Austin remembers Tejano music legend Emilio Navaira

Tejano star Emilio Navaira has died in New Braunfels, Texas. He was 53. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, file)
Tejano star Emilio Navaira has died in New Braunfels, Texas. He was 53. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, file)

Tejano music legend Emilio Navaira, who rose to stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, died Monday in New Braunfels. He was 53.

The San Antonio native helped boost Tejano music’s popularity during the genre’s peak along with artists such as Selena. Later Navaira successfully crossed over to perform country music as well. Last fall, he headlined Austin’s Día de Los Muertos Festival.

“The Tejano industry has lost a major force,” said Baldomero Cuellar, founder and co-host of Rancho Alegre Radio on KOOP 91.7 FM. “Emilio was a major part of the 90s Tejano explosion, and he will be deeply missed.”

New Braunfels police and fire crews were sent to Navaira’s home at about 8:20 p.m. Monday after family members found Navaira unconscious and not breathing, according to a police report. First responders began life-saving measures before transporting Navaira to Resolute Health Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Although an autopsy is pending, the singer is believed to have died of natural causes, according to the report.

“There’s no replacing a legend,” said Ross Gomez, vice president of the Austin Tejano Music Coalition. Gomez remembers Navaira’s enthusiasm and support for the organization when Gomez had to the opportunity to briefly meet and tell him about the coalition’s work. Gomez says there are few artists who can go by just a first name, “but when someone (in the Tejano world) said ‘Emilio’ you knew exactly who that was.”

The Grammy award winner was the lead singer for David Lee Garza y los Musicales before forming his own band. In 2008, the singer almost died after a tour bus accident in Houston. Navaira suffered serious head injuries after being thrown through the windshield of the bus and pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge. Navaira managed to recover and made a career comeback.

“A sudden loss like this is especially tough for Tejano because this genre is like a small town,” said Piper LeMoine, Rancho Alegre Radio co-host. “The fans often get to know the musicians, even the superstars like Emilio, personally. We hire them to celebrate life events like weddings and quinceañeras. They’re at community events and church jamaicas…”

Gomez said you could always count on Navaira to give a great performance and was friendly to his fans while exuding a natural pizazz. “His music will live on forever because legends never die,” he said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.





Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicks off May 4

Peruvian thriller  Magallanes,  which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.
Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.

For nearly 20 years, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has been bringing movies to Austin that you can’t find in most U.S. theaters as well as films featuring important points of views that are regularly missing from the big screen.

Don’t miss the chance to catch nearly 100 films representing 24 countries May 4-8. All films, which will screen at various locations including The Marchesa Hall & Theatre and the Salvage Vanguard Theater, are in English or with subtitles. Find free screenings at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

Cine Las Americas opens on May 4 with a 6 p.m. reception for members and badgeholders at the Marchesa Hall & Theater followed by the Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards. The movie tells the story of a taxi driver (Damián Alcázar) and former soldier who serves as a chauffeur for a retired colonel who was his commander. A secret begins to emerge when Celina (Magaly Solier) takes a ride in Magallanes’ cab.

Costa Rican dramedy “Viaje” closes the festival at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Marchesa Hall & Theater. It explores how two millennials who meet at a costume party and spark up a spontaneous rendezvous look at commitment and attraction.

As Cine Las Americas evolves, the fest will make an effort to include other types of audio visual art, said festival director Jean Lauer. Last year, aside from the feature films, documentaries and shorts that are typically screened, they also presented music videos for the first time. This spring, the festival will feature two music video showcases in partnership with the Austin Music Video Festival at The North Door. Local performers Patricia Vonne and AJ Vallejo are among the music video directors featured. Lauer said she hopes Cine Las Americas will eventually also showcase works such as video installations as part of the festival.

For now, new festival partnerships are bringing more diversity to the film selections. Cine Las Americas teamed up with Señorita Cinema, the only Latina film festival in Texas, to present a special selection of 10 Latina-directed short films curated by the Houston-based festival. The roadshow selection will highlight Señorita Cinema’s best films from the past five editions.

Check out the full film festival lineup and ticket information online at

Sor Juana festival kicks off April 16 at the MACC

Austin will honor Mexican trailblazer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz on April 16.
Austin will honor Mexican trailblazer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz on April 16.

At a time when educating women defied social, cultural and religious norms, 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became an acclaimed poet, playwright and self-taught scholar.

Sor Juana, as she’s known, is often described as the first feminist of the Americas for her trailblazing writing and fierce defense of women’s education.

In honor of her legacy, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will present its eighth annual festival “Celebrating Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: A Tribute to Mexican Women” on April 16.

