Ramirez’s book reminisces about La Villa Real’s prestige in the Valley

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Nano Ramirez, 78, looks up at his collection of memorabilia of the posters from his days at La Villa Real Convention Center at his home Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

McALLEN — Walking into Arnoldo “Nano” Ramirez’s office is like walking through a museum dedicated to the history of live music and entertainment in the Rio Grande Valley for the latter part of the 20th century.

The entrance is filled with memorabilia from Falcon Records, vinyl, newspaper cutouts, and a shelf filled with concert T-shirts. Nearly every inch of wallspace in the large room is covered with signed show posters and signed photographs, many of which are addressed to Ramirez.

There is a signed picture of all four members of Metallica from their June 5, 1986 show at La Villa Real, which included original bassist Cliff Burton three months before his death. There are a series of signed photos of George Strait that surround a framed belt buckle gifted to Ramirez from the King of Country himself.

There is also a poster signed by Juan Gabriel, pictures signed by ​​Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Emilio Navaira, the list goes on and on.

The other side of the room is lined with signed guitars, more records and even more signed pictures and posters.

And Ramirez has a story for just about every item in his collection from his days as a promoter and owner of the former events center, La Villa Real in McAllen. Stories that he has painstakingly curated and presented into book format.

“La Villa Real Entertainment Center” is the end result of Ramirez’s work. He has published an over 300-page book.

“I was just lucky enough to have saved all of the newspaper clippings, the stories, the write-ups, the reviews, the tickets,” Ramirez said. “It’s all there.”

Ramirez’s book details the popular event center’s 29-year history with full-color photos. The book documents every show at the venue, the first show on Dec. 3, 1977 with the Country Roland Band, to its last on July 29, 2006 with Carlos Guzman, Freddie Martinez, Agustin Ramirez and Sunny Ozuna.

“I suppose I’m actually proud of myself for doing it,” Ramirez said. “I don’t think there will ever, ever be another La Villa Real. I don’t think there will ever be anything close.”

Nano Ramirez walks past a wall filled with music paraphernalia Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

He said that he felt inspired to write the book due to the role La Villa Real played in the Valley’s entertainment history.

“La Villa Real was hosting shows that even Austin, San Antonio and Corpus (Christi) didn’t have the opportunity to do,” Ramirez said. “I was getting bands routed through Houston. The Valley was lucky enough to have hosted all those legendary bands that bypassed Austin, San Antonio and Corpus.”

It wasn’t just concerts that helped cement the venue as the go-to spot for entertainment in the Valley. It was also the wrestling matches, exclusive closed-circuit fights, and the countless weddings, quinceañeras, political functions, and dance marathons hosted by the events center that helped intertwine La Villa Real in the history of the area.

Ramirez’s son, J.R., was a witness to much of the activity at La Villa Real during its heyday. After graduating from McAllen Memorial High School in 1996, he immediately began working with his father running tickets throughout the Valley.

Miami Sound Machine with Gloria Estefan poster from The Villa Real Convention Center hangs on Nano Ramirez’s wall Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

At 51-years-old, and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he is now wheelchair bound. But he has not let that slow him down. He also took to his computer to write what he described as a companion book to his father’s titled, “Lettuce Entertain You Incorporated.”

His 73-page book is a collection of short stories detailing his encounters with many big-name entertainers who made the trip to perform at La Villa Real.

“He’s Darth Vader, and I’m the Mandalorian,” J.R. joked.

“I can’t really do anything anymore, so this kind of gave me something to do,” he recalled about the two years he spent writing his book. “I just did it. I could collaborate with him and make sure his stories were accurate, and they were. I just wrote everything down.”

J.R.’s book is available for purchase on Amazon. His father’s book can be purchased by sending an email to [email protected] and a $100 donation, which goes to J.R. and Friends Fight Against M.S.