Texas Folklife was proud to partner with the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas to wish a buen viaje to the monarch butterflies as they migrated south through Texas to their final destination in the forests of Michoacan, Mexico. To celebrate the occasion, the TRAC held a festival with a variety of presentations on butterflies and Latino-themed cultural programs, like the history of conjunto music but with a twist - all with songs about birds!
The history of Texas and connection of the people to the land is deeply embedded and documented in its culture and indigenous music, conjunto. Texas-Mexican regional conjunto music, a syncretic blend of the European diatonic button accordion and rhythms and the bajo sexto, a Mexican twelve-string bass guitar, has an astonishing number of songs about birds and nature. Pajaros (birds) and palomitas blancas (white doves) dominate conjunto, Tejano and Norteño music song titles, but the tradition goes back to the officially documented start of conjunto music – the first recording in 1936 on the Bluebird Record label by Narciso Martinez of San Benito, the recognized father of conjunto music, being a polka titled “La Chicharronera” (grackle bird) and a redova titled “El Tronconal,” a reference to the bundle of tree stubs left by the Mexican-American field hands hired to clear the land for agriculture and development.
Don Narciso, with his epitaph El Huracan del Valle, went on to record more instrumental polkas reflecting his close ties to the land – “La Mariposa” (the butterfly), “La Polvadera” (the dust cloud), “La Parrita” (the little grapevine), and “Los Coyotes,” to name a few. Other vintage conjunto songs specifically about birds include “La Tijereta” (scissor tail bird), the huapango “El Sinsonte” (mockingbird), and a waltz “Las Golondrinas” (swallows). The popularity of birds in Mexican culture is also closely reflected in the names of many conjunto and Norteño groups, such as Los Pavoreales (the peacocks), El Palomo y El Gorrion (the dove and the sparrow), Los Gavilanes del Norte (sparowhawks of the north), and Los Cardenales de Nuevo Leon (cardinals of Nuevo Leon).
Tejano musician and accordion afficionado Karlos Landin of Karlitos Way Accordions presented the lecture featuring live music by Dallas' Big Squeeze champions - 18 year-old Michael Ramos on accordion, 12 year-old Rudy Morales of Los Morales Boyz on bajo sexto, and helping with the production was 17 year-old Nachito Morales.