It's the 1994 La Joya Coyotes senior prom and I'm 18 years old. I got my fancy suit on, looking all GQ. On my arm, I got a pretty woman clinging to me like she's walking a tight rope. Perhaps it's the heels that can't come easy when you are wearing a tight, form-fitting dress and looking all glam yourself.
We bust through the quadruple doors of the entrance to my high school. Everybody is looking at me like, "Is that Gabriel walking in with that angel? Who is she?" They were all confused of course because my date was not one of them. She was an outsider. In fact, she was a bit older than me, so she wasn't even in high school at that point. So it's quite an impression I made coming in with what looked like my girl, since I was never seen promenading around with a girl in the hallways throughout my high school career. I never even had an "official," public girlfriend back then. I was never known for being a Casanova, in spite of the fact that most girls thought I was a player for some reason. I guess it was my quiet demeanor. My sleepy, love-me-tender eyelids. The fact that girls always found it easy to connect with me. That always raised suspicions.
"Tiene la musica por dentro," is the local saying. In other words, he's got a well-hidden bad boy side.
As we join the crowd in the cafeteria now converted into a dance hall, we see the band on stage. An unbelievable manifestation, like seeing ghosts. How was it possible that we had gotten this band of all bands to play at OUR PROM?!
And the band was?
None other than
Los Palominos were just one of many tent poles in the Tejano Music genre that swept the nation's Spanish-speaking communities throughout the 1980's and '90's. To me, they were my favorite band. It's hard to describe just what their music sounds like if you have never heard it, but it's a mix of Mexican cumbia and norteno music with a tinge of U.S. rock & roll oldies...at least in spirit.
Aside from them, those bands that seemed to be the ambassadors of a vibrant, unique, and proud (though very much humble in style and presentation) music tradition were powerhouses like el Grupo Mazz, La Mafia, Emilio Navaira, and the mega star, Selena Quintanilla. Of all of these, the three most influential in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as nationally and internationally were Mazz, Emilio, and Selena.
Let me get right down to the conspiracy theory here. In 2008, Emilio Navaira was in a terrifying bus crash that nearly took his life and survived only to be killed off by a massive heart attack eight years later. Joe Lopez, lead singer for Grupo Mazz was tried and convicted of raping his niece in 2007. He was given a 32 year sentence of which he served 10 and was released a mere ghost of his former self. And of course, Selena Quintanilla was murdered in cold blood by Yolanda Saldivar in 1995. Only a year after my prom.
Really, after the death of Selena, the Tejano Music industry took a dive. It was the beginning of the end. It is peculiar that all these (and others) Tejano singers met such negative fates. Their destinies are rivaled only by hard-core gangsta' rappers who occasionally get gunned down or o.d. Which begs the question, what's behind this very rapid death of an entire music genre? What are the forces behind it that brought about these results?
In the case of Joe Lopez of Grupo Mazz, there are still alternate versions of the rape accusation. It seems that certain evidence that could have proved his innocence was not admitted in his court case, and so he was convicted.
When it comes to Emilio, I'm always suspicious when someone of a young age, comparatively speaking, just up and croaks one regular day. He was only 53 years old! Did someone slip some poison in his Chivas Regal? He was at his home, for cryin' out loud. One of my uncles died the same way. He was found alone in his home, dead of an apparent massive heart attack. But questions remained of people that had access to him, and who might have had a motive to kill him. Did Emilio face such a danger as well? There had already been one brush with death. The media chalked it up to him driving his tour bus without a license and under the influence of alcohol. But you know what Trump says about the media, right? Hmmmm...
Selena Quintanilla, the queen of Mexican Americans, was not only at the top of her game in 1995. She was so far above all others in the genre, that she couldn't help but break the music industry into pieces, unwilling to conform to only one musical tradition. She was a true star in every way. The inspiration and hope she gave to all the millions across the U.S. and the world was really something noteworthy. Especially if it is your business to keep populations in check. After all, music has the undeniable power to move people, to create social awareness that bring about movements that lead to structural change. Someone had to do something about these bad hombres and nasty women of the Southern border.
For starters, you shoot to kill the biggest, most influential among them, because that's the way it's always done. Look at MLK, Bobby Kennedy, JFK, Lincoln. There's no other sure way but a bullet to cut down the towering figure. This was Selena's fate. Was Yolanda Saldivar a Manchurian candidate set upon the queen of Tejano to end her life? What might have been Yolanda's trigger? "Bidi bidi, bang bang?" like Howard Stern so succinctly, if disgustingly, phrased it?
And as happened to people around these powerful historical figures, those secondary influential people got dealt with in various ways. Poison, for instance, is very efficient. Some times undetectable (according to my research watching many episodes of Forensic Files, and when done correctly by professionals). It's the perfect way to quietly remove someone of prominence from the scene. Perhaps this might explain Emilio Navaira's fate?
But you can't rely on poison alone to dismantle the tent poles that keep a movement standing. That's where allegations come into play. Is Joe Lopez truly a child rapist? We know that a conviction isn't always definitive proof of guilt. Just ask the many people who have been exonerated and released from prison years or decades after being wrongfully convicted. It happens. I don't know all the facts about the Joe Lopez case, but if there are factors that were not analyzed, I think it is only fair to do due diligence because, after all, this is a person's life we are talking about.
So the question remains: who was behind the conspiracy to kill Tejano music? The US govt? The Hispanic U.S. media groups seeking to replace a strong Mexican American identity-driven music movement with a more neutral, and less potent music genre that is based on simplistic, repetitive beats that never change no matter the song, or the artist, or the passage of time?
Yes, I'm talking about you, Reggaeton. If there is such a thing as playing Mozart and Beethoven to your baby while in the womb to help her or him be born a genius, then playing Reggaeton at any stage in life has got to produce the polar opposite. (Some songs are aiight, tho ;p).
But to what end? What would those Hispanic media groups gain by killing Tejano Music? Well, it's no secret that Mexican Americans comprise the strongest (numerically speaking) category of Latinos in the U.S. Other Central and South Americans who come here represent a tiny fragment of the Latino populace, yet it may be in their interest to shape the body politic of Latinos in the U.S. by diminishing the Mexican influence and replacing it with a more universal Hispanic identity not rooted in any one Latin American nation. And the ultimate goal of such an effort, you ask? That is the million dollar question.
I tell you, this is a mystery just begging to be explored. And as the chief editor at The Raving Press, I will make a pledge to you here. If anyone out there is able to take this topic on and produce a manuscript of at least 18,000 words be it a fictional novella or non-fiction text, we will publish, promote it, and share the royalties 50/50 with you. So let's see what you got.
Gabriel H. Sanchez,
The Raving Press
P.S. I love Reggaetoneros. Where are my Reggaetoneros?
Gabriel H. Sanchez is an author, poet, actor, editor, and publisher from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, on the border with Mexico. Gabriel is the author of "Once Upon a Bad Hombre," "The X Series," "The Martian Ones: Tales of Human Folly," and "The Fluid Chicano." You can read more about him and his other projects at gabrielhugo.com or on his Facebook page: @gabrielhugoauthor.
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