After enjoying a scholastic Conjunto Festival at La Joya High School (more on that in another post,) we lingered to talk with Roel Flores, whose moving paintings of life and work in the cotton fields form the exhibition “La Labor,” and his wife Epifania, whose mother taught her to make perfectly round tortillas, a skill she shared on video with Texas Folklife. Then we reconvened at Don Chilo’s Bar and Grill down the road in Peñitas for barbecue and more music.
Don Chilo, whose real name is Cecilio Garza, is a singer/songwriter and band leader of such note that he was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in 2005. He treated the Texas Folklife visitors, whose ranks now included new board member Armando Sanchez and wife Eva of Houston and local board members Amancio Chapa and Betto Ramirez with wife Grace and eldest daughter, to heaping plates of food (this trip was an eating marathon!) and some amazing performances.
Don Chilo and friends took the stage, set the toes of locals and guests tapping, and then backed up several star performers who double as teachers in La Joya ISD: Rogelio Escobedo (trumpet and vocals) teaches junior high students mariachi; Myra Garcia (powerful vocals) teaches mariachi at La Joya High; David Soliz (guitar and vocals), who teaches English in La Joya school district, sang a 1930s Lydia Mendoza song with Don Chilo and stayed late to sing more. Don Chilo’s daughter, Lori Jean, treated us to a song, and a young comedian from the area, Raymond Orta, was so clever and funny portraying his grandfather’s language advice that he ranks as a story teller as well as a comic. His young brother seems to be following in his footsteps.
We loved the music, the comedy, the food and the camaraderie – and we can’t wait to go back!
Susan Morehead is a founding board member of Texas Folklife.