Hispanic Heritage Month: Reflecting on a family’s musical impact

Martinez%27s+tio+Raymond+Martinez+playing+the+guitarron.+The+guitarron+is+a+six-string+guitar+usually+used+in+mariachi.+

Martinez’s tio Raymond Martinez playing the guitarron. The guitarron is a six-string guitar usually used in mariachi.

When the Martinez family joins together, our gatherings turn into a celebration by the end of the night. The hog hunt and roast that we all prayed would not be an annual tradition, the family reunions, Easter mass and lunch, birthdays with 50 or more family members and funerals all have a way of ending with song, dance and laughter.

This past week, my family gathered at our church to mourn the loss of my cousin. We entered the church clothed in black, tears streaming with the occasional gasp for air because we did not want to believe what was before our eyes. The priest shared a solemn reading from the Bible followed by “How Great Thou Art.” 

By the time mass ended, we gathered outside and the courtyard was no longer filled with tears — it was filled with smiles, laughter and the sharing of wild memories of our loved one. We recalled how she celebrated life every chance she got.

This is all to show that despite the struggles and hardships Hispanics across the world have faced, we always find a way to end in celebration. 

Most notably, this celebration of life is heartily portrayed through song. It is through song that I am able to vividly recall every moment I have shared with loved ones. Songs by Vicente Fernandez, Selena and Mazz teach us to love each other every chance we get. These songs  allow us to celebrate the beautiful earth we are on and to pour our love into the land. 

The grito at the beginning of a song calls everyone to put down their beers, grab a loved one and dance the night away. The 12-string bajo sexto creates a sway in the room, while the distinct sounds of the accordion and trumpet have the ability to get every pair of boots tapping on the concrete.

After Tia Gloria’s funeral reception, my Momo and her sisters held their Dos Equis as they danced on the tables, singing to Fernandez to honor her memory. 

Known as El Rey de la Música Ranchera, Fernandez is known for his ballads about broken romances like “Me Voy a Quitar de en Medio.” His beautiful songs about memorable lovers like “De Qué Manera Te Olvido” will have you swooning in a second. 

However, more than that, he is known for his fierce love for Mexico. Fernandez’s rendition of “Mexico Lindo y Querido,” a song sung by many Mexican artists, exudes the shared love for the land and its flowers and volcanoes. 

If you have ever listened to Tejano music, or any Spanish music for that matter, you will find a common theme. While many of the words are of heartache or loss, the music behind the lyrics allows listeners to remember what could have been, all while celebrating what presents the future holds. 

A fond memory of mine, to which my cousins can attest, is driving with our Popo to Flatonia, smooshed in his truck while he played Puro Tejano 101.7 FM on the radio. 

Tejano queen Selena was a daily request on the station as the DJs played “Si Una Vez” and “Como La Flor,” songs we could all sing to at the top of our lungs. Of course, the station played  Brownsville Tejano band Mazz’s “Lo Voy Hacer Por Ti,” which Popo played in his garage as he built our playhouse. 

They say there is a song for everything, but if you need a song to help you love life a little more, express your love to someone or simply feel good, Tejano music is your answer.