The conjunto pioneers, the icons, they are my heroes. I was introduced to this business by a man named Tony De La Rosa when I was 15 years old. I have been a conjunto lover ever since. I’m 65 now, so that’s a long time.
SAN BENITO — For the first time in years, the historic Aztec building was full of life and music Saturday, just as it was in the city’s heyday as members of the public, city officials and conjunto legends came out to officially open the new home of the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
The idea of a dedicated space to exhibit and catalog everything that is conjunto was the dream of Rey Avila, who named San Benito “the home of conjunto music.” While Avila has passed on, Patricia and Peter Avila made that dream a reality, officially creating a new space on the first floor of the Aztec building to house Avila’s extensive collection on a grand scale, including a recreation of the legendary Ideal Records studio, that wasn’t possible when the museum first opened in 2007 at the city’s Community Building.
The event featured guest speakers Mayor Ricardo “Rick” Guerra, Director Aleida Garcia of Museums of San Benito, Sandra Tumberlinson of the San Benito Historical Society, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Stephen Williams of the Texas Music Hall of Fame Commission and the Avila family. The San Benito Chamber of Commerce also led a ribbon cutting.
Master of ceremonies Rick Garcia, the CEO of CHR Records, began the festivities by sharing his experience before taking the stage, meeting all the conjunto legends and their families in attendance. Like many there, he had his origin story of discovery and love of all that is conjunto which he shared with the crowd.
“The conjunto pioneers, the icons, they are my heroes. I was introduced to this business by a man named Tony De La Rosa when I was 15 years old. I have been a conjunto lover ever since. I’m 65 now, so that’s a long time,” he said.
Of the organization’s 70 members in their Hall of Fame a few made it out to see the event, like inductee Linda Escobar, a native of Alice, Texas. Escobar, the daughter of conjunto legend Eligio Escobar, began her conjunto music career as a seven-year-old when she recorded her first record with Ideal Records. As a child singer, her record “Frijolitos Pintos” went gold. Over her career, Escobar performed with her father and in groups of her own along with famed Japanese accordionist Kenji “El Gato” Katsube until he died in 2003.
She drove in from Corpus Christi for the event with articles, papers, and materials and two shirts, hers and Kenji’s, that the duo wore to perform in 2000 at the Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio for the museum. Escobar says that she feels blessed to have been born into a conjunto family, and while she isn’t someone to count her laurels says that it’s a great thing to have the labor of musicians like her recognized with a dedicated museum of this scale.
“This is just a beautiful blessing that we will have this. It means so much to me because conjunto has been my whole life since I was a baby until today. I’ve received three-lifetime achievement awards already and just knowing that conjunto is going to go on after I’m gone, and a lot of us pioneers are gone. It will be something left for the youth so that conjunto can live forever,” she said.
Another celebrated musician in the crowd, Adolfo Garcia, the drummer of the infamous Brownsville Tejano group Mazz attended with his wife Cindy to help herald in the new site. Garcia feels that a museum on this scale is long due for the city that has worked to keep conjunto music alive.
“San Benito deserved a museum a long time ago,” Garcia said.