Austin Cinco de Mayo events

 Bidi Bidi Banda Photo by Liliana Valenzuela / Ahora Si

Bidi Bidi Banda
Photo by Liliana Valenzuela / Ahora Si

Cinco de Mayo: A tale of two holidays

As Americans pour tequila and bite into nachos during Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the country, let me just note that the celebrations south of the border, if any, are much more subdued.
While living in Mexico City, I realized that Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862, where Mexicans defeated an invading French army, was only a minor holiday there. Even Mother’s Day feels like a much bigger deal there than Cinco de Mayo.
While the French were turned back on that day, they returned a year later and were successful in conquering Mexico, if only briefly. Some scholars believe had Mexicans not won that battle, though, that the French could have backed the Confederacy in America’s Civil War, perhaps resulting in a very different United States.
And, according to some historians, the battle featured a strong Texas contingent helping Mexico fight. In a 2012 American-Statesman article, Battle of the Medina Society president Dan Arellano wrote, “After the French were driven out of Mexico in 1867, the surviving Tejanos returned and started celebrations in South Texas.”
I guess if anyone is going to raise a glass, it might as well be Texans. If you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, Austin has several events, including the ninth annual celebration at Fiesta Gardens on May 3, which is presented by Fiestas Patrias of Austin and features food and Tejano and Conjunto artists starting at 12:30 p.m.
Among the scheduled performers are Los Fantasmas del Valle, Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers and Johnny Degollado y su Conjunto. For a complete schedule and more information, visit

Gina Chavez

On May 5, Univision presents the seventh annual La Condesa Cinco de Mayo Downtown Block Party on West Second Street between Guadalupe and San Antonio streets from 5-9 p.m. La Condesa will feature food from its taco truck, El Cubico. The South Congress Hotel’s new ice cream truck, Stephen F. Frostin’ will debut at the block party.

Performers at the free family-friendly event include Gina Chavez, Cilantro Boombox, Bidi Bidi Banda, Mariachi Relampago, Celsius and DJ sets by uLovei and DJ Canoso. Fore more details, check out

Also, the Mexic-Arte Museum presents its Taste of Mexico culinary arts festival with Mexican-inspired food and beverage samplings on May 5 from 6-9 p.m. at Brazos Hall. The evening, which costs from $65-$75, helps support the museum’s arts education program. Food and drinks from more than 30 of Austin’s restaurants will be featured as well as music and art.

On May 4, Mexican culinary master Chef Daniel Ovadía will host a free cooking demonstration at 7:30 p.m. at El Mesón. He’s the author of “La Cocina de Daniel Ovadía: Historias y Recetas de Paxia” and the owner of several highly-acclaimed restaurants in Mexico.

Find these and more Cinco de Mayo events in the Austin360 App, available for iPhone and Andriod, or in our events database.

“The Train to Crystal City” looks at Texas WWII internment camp

Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell

My grandparents lived in the small Texas town of Crystal City for many years before they passed away. On visits there, I remember taking photos at the Popeye statue claiming the town’s fame as the Spinach Capital of the World and attending the Spinach Festival.

Crystal City’s rich history ranges from helping spark the Chicano rights movement in the 1960s to housing the nation’s only family internment camp. In Austin author Jan Jarboe Russell’s latest book, “The Train to Crystal City,” she takes a look at the “dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved Japanese American internment camp during World War II where thousands of families-many US citizens-were incarcerated.”

Jarboe Russell will present a reading and discussion of “The Train to Crystal City” from 6:30-8 p.m. April 23 at the Asian American Resource Center in Austin. American-Statesman contributor Maurice Chammah recently reviewed the book. Here’s an excerpt:

Russell captures individual heartbreak, the drama of fathers ripped away, the indignity of being treated as an enemy, and the desperation of mothers to reunite even under atrocious conditions. The morality is never as clear-cut as we might want; we feel torn for the daughter of a German immigrant, while also knowing that her Nazi-sympathizing father freely referred to President Roosevelt as “Rosenfeld.”

Check out the complete review here.



Cine Las Americas kicks off 5-day film fest

Cine Las Americas 2015 opens with the dark comedy "The Martini Shot."
Cine Las Americas 2015 opens with the dark comedy “The Martini Shot.”

The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicks off April 22 with its opening night movie “The Martini Shot” at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre at 7 p.m. The dark comedy tells the story of two small-time movie producers who are desperate to generate buzz for their film. They decide the only way people will flock to their movie is if something tragic happens to the lead actor, but they find themselves in over their heads when they hire a hit man.

Special guests in attendance will include film director Demetrius Navarro and actors Valente Rodriguez (McFarland, USA; The George Lopez Show), Erlinda Orozco and Daniel Lujánas. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Cine Las Americas, which runs through April 26, often offers movies that will never appear in the big screen again in Austin. Dig into the diverse schedule that includes more than 95 films representing 18 countries, and check out my interview with some of this year’s featured filmmakers as well as new Film Festival Director Jean Anne Lauer here.

"Agave is Life" is part of the Hecho en Tejas showcase at Cine Las Americas 2015.
“Agave is Life” is part of the Hecho en Tejas showcase at Cine Las Americas 2015.


Alika, first Spanish-language artist to headline Reggae Fest


As Austin’s Reggae Festival kicks off it’s three-day music celebration today, attendees on Saturday can expect to check out the fest’s first Spanish-language headliner.

Alika first made waves in Argentina with her hardcore rap duo, Actitud María Marta. While she still incorporates hip hop into her sound, she gained international recognition after adopting Rastafarianism and making reggae music. Now, Reggae Festival organizers now describe her as “the hottest South American artist that has anything to do with reggae.”

Angela Tharp, who books the Reggae Festival, told Austin 360 writer Deborah Sengupta Stith that the fest wanted to showcase a female artist. “I think she’ll bring a nice Latin kind of appeal as well,” Tharp told Austin360. Check out  Sengupta Stith’s full story here.

Alika will play Reggae Festival’s main stage at 8:45 p.m. April 18.

Austin Reggae Fest

When: Gates at 3 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Auditorium Shores, 800 W Riverside Drive.

Cost: $15 advance daily, $40 advance for a three-day pass. Children 12 and younger are free with a ticketed adult.

Information/full schedule:

Watch a video of Alika:




Hector Galán’s ‘Children of Giant’ premieres on KLRU Friday

James Dean plays with children who were visiting the set of "Giant" during filming in 1955 in Marfa. Residents of Marfa describe Dean as being the most accessible of the movie's stars in the new documentary "Children of Giant."
James Dean plays with children who were visiting the set of “Giant” during filming in 1955 in Marfa. Residents of Marfa describe Dean as being the most accessible of the movie’s stars in the new documentary “Children of Giant.”

In Austin filmmaker Hector Galán’s latest documentary, “Children of Giant” he explores how the 1955 film “Giant” – which took over the West Texas town of Marfa with big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean – brought issues like racial discrimination against Mexican-Americans to the forefront.

“Children of Giant” will premiere on the Austin PBS station KLRU at 9 p.m. on April 17.

Galán has been behind documentaries such as “Los Lonely Boys: Cