, the Jesters, the Love Lights, the Fascinations and others. However, these latter groups relied more heavily on rock music, which they executed more uently than Mexican/
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latino. As it had been since the early fties, the Rainbow Ballroom continued to be the principal site for Fresno orquesta performances. However, other types of celebrationsat night clubs and VFW dances, for examplealso provided weekend work for Fresnos many orquestas. Important sites for dance music were the numerous weddings that took place every weekend, which often featured one of the many orquestas active in the musical scene.

The Mariachi
The rst identiable mariachi in Fresno was that of Los Gavilanes, one of many groups with which the memorable folksinger/composer Luis Moreno was associated. However, it should be noted that a close relative of the modern mariachi, a traditional type of Mexican folk ensemble known as an orquesta tpica, was almost certainly in evidence in Fresno since the citys early days. The knowledgeable Manuel Contreras, who was born in 1920, recalled seeing one of these orquestas tpicas in 1929. According to Contreras, the members were dressed in charro costumes reminiscent of the mariachi, and they performed at a special concert held in the elementary school he attended in rural Fresno County. He remembered that it was announced as being from Mexico, and that it happened to be touring the Southwest. As described by Contreras, the tpicas costumes were very much like those worn by the musicians shown in Figure 5, who posed for a photo during a radio program of the 1940s, Ecos del Valle.

Figure 5: Musicians from Ecos del Valle.

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In any case, Los Gavilanes was apparently the rst modernized mariachi to organize in Fresno (in 1951), introducing a musical tradition that would endure into the 21st century (see Figure 6). Many more mariachis would follow in its footsteps, including one that became very popular beginning around 1960El Mariachi Guadalajara, later renamed El Mariachi Zapopan, headed by Juan Rodriquez. Others active in the sixties and beyond included Mariachi Santa Cruz, headed by Manuel Gonzlez, Manuel Gmez Mariachi Aguila, and Juan Rodriguez Mariachi Nuevo Zapopan. A novel group was El Mariachi de la Tierra, organized in 1975 by Steve Alcala and Tony Manjarrez: it was the rst mariachi composed entirely of Chicanos, or Mexican Americans. No doubt, the latter mariachi was inspired by the surging Chicano Movement of the sixties and seventies, which promoted a strong sense of cultural pride and a search for roots among many young Mexican Americans. Fresno was no exception, and Chicano pride may explain why El Mariachi de la Tierra was so popular and, indeed, why the mariachi in general played such a strongly symbolic role in the musical life of Hispanic Fresnans.

Figure 6: Mariachi Los Gavilanes

The Trios and Cancioneros


The cancionero/asongsterhas a long history in Mexico and the Hispanic Southwest, being a part of domestic and public performance dating to the time of the Spanish conquest and settlement of the Americas. The Spaniards brought with them the tradition of the troubadour who sang madrigals, love songs (canciones) and romances (heroic ballads), and those traditions took root in the New World. The rise of opera in Europe inuenced singing styles in
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the New World as well, and an imitation of bel canto was eventually adopted by mariachi male singers, in particular. The German lied, a lyrical love song, also had some inuence on the cancin romantica that emerged in Mexico in the nineteenth century. In short, by the late nineteenth century, a repertoire that included romances and corridos (Mexican ballads derived from the romance), and canciones (songs) of all types was diffused throughout Latin America, including the Hispanic Southwest. This vocal repertoire was often accompanied by instrumentation, with the guitar probably the most common form of accompaniment, although other instruments could be enlisted, including the violin and even the piano, in more afuent social settings. With the aforementioned citation from Bancroft in mind (on the musical proclivity of the caliornios), we may safely say that by the end of the nineteenth century, in Fresno as elsewhere in the Southwest the vocal tradition had become well established, although professionalized singers probably were still rare in the hinterland that was the San Joaquin Valley. By the 1920s, however, when the major recording labels (RCA Victor, Decca, Columbia) began their forays into Texas and California to cultivate commercially the native talents of Mexican singers and instrumentalists, a crop of semi-professional cancioneros and cancioneras had begun to be harvested. By the 1930s, a cadre of vocal performers had become well established, many as soloists, others as duets and some even as trios. These performers sometimes accompanied themselves with their own guitars, while others were backed by sundry instrumental ensembles that included small orquestas and mariachi-like groups. Among the cancioneros that were swept into the commercial market was a duet that would eventually settle in Fresno and become part of its musical life. We refer to El Dueto MorenoLuis and Carmenwho began their recording career in Los Angeles, in 1939 (Figure 7). Accompanied by their own guitars (but also by mariachis), this pioneering duet gained their share of popularity in California and beyond, a popularity they carried over when they moved to Fresno in 1950. They performed in all kinds of venues in their adopted city, particularly in estas patrias, domestic celebrations and even cantinas, but most memorable were their performances as regulars in an immensely popular Hispanic TV program, the Luis Gomez Show. More than anyone else, the personable Gomez was responsible for introducing new musical acts to the citizens of the San Joaquin Valley, rst on the show he started on Channel 27 in Tulare in 1955, but especially on the program he hosted on KGST-TV from 1960 to 1975. In the 1960s, Los Moreno were a mainstay of Gomez show, cementing their popu larity in the viewing area. Figure 7: Dueto Los Moreno
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Many cancioneros(as) followed in the Morenos footsteps, among them the cancin ranchera singer, Salvador Navarro, El Charro de Saguayo, who was also a regular on the Luis Gomez Show. Another Gomez attraction was Candelaria Arroyo, who also performed in the by-then popular ranchera (country song) genre. An important performer of the ranchera was the Morenos daughter, Carmencristina, who, like her father, was also a composer of considerable skill. Winner of the Bess Lomax Hawes Award, the most prestigious prize awarded to folksingers, Carmencristina continues to perform the ranchera and a variety of styles to this day, having recorded numerous records and cds, as well as having traveled widely as an entertainer. A variant of the cancionero tradition is the Mexican-styled tro, which has its origins in Mexico in the 1930s. Featuring three-part vocal harmonies (usually male) with guitar and solo requinto accompaniment, the trio early on adopted the sung Cuban-Mexican bolero as its signature, a genre considered the romantic version of the lyrical cancin. Highly popular in all parts of the Hispanic Southwest, the trio naturally found a receptive audience in the San Joaquin Valley as well. Numerous trios left their mark in the area, one of the rst of which was El Tro Californiano, organized in the early forties. Los Trovadores del Valle, organized in 1947 by the versatile Alex Rubalcava, was one of the more popular in the late forties and fties (see Figure 8). A number of other trios populated the musical scene during the Golden Years of Mexican music in the Valley. In the latter years, two notable ones were Henry Rosas Tro Barranqueo and Isabel Verduzcos Tro Los Galas.

Figure 8: Los Trovadores del Valle + percussionists 1 3

Other soloist cancioneros and cancioneras also pursued the cancin romantica in the form of the bolero (as opposed to the cancin ranchera), the former being more aligned with the orquesta and its dance tradition. Among these were, again, Isabel Verduzco, who sang with Johnny Gonzalez and other bands, and Marta del Mar, who played piano and sang with her husband Rufus Acostas Combo Clave Azul. In their role as orquesta singers, both Verduzco and del Mar sang a variety of other canciones, but following Mexican models like Mara Luisa Landn and Mara Victoria, they focused on the romantic style of the bolero. The same was true of Jess Leyva, a cancionero who also specialized in the romantic bolero.

The Conjunto Tejano/Norteo


In the 1950s and early 60s, a wave of tejanos and norteosthe latter Mexicans from the northeastern states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Len and Coahuiladescended on California, most of them cotton pickers displaced by machines that deprived them of their economic means in the cotton-growing state of Texas. Californias orchards and vineyards offered an alternative, and thousands resettled in the San Joaquin Valley. They brought with them a music never heard in the Valley beforea unique regional style (or two, actually) based on the button accordion, generally known as conjunto tejano/norteo. Now resettled in the Golden State, the tejanos and norteos naturally began to seek out the music of their regional roots, and soon enough, immigrant conjunto musicans began to form the down-home groups their people demandedthe uniquely ranchero-styled conjuntos. And, although many californios never accepted the conjunto style of music (cantina trash, more than one local Fresnan called it), the music gained sweeping popularity among the new immigrants. The tejano branch of the conjunto, in particular, which developed in a different direction from its norteo cousin after World War II, became well established in the San Joaquin Valley. Among the rst groups formed was Juan Benavidez Los Regionales de Texas, which was actually more of a norteo than a Texas-styled group. By the late 1950s, Los Regionales was providing music for weddings and other occasions, and, most conspicuously, at cantinas that afforded weekend dance music for the newly established immigrants. Los Regionales fame was further cemented when it not only became a regular on the highly popular Luis Gomez Show, but began to record commercially as well. Other conjuntos followed Los Regionales, the most visible of which was one from Sanger, Noe Gallardo y su Conjunto, organized by three tejano brothersNoe on accordion, Ronnie on bajo sexto (the other key conjunto instrument), with Bennie providing the vocals (Figure 9). Organized in 1961 (but reorganized in 1973 as Bennie Gallardo y la Union Mexicana), the Gallardo brothers maintained a solid following until the early 90s. As with many other tejano/norteo groups, the Gallardos mainstay genre was the sung polca ranchera, which it performed regularly at the wildly popular Sanger Ballroom, which lled to capacity at every weekend dance.
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Figure 9: Noe Gallardo y su Conjunto

