Over the years, fans of Tejano music legend Manuel “Cowboy” Donley, 89, knew that if they wanted to find him, they could drop by South Austin’s El Gallo restaurant on Tuesday evenings to hear the classic boleros and songs of yesteryear like “Solamente Una Vez.” He’d been playing on and off at El Gallo for more than 40 years until the restaurant closed in January. Aside from missing El Gallo’s popular dishes, loyal customers wondered where Manuel “Cowboy” Donley would perform next.
Now music lovers can find him and his daughter and musical partner, Sylvia Donley, performing at Little Mexico Restaurant (2304 S. First St.) from 7-9 p.m. every Thursday.
Manuel “Cowboy” Donley, a National Endowment for the Arts’ lifetime achievement recipient, packed the house at El Gallo on his last performance there so much that the kitchen ran out of food shortly after 7:30 p.m. Throughout his career he helped popularize orquesta music, which blends Latin rhythms with popular American musical genres such as rock and jazz. He blazed a trail in the Mexican-American music community and has inspired many other musicians along the way.
Although the Donleys were sad about no longer performing at El Gallo, Sylvia Donley says that Little Mexico has a “warm family feel” that reminds her of all the performances throughout the years at El Gallo.
News of South Austin landmark El Gallo’s impending closure brought an overflow crowd on Tuesday evening that was so large the kitchen ran out of food shortly after 7:30 p.m. The full house enjoyed the last serenade by Tejano music legend Manuel “Cowboy” Donley and his daughter Sylvia, who have been fixtures at the South Austin eatery on Tuesday evenings for years.
The dining institution will close its doors on Sunday after 60 years. “I can’t believe it,” Donley, 89, said. “I guess everything has to come to an end.” Restaurant management has said the increase in property taxes has contributed to their decision to shut down.
Customers came from all around the Austin area to say goodbye to the beloved restaurant and to have one last plate of enchiladas and Kennedy nachos. Bruce Hutchison, 63, drove from Bastrop after he heard the closure news. “I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old,” he said. He even called his ex-wife, Suzanne to share the news. And the two decided they had to have one final El Gallo meal together. “We always came here to avoid the crowds, but not today.”
For Sylvia Donley, El Gallo has always felt like home. “I’ve loved playing here. When I heard the news my stomach started hurting. We’re losing a big piece of Hispanic history.”
‘Orange is the New Black’ star Diane Guerrero grew tired of interviews focused on her beauty routine and favorite lipstick. It was time, she says, to tell her real story.
Guerrero recently released the book “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided,” which reveals layers about the actress that go beyond the life of a television star. At a packed Texas Book Festival tent on Saturday, Guerrero shared parts of her personal journey as the child of undocumented Colombian immigrants who were deported when she was a teenager.
Guerrero will never forget the day when at 14, she came home from school and discovered that her family was gone. She remembers seeing her mother’s rice and beans in the kitchen, a sign that she had already started dinner. A neighbor told her that immigration officers had removed her family, and all of a sudden Guerrero’s world turned upside down.
The morning her parents were taken away, Guerrero remembers running late for school and arguing with her mother about eating breakfast. “It was a huge fight,” she says. “The whole day at school I was thinking about this fight, so when I got home I was going to say sorry.” But she never got the chance.
Guerrero’s father had prepared her for the possibility that someday the family might be deported, and so she went to stay with friends. “That day I made decision to stay,” she says. “People ask me why I didn’t go with my family, but I’m an American citizen. The U.S. is all I know. I decided to stay, so that I could eventually make my parents proud.”
From classical Indian dance to the sounds of samba, Austinites will be able to enjoy global grooves at Zilker Hillside Theater on Oct. 23 from 4-8 p.m. The World Family Music Festival marks the first time the city’s cultural centers come together to host a festival.
“It’ll show the richness of cultural diversity in Austin,” says festival co-producer Daniel Llanes, who will also perform at the event. “People tend to stay in their own segment of the community, but this brings it all together.”
The free family-oriented event features performers such as award-winning world music band Atash, Keito St. James, who founded the Polynesian dance and music company called Tropical Productions, Mexican folkloric dance company Oaxaca en Movimiento, and more. In addition to the music and dance, fest-goers can also expect poetry, food trucks, and children’s activities.
Esparza says the joint world music festival will become an annual event families can enjoy. “The world lives here,” she says. “It’s important to recognize all the music and culture that represents Austin.”
Day of the Dead isn’t a spooky holiday. It celebrates the life of loved ones who we still miss with offerings, altars, food and music. In Austin, the Day of the Dead spirit strengthens each year with bigger festivals and celebrations honoring the dearly departed.
Although the holiday is celebrated from Nov. 1-2, the festivities in Austin start early. Here’s a look at some of the city’s biggest Day of the Dead celebrations.
The Día de los Muertos Festival, presented by the Easter Seals of Central Texas, is quickly becoming a festival to watch. Since its launch in 2013, it’s been consistently boosting its musical offerings, bringing high-caliber Latin acts including the late Tejano legend Emilio Navaira as well as Venezuelan rockers and Latin Grammy winners La Vida Bohème. On Oct. 15, trailblazing Latin music mashers Ozomatli headlines the festival at Fiesta Gardens.
The family-friendly fest includes a crafts and activities area for children, and fest-goers can bring lawn chairs and blankets. General admission tickets cost $30; VIP costs $150. Children younger than 6 party for free. Proceeds benefit the Easter Seals of Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people with disabilities. Check out more details at austindiadelosmuertos.com.
Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead event, the Viva la Vida festival, expands this year with more event venues including the Frost Bank Tower Plaza for art activities and Brazos Hall for a member’s cocktail lounge, food trucks, lowriders, performances, face painting and more.
After more than 30 years, Viva la Vida knows how to throw a party. The sprawling downtown celebration on Oct. 29 from noon-8 p.m. includes a lively procession with a keep it weird attitude. Don’t be surprised to see everything from portable altars to samba dancers en route.
The procession begins at noon at Fifth Street between Interstate 35 and Waller Street and ends at the festival location at Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, where live music, vendors and costume contests will await. Visit mexic-artemuseumevents.org for more details.
Continue celebrating on Oct. 29 from 1-6 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center with food, live music, children’s activities, artisans and dancing. The free event also includes a classic car and bike show. For updates, visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc.
More than a hundred Selena Quintanilla fans set their alarm clocks, packed snacks, took the day off work or school and drove from all over Central Texas to get to the MAC Cosmetics store at The Domain early Thursday for the launch of the limited-edition Selena makeup collection.
“I’m hot and sweaty, but it’s worth it,” said Lisa Arellano, 47, who drove from Killeen at 5:30 a.m. to make sure she was one of the first customers in line to purchase “whatever is left.” Online orders quickly sold out on Saturday, so in-store purchases today were key for the Tejano superstar’s loyal fan base. Earlier this year, MAC responded to more than 37,000 people who requested the creation of a Selena makeup line via a Change.org petition.
Customers at The Domain’s MAC store were allowed inside one at a time and the line snaked outside the store and onto its sidewalk. It gave the fans many hours to swap Selena stories. “Selena just gave me four new friends today,” said Yolanda Garcia, 20, who pointed at the other young women who waited alongside her. “She died the year I was born, but I love her.”
The collection’s “Como La Flor” bright red lipstick was by far the most popular item purchased, but many fans admitted that they’ll likely keep the makeup as mementos or wear only on special occasions.
For Austinite Carmen Chávez, 30, that special occasion is coming up quick. She’s getting married on Saturday, and has been dreaming about wearing one of the new lipsticks for her big day. “There are so many things I need to be doing to prepare for the wedding right now, but I’m here,” Chávez said. She took the day off of work and arrived at 6:30 a.m. By 1 p.m., she was almost at the store’s register.
With Selena songs playing full blast throughout the store, many customers danced their way inside as employees cheered and applauded. Some fans dressed up like Selena and others wore T-shirts in her honor.
Enjoy an Austin-style Mexican Independence Day at events throughout the city. On Sept. 17, bring your lawn chair to Fiesta Gardens Park West and enjoy the free Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Ballet folklorico, mariachi and Tejano music performances begin at 12:30 p.m. and local Tejano group Los A-T Boyz will headline the festival at 8:30 p.m. Visit diezyseis.org for more information.
At the Texas State Capitol, Austinites can celebrate the “Fiesta del Grito de Independencia” with live music, ballet folklorico performances and a re-enactment of “El Grito” from 6-9:30 p.m. on Sept. 15. At 9 p.m. Consul General of Mexico Carlos González Gutiérrez will give the “grito,” which was the call for independence that Father Miguel Hidalgo gave in 1810. Due to Capitol renovations, the stage will be located between 11th and Colorado streets this year.
Keep an eye out for the annual ¡Viva Mexico! celebration at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. González Gutiérrez will begin the festivities with welcoming remarks at 6 p.m. Live entertainment will include Mariachi Amor, Ballet Folklorico Mexikayotl and other musical guests. Visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc for updates.
Know of more Austin events celebrating Mexican Independence? Leave us a comment.
On Sept. 3, the one-day festival will feature emerging and established artists as well as a small business and regional food fair at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Rising Guatemalan singer-songwriter Sara Curruchich, who sings both in Spanish and a Mayan language called Kaqchikel, is among the featured artists.
Other performers include Guatemalan multi-instrumentalist Chejo Enríquez, Houston-based Nicaraguan urban artist Mister Meli, and Costa Rican duo Jeana and Juan Carlos Ureña who blend Central American folk with various musical influences. New Austin band Piano Sur, which is made up of Central and South American artists, will also be featured. They’ll present a special tribute to the late Honduran singer-songwriter Guillermo Anderson.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets cost $20. Visit cacfest.com for more details.
Madame Tussauds Hollywood on Tuesday unveiled the highly anticipated wax figure of the “Queen of Tejano” Selena Quintanilla, who more than 20 years after her death continues to influence music and pop culture. Now fans can see, hug and take photos with Selena’s likeness in California along with other iconic lifelike figures including Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga.
“On behalf of our family we would like to express a huge amount of gratitude to Madame Tussauds in creating such an amazing lifelike wax figure of our beloved Selena,” Selena’s sister Suzette Arriaga said in a news release. “This is yet another step in making sure that her legacy lives on and that her fans new and old can appreciate her as a person, an artist and one whom we can all identify with.”
Madame Tussauds Hollywood announced plans in July to immortalize the legend with a wax figure after more than 10,000 Selena fans signed a Change.org petition requesting the honor. Madame Tussauds worked in partnership with the Quintanilla family as well as a team of sculptors and artists to recreate a 1993 stage look from Selena’s concert performance at Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi. The Grammy-winning album “Selena Live!” was recorded there.
On Selena’s Facebook page, fans poured in with their thoughts about the new wax figure. “It’s so amazing as a fan to see this happen,” wrote Clarissa Ramirez. “Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, makeup line, (and now) her own wax figure. She’d be so proud of all her accomplishments if she was alive to see it today.”
“At Madame Tussauds, our figures represent icons who have made a significant impact on our culture. That perfectly describes Selena,” Colin Thomas, general manager of Madame Tussauds Hollywood, said in a news release. “Her influence has transcended generations and her passionate fans continue to be inspired by her to this day. We recognize this and in response, we are proud to join her fans in celebrating her legacy by immortalizing her.”
My father recently dusted off a batch of old family records that had been sitting in storage for years and gave me a musical treasure trove that I’m still sifting through with awe. The hefty record collection ranges from the obscure to classic Mexican musical gems, mostly from the 1970s.
When news broke of the death of iconic Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel on Sunday, I dug through the old crates. Tucked inside were a pair of his records from the 1970s, with album covers featuring Juan Gabriel’s boyish face staring off into the distance. The prolific artist, who was scheduled to perform Sunday night in El Paso, Texas, died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California. He was 66.
He leaves behind a musical legacy that spans more than four decades. According to Billboard.com, Juan Gabriel had the highest-grossing Latin tour of 2015, earning $31.8 million for 32 shows in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Songs such as “El Noa Noa,” “Amor Eterno” and “No Tengo Dinero” have served as the soundtrack for generations of Latinos. His showmanship and grand stage presence earned him the nickname the “Divo of Juárez.”
As a late summer shower pours down on Austin on Sunday evening, I’m listening to the magic of Juan Gabriel’s music on my record player with pops, hisses and all. It’s probably been more than 20 years since these family records have been played, but today Juan Gabriel’s debut album “El Alma Joven” and his 1978 album “Siempre en Mi Mente” will fill my home with the classic pop and rock that will continue to inspire music lovers.
Celebrate the legendary artist’s life with this playlist of some of my favorites: