Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930-1955

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930-1955

Article excerpt

Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930-1955. By Mary Ann Villarreal. Race and Culture in the American West. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. Pp. xxxvi, 177. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-4852-6.)

Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930-1955 tells the stories of a small number of Mexican American female singers and entrepreneurs in central South Texas, introducing the reader to women's pioneering roles in the emerging Spanish-language entertainment industry of the region.

The first chapter is dedicated to Rosita Fernandez (1918-2006), recognized as "San Antonio's Rose" for her contribution to the city's tourist market. Fernandez joined her uncles' vaudeville act Los Tres San Miguel to tour the South Texas tent show circuit at the tender age of nine, starting a six-decade-long singing career. She performed on San Antonio's WOAI radio station and, in 1949, on the first broadcast on WOAI television. In an era dominated by accordion-based conjunto music that appealed foremost to the Texas Mexican working-class audience, Fernandez's favorite repertoire was romantic songs (canciones romanticas) and boleros, accompanied by lush orchestras or mariachis.

The second chapter features pioneer accordionist Ventura Alonzo (1904-2000) who, together with her musician husband, opened a dance hall in Houston in the 1950s that served the local community as a social gathering place. Alonzo not only performed in the house band but also managed the venue's business, negotiating artist contracts and handling promotions and ticket sales. Similarly, Carmen Marroquin (1921-2010), who formed a duo with her sister Laura in the 1940s, broke into the dance hall business in 1952, joining forces with her husband, Armando Marroquin, a talent scout and record producer.

The next three chapters focus on the role of Mexican American women as sole proprietors or as part of family-owned businesses in relation to the social and cultural changes in South Texas from the Great Depression and Mexican repatriation in the 1930s to the years of economic recovery, World War II, and the postwar era.

Although Spanish-language music "acts as a cultural connector for all the parts of this book" and the main focus is on female cantantes (singers) as culture makers, unfortunately music is strikingly absent from this book (p. …

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