End of the Golden Years


The Golden Years of Hispanic music in the San Joaquin Valley spanned the period roughly between 1940 and 1980. The eighties ushered in an era of general decline for the styles of music popular during that memorable period. The orquesta, long the backbone of Mexican American musical life, was the most affected by the changing social scene after 1980. Indeed, of the dozen or so orquestas active until 1980, only a couple were still performing regularly in the nineties. For all practical purposes, the era of the orquesta had passed into history. The trios suffered a sharp decline as well, although they survived, in an attenuated presence, into the 21st century. Unlike the orquesta, the mariachi continues to ourish to this day, thanks to its enduring identication as a strong symbol of roots music among many Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the Valley. Even now, it may be found performing at weddings and other domestic celebrations, as well as at more public events like the Fresno Fair. The tejano brand of the conjunto endured for a time, partly aided by the promotional efforts of Radio Bilinge, which until the early 2000s organized yearly Conjunto Festivals. But in the end it, too, faded from the scene, although its cousin, msica nortea, continued to thrive, thanks to its continuing promotion at the perennially active Rainbow Ballroom, which now caters almost ex1 5

clusively to Mexican immigrants. As wave after wave of immigrants from the various regions in Mexico arrived in the San Joaqun Valley, msica nortea was always already present to provide for their musical preferences. Thus, widely acclaimed norteo groups like Los Tigres del Norte continue to make stops in Fresno and elsewhere, always to packed houses. The decline (and, sometimes, virtual disappearance) of the styles popular during the Golden Years did not occur in a social vacuum. Three variables may be suggested for such a decline. First, the severe recession of the early 1980s sharply curtailed the musical activities of the Hispanics of the San Joaquin, as it did elsewhere in the Southwest. For example, orquestas, with their personnel-heavy presence, became too expensive to hire for weddings or even club dances. Second, and related to the rst variable, in lieu of the more expensive live groups, dance promoters and organizers turned to the newly minted and cheaper DJ (Disk Jockey) form of music performance for dances and other public events. Finally, and just as important, the coming of age in the 1980s of what some have called the Post-Chicano Generation signaled the end of one period and the beginning of another. Quite simply, unlike the Mexican American and Chicano generations before them, the younger generation swerved in a different direction for its entertainment preferences, of which the DJ and its more varied musical repertoire (including all forms of contemporary rock) was a key component. In the end, the earlier forms of musical entertainment became if not obsolete (e.g., the orquesta) then merely forms of residual culturemusical styles appropriate for nostalgic moments evoking the past, but playing no role in the everyday life of what we might call the postmodern, post-Chicano Generation and its shifting tastes for multiple styles of contemporary music. A study on intra-ethnic relationsthat is, relations between different segments of the Mexican-descent population of the San Joaquin Valleywould be highly illuminating, especially one that explored differences between the native-born and the immigrants. Specically, one that would document the musical differences between the two groups would no doubt deepen our understanding of how intergenerational assimilation of a generalized American culture affects communal musical tastes. There is no doubt that a gapperhaps a major oneexists between the musical preferences of recent immigrants and those of second or third-generation Mexican Americans. The latter seem to subscribe substantially (but not entirely) to the different expressions of rock music, particularly hip-hop, as opposed to the preferences of more recent immigrants, who demand Mexican musical forms like the norteo accordion ensemble, banda, and other types of Mexican-latino music. Perhaps such a study could lead to yet another, more contemporary exhibit than the current one. On the other hand, an exhibit of the Golden Years of Mexican music in the San Joaquin justly deserved documentation, and to that end Sabor del Valle aims to provide an evocative glimpse into those richly musical and now nostalgic times.
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Gallery Hours: Wed - Sat 11am - 5pm Sun 1-5pm 1630 Van Ness Fresno, CA 93721 559.266.2623

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