If the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has its way, Americans will be singing “Hey Baby, Que Paso” long into the future.

The Texas Tornados classic is among 33 songs and albums nominated by the caucus for inclusion in the National Recording Registry, a compendium of music and spoken word collected by the Library of Congress “to showcase the range and diversity of American recorded sound heritage,” according to its website.

San Antonio native Elida Reyna and her Rio Grande Valley-based band, together known as Elida Reyna y Avante are also included on the list of nominees for their 1994 hit “Luna Llena.”

The range and diversity of the national collection are at issue for members of the caucus, including U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who pointed out that, while Latinos make up 20% of the U.S. population, only 3.8% of 600 recordings in the registry were made by Latino musicians.

The nominations are “a way to celebrate and highlight music by Latino musicians and their contributions to American culture,” Castro said by phone from his Washington office.

If selected, the songs of Elida Reyna y Avante and the Texas Tornados would join such indelible classics as Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell and “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday in the registry. 

Other musicians with San Antonio ties already on the list include Selena, whose 1990 album Ven Conmigo was nominated in 2019, and 2020 nominee Flaco Jimenez — a member of the Texas Tornados alongside Freddy Fender and fellow San Antonians Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers — for his 1992 album Partners

Hector Saldaña, curator of the Texas music collection at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections and co-founder of popular San Antonio band The Krayolas, recalled hearing Meyers’ original “Hey Baby Kep Pa So,” when it became a hit soon after its 1987 release. Saldaña said the song helped spark the formation of the Texas Tornados by proving the popularity of Tex-Mex music, and Sahm called it “the national anthem of San Antonio.”

Saldaña praised Reyna as “a tremendous singer, and one of those that made it in a man’s world,” and as an heir apparent to Selena.

Of the nominations, he said, “it’s a great recognition that American music is made in a lot of different places, and made in unlikely places. San Antonio is a great hotbed for American music.”

Castro said many of the nominated songs are in Spanish, including “El Rey” by Vicente Fernandez and “Amor Eterno” by Juan Gabriel, which reflects “a community that’s often bilingual, and is listening to music that’s in English and in Spanish.” 

Spanish-language songs are “being played on American radio stations across the country every single day,” Castro said, “so their cultural impact within the United States is incredible.”

Non-Americans such as British rockers Fleetwood Mac and Spanish cellist Pablo Casals are in the registry, with eligibility extending to anyone worldwide who has contributed significantly to U.S. culture.

Members of the caucus turned to social media for help in assembling their list of nominees, culled from among hundreds of recommendations. One person posted on Twitter a list including the Los Angeles-based band Rage Against the Machine — its founder Zack de la Rocha is of Mexican heritage — and Castro responded by asking which work the respondent considered the band’s best, as nomination guidelines require a specific song or album.

Recordings must be at least 10 years old to be nominated, so even Spotify’s most popular artist Bad Bunny, and others such as Colombian singer Maluma and the hit musical Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, must wait. 

In a letter to the National Recording Preservation Board, which annually selects nominees for the registry, Castro and U.S. Reps. Ray Ruiz and Adriano Espaillat wrote, “These songs were selected with feedback from the public, and they reflect the diversity of Latino identities, histories, and geographies. We hope you will give each of these songs listed below careful consideration and that we will see many of them included in the National Recording Registry.”

Nominating 33 musicians was aspirational, Castro admitted, since the board selects only 25 nominees per year for the registry and the caucus’s list is only one among many. But nominating more than 25 was purposeful, Castro said, “to make the point that there’s a plethora of music by Latinos that has had an important cultural impact in the United States.”

Castro recommended that members of the public participate in the annual process, to ensure that musicians they feel are important might be recognized. 

“I would encourage more San Antonians to go look at the National Recording Registry and the National Film Registry, and submit nominations as well,” he said. “San Antonians have played a part in shaping American culture beyond the boundaries of our city over the years, and I want to make sure that their contributions are celebrated.”

The board meets later in December to consider its selections, which will be announced in the spring, Castro said.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...