Despite weather warnings, hundreds of locals gathered at Rosedale Park on Friday night to dance and sing along with their favorite Tejano and Conjunto stars at the 34th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival.
Considered the oldest and largest festival in the world dedicated to Conjunto, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center continues to draw in people from across the nation into a constantly growing and evolving week-long celebration.
“This is much more than about being a music festival,” said Juan Tejeda, director and one of the original creators of the Conjunto Tejano Festival. “This is our tradition, and something we have to educate our youth with. We want to teach our youth that this is something to be proud of.”
As a professor of Mexican-American studies at Palo Alto College, Tejeda has integrated education into the mix, with workshops for students to learn the ropes of conjunto instruments accordion and bajo sexto.
The festival kicked off Wednesday, with a seniors dance at Guadalupe Theatre, a film screening of “This Ain’t No Mouse Music“ on Thursday. Bands officially kicked off Friday, and will continue to showcase their talents until Sunday night.
Friday’s lineup featured Los Hijos de Las Leyendas, or sons of legends. Offspring of former Conjunto and Tejano icons performed on stage, continuing in the footsteps of their parents, including Gil Jimenez, Los D Boys, Flavio Longoria and Ruben Vela Jr.
On Saturday morning, workshops will be hosted at the Guadalupe Theater. Students kicked off Saturday’s musical lineup with showcases on local conjunto school groups. Boni Mauricio Y Los Maximos from Corpus Christi and Los Morales Boyz from Dallas also performed.
Sunday’s events start at 1 p.m. and will feature the women of Conjunto, including Eva Ybarra; Queen of Accordion, and Las Tesoros de San Antonio. All female ensemble Grupo Imagen is one of the only all-female conjunto groups in the nation. In the evening, other conjunto icons take the stage, including Nick Villarreal, Bene Media and his Conjunto Aguila, and Mingo Saldivar.
Flaco Jimimez is said to headline the show as the closing act of the festival, which has caused much talk amongst fans and media after his recent injuries, breaking a hip and two ribs.
Weather reports predict thunderstorms for the remainder of the week, but it hasn’t deterred the crowds from staying in or missing the music.
“Conjunto is the music of our people,” Tejeda said. “This is the voice of the Chicano, us Tejanos. It goes straight to the heart—the soul.”
Tejeda’s quote hit the target. Something in the music causes a state of incandescent happiness to those that hear it, despite their ages.
Dressed in a guayabera, a feathered fedora, and Stacy Adams shoes, Rogelio Hernandez, 69, was in his Sunday best on Wednesday morning for the kick-off baile (dance).
Taking command of the dance floor, Rogelio and his wife Alicia stomped to the complicated huapangos, swung to the bouncy cumbia rhythms and waltzed cheek to cheek when the band played a romantic bolero.
Like many who dance to Conjunto, age cannot be determined judging by the zeal in their steps.
“There is no music like Conjunto,” Rogelio said, as the band paused between songs. “Dancing it, listening to it—it’s a whole new world. It takes you back; being young. I danced conjunto with Alicia at a club so long ago when we were still dating. This is our music, this is the music of all of us.”
*Featured/top image: A bystander in the crowd at Rosedale Park shows off her Tejano roots and pride. Photo by Amanda Lozano.