The free celebration, which starts at 4 p.m., will feature an interactive theater workshop, art exhibits and live performances. San Antonio artists Marisela Barrera and Jane Madrigal, who are behind the Super Xicana Power Hour radio show, will have a live show focused on women and culture at 8 p.m. in the center’s auditorium.

Works by artists Paloma Mayorga of Austin and Mery Godigna Collet of Venezuela will be featured in the center’s galleries. Godigna Collet’s exhibit “Petro-Poems,” which opens at 6 p.m., echoes the poetry of Sor Juana in a unique way. Godigna Collet uses crude oil and its byproducts as her medium and creates “poems” with these materials.

Visit for more details.

Austin honors Selena with April tribute events

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

It’s been 21 years since the world lost Selena Quintanilla Pérez, but the legacy of this Tejano superstar — who was on the brink of crossing over to the English-language music market before she died on March 31, 1995— lives on. Selena fans across the country will honor her memory with tributes throughout her birthday month in April when the Queen of Tejano would have turned 45 years old.

Selena’s legacy helped shape everything from pop culture to fashion. Here’s a look at some Austin-area events where you can keep her memory alive.

April 12: The Glitoris’ fourth annual TuezGayz Selena tribute party at Barbarella (615 Red River St.) Doors open at 9 p.m. Small Selena tributes at 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. $5 cover after 10 p.m.

April 16: Austin-based Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda presents a free Selena Birthday Celebration at The Highball from 7-9 p.m.

April 16: Alamo Drafthouse will offer a Selena Sing-Along movie screening at various theaters including its Lakeline, Slaughter Lane and South Lamar Boulevard locations.

And if you’re in the mood for a road trip, Selena’s hometown of Corpus Christi will host the second annual Fiesta de la Flor festival honoring the late star. Ramon Ayala and La Mafia will headline the festival.

Know of more upcoming Selena tributes in Austin? Contact

La Santa Cecilia to perform at Flamingo Cantina on April 2

La Santa Cecilia will perform in Austin on April 2.
Grammy award-winning band La Santa Cecilia from Los Angeles will perform in Austin on April 2.

They’re no strangers to Austin. Over the years we’ve seen Los Angeles-based band La Santa Cecilia make hips shake everywhere from Pachanga Fest to South by Southwest with their bilingual, hybrid Latin grooves.

Don’t miss the chance to catch these rising stars at 9 p.m. on April 2 at the Flamingo Cantina.

Since I last chatted with the band two years ago, La Santa Cecilia has experienced a meteoric rise. Not only are they helping shape a unique bicultural sound with their fusion of rock, folk and pop with Pan-Latin rhythms, but they’re Grammy winners now. Through their music, they’ve also helped put an international spotlight on issues like immigration reform.

The band’s 2013 album “Treinta Días” (30 Days), which included a collaboration with Elvis Costello, led them to their first career Grammy. La Santa Cecilia’s recently released album “Buenaventura” brings together other high-profile collaborators like Argentine rock legend Fito Páez.

Austin-based Selena tribute band “Bidi Bidi Banda,” alongside DJ Vanessa La Bestia, will open the Flamingo Cantina show. Online tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at

‘Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights’ film screens March 31

Austinites participated in a Chicano March in 1977, and community leader Hortensia Palomares contributed this photograph, which is featured in KLRU's upcoming documentary highlighting the Chicano movement in Austin. Photo contributed by KLRU-TV, Austin PBS
Austinites participated in a Chicano March in 1977, and community leader Hortensia Palomares contributed this photograph, which is featured in KLRU’s upcoming documentary highlighting the Chicano movement in Austin. Photo courtesy of KLRU-TV, Austin PBS

It opened their eyes to injustices. It spurred some of them into public service careers. And it infused them all with cultural pride.

When the Chicano Civil Rights Movement swept across the country in the 1960s and 1970s, Austin’s Mexican-American community united to fight for quality education, political representation and a respect for their rich culture.

It was a time when Austinites like Margaret Gómez, who later became Travis County’s first Latina elected official, questioned, “What’s really going on here?”

The latest installment of KLRU-TV’s Austin Revealed series, an oral history project launched in 2014 that aims to encourage discussion about the city’s future, focuses on the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in Austin and weaves together the compelling stories of trailblazing Austinites, like Gómez, who were part of an era that helped shape today’s Austin.

“Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights” airs on KLRU-TV on March 31 at 7:30 p.m. The PBS affiliate also partnered with the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center to host a special screening and discussion of the documentary on March 31 as part of the center’s César Chávez celebrations. Doors for the screening open at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7 p.m. An RSVP on is required for the free event, where co-producers Joe Rocha and Eve Tarlo will be present.

Maria Elena Martinez, a former chair of Raza Unida Party and former educator, is featured in the upcoming KLRU documentary "Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights."
Maria Elena Martinez, a former chair of Raza Unida Party and former educator, is featured in the upcoming KLRU documentary “Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights.” Photo courtesy of KLRU-TV, Austin PBS

During research for a previous “Austin Revealed” installment highlighting notable African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, producers uncovered many rich stories about the Chicano community struggles of that time. “We knew we wanted to come back to the Chicano story,” says Maury Sullivan, KLRU-TV’s senior Vice President for Community Engagement.

The first-person accounts of more than 20 Austinites, including former Brown Beret activist Susana Almanza and former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, help piece together a holistic history that sheds light on the movement’s sacrifices, failures and achievements.

Austinites recalled being disciplined in schools for speaking Spanish and the struggles of being a Mexican-American local business owner. The documentary highlights Austinites who helped shape politics, art, education and activism. “(During the Chicano Movement) there was a lot of togetherness and a lot of energy to work for that effort,” Gómez says in the film.

From police brutality to education reform, the documentary remains timely, says co-producer Rocha. “There are some laughs, but also some tears and anger,” Tarlo adds.

New Austinites, Rocha says, will also see why we now have parks and streets named after some of these community leaders. “There’s a stamp in Austin left by these folks,” he says. Many of the featured Austinites remain active community leaders. “They’re inspiring and they’re still fighting,” Tarlo says.

Austin honors César Chávez legacy

Valentino Mauricio/For American-Statesman
Valentino Mauricio/For American-Statesman

While labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez advocated for farm worker rights, he also arrived in Austin in 1971 to lend his support to the local upholsterers union, which launched a strike against the Economy Furniture Co. and gained national attention. The workers sought better pay and benefits as well as the right to bargain collectively. And when Chávez spoke at a local march and rally, thousands came to listen.

March 31 marks César Chávez’s birthday, and across the country he’ll be honored with everything from marches to film screenings.

In Austin, community members are invited to gather on March 26 for the annual “Sí­ Se Puede” March at Terrazas Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St. Participants will assemble at 10 a.m. and march from the library to the Mariposa Centro Cultural at 4926 E. Cesar Chavez St., where there will be music, speakers and entertainment.

At the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center there will be a special screening and discussion of KLRU-TV’s documentary “Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights” on March 31. Doors for the screening open at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7 p.m. An RSVP on is required for the free event, where co-producers Joe Rocha and Eve Tarlo will be present.

The MACC will continue César Chávez celebrations with a screening of the documentary “Cesar Chavez: The Fight in the Fields” at 9 p.m. on March 31. For more details visit

‘Entre Guadalupe y Malinche’ anthology marks first-ever collection of Tejana literature, art


By Anjanette Gautier, ¡Ahora Sí! 

There is a street corner in the city of Laredo, known as the doorway to the United States and Mexico, where two streets converge like the history of the Tejana writers. It was upon the sight of this corner sign, Malinche and Guadalupe, that the writers and editors of the first ever Tejana literature anthology, Inés Hernández-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú, decided upon the name for their book. On Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th, the editors, along with other of the participating writers, will present their book “Entre Guadalupe y Malinche” and hold a literature symposium at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center.

The symbolic meaning of these two iconic figures, for which the streets are named after, synthesizes the identity of the chicana woman. It is here, where the “root of the tejana reality is found, deep within the history and the contemporary reality,” explains Cantu, professor of Latina/Latino Studies and English at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

La Malinche, the native woman who betrayed her people by aiding Hernán Cortez, the conqueror, is the symbol for the creation of a mixed race. She also represents the oppression and colonization, of women, culture and history.  Guadalupe, the virgin who appeared to the indigenous people, carries with her all what is divine. She embodies passion, love, and commitment to the less fortunate.

Both women serve as inspiration to analyze the role that history, culture, language, and political events have had in the work of the more than 50 Tejana writers and eight visual artists that take part in this anthology.

The symposium offers an opportunity for other writers and the public in general to come and celebrate this book, explore as a community the topics presented, and delve in the art of writing, said Ire’ne Lara Silva, organizer of the event. Lara Silva, a poet and published writer, with five years of experience organizing the Flor de Nopal literary workshops, is also featured in the book along with other local chicana figures like Susana Almanza, and our own Statesman contributor and poet Liliana Valenzuela.

Other very well known authors in the book are Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Carmen Tafolla, and Pat Mora, and artists such as Carmen Lomas Garza, Kathy Vargas, Santa Barraza, and more.

“There are many writers coming from all over the state and even from Norway to attend this symposium,” said Lara Silva. There will be a reading with the authors on Friday at 7 p.m., and on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and until 6 p.m. there will be writing workshops, poetry readings, and the opportunity to have a dialogue with the writers, she explained. All the events are free and open to the public.

Many feel intimidated by the terms feminism or chicana identity, however, Cantu explains that “the equality that feminism calls for affects all, including men. Similarly, the topic of tejana may be culturally focused on Mexican Texans but it speaks to all of us, and not just those in Texas!” The work presented by this anthology, and by the authors who will attend the symposium cover a more universal topic, “it speaks about how to survive everyday hardships and how to imagine new futures as individual and as a society,” said Lara Silva.

This is an opportunity “to appreciate the diversity and talent that exists in our community,” said Cantú. “It took us almost twenty years to finish this book,” but the effort has taught her that “you can’t deny or abandon the work that matters, as Gloria Anzaldúa said ‘Do work that matters.” Bringing together all this talent and giving Austinites and Texans the opportunity to explore the life experiences of tejana writers at the ESB-MACC this weekend, is an experience that matters.

(To check out the Spanish version of this blog, click here.)


WHAT: Entre Guadalupe y Malinche book presentation and symposium (in English)

WHEN: Friday 26, 7 p.m. and Saturday 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.


Reading Roundup: Six books about Latino culture


More than ever American readers are seeking books that reflect the communities around them. The national We Need Diverse Books movement, which children’s book authors launched in 2014, has grown to include a demand for multicultural books of all genres. It’s sparked conversations in the literary world about everything from inclusion of diverse characters in books to a lack of diversity in publishing.

Last fall, the Texas Book Festival’s executive director Lois Kim told the Statesman the festival’s goal was to improve diversity. Earlier this month, Matt de la Peña became the first Latino author to win the prestigious John Newbery Medal for literature for his children’s book, “Last Stop on Market Street,” which features African American main characters.

As American readers keep pushing for diversity in literature, Austin360’s Cultura en Austin blog will begin regularly highlighting works by Latino authors and Latino themes.

This roundup, which isn’t a comprehensive list, is based on galleys received in the last couple of months.

“Outside the Margins” Literary Commentaries by Robert Bonazzi

Wings Press, ($18.95), released Oct. 2015
The best of San Antonio Express-News poetry columnist Robert Bonazzi’s work are woven together in “Outside the Margins.” Over the years, his essays and criticisms have been praised by literary giants including Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Octavio Paz. “Thanks to Robert Bonazzi for writing so enthusiastically about the poetry of Latin America, especially for his insightful essay on (Peruvian poet) César Vallejo,” Paz wrote. In this book, Bonazzi focuses on poets and writers from Texas, the Southwest, Mexico and Latin America.
“A Fighting Chance” by Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Piñata Books, Arte Público Press, ($10.95), released Oct. 2015

Cover design by John-Michael Perkins
Cover design by John-Michael Perkins

In her debut novel for young adults, award-winning multimedia journalist Claudia Meléndez Salinas brings us the story of 17-year-old Miguel Ángel. He dreams of becoming a boxing champion one day – it’s the only way his mother and five siblings will be able to leave his gang-ridden neighborhood. But his life gets complicated when he’s faced with temptations that threaten his future.

“Cuando México se (re) apropria de Texas: Ensayos or When Mexico Recaptures Texas: Essays” by Carmen Boullosa

Arte Público Press, ($17.95), released Sept. 2015
Greed, barbarism and feminism. They’re all themes that internationally renowned Mexican novelist and essayist Carmen Boullosa explores in her latest book, which examines the issues that unite and separate Americans and Mexicans from the 19th century to the present. Her collection of 29 thought-provoking essays include subjects such as Occupy Wall Street and the lack of recognition for the work by female artists. The book includes both Boullosa’s Spanish version and the English translation by Nicolás Kanellos.


“Texas Mexicans and Postwar Civil Rights” by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez

University of Texas Press, ($24.95), released in July 2015
As founder and director of the Austin-based Voces Oral History Project (formerly the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project) Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez has helped bring the stories of Latinos throughout the decades to the forefront. Her latest book highlights three little-known advancements in Mexican American civil rights including the launching of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).


“Their Lives, Their Wills: Women in the Borderlands, 1750-1846” by Amy M. Porter

Texas Tech University Press, ($39.95), released in July 2015
What was life like for women in the borderlands during the 1700 and 1800s? Author Amy M. Porter, an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio took an interesting approach to answering that question by examining the wills of women in the Spanish and Mexican colonial communities of places such as Santa Fe, El Paso and San Antonio. These wills and testaments revealed details about everything from religion and family to economics and culture.


“War Against All Puerto Ricans” by Nelson A. Denis

Nation Books, ($28.99), released in April 2015

Courtesy of Nation Books
Courtesy of Nation Books

Author Nelson A. Denis tells the intriguing story of the Puerto Rican independence revolt of 1950, when the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico launched an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the U.S. Denis dug into de-classified FBI files, congressional testimonies, oral histories and more to bring this little-known history to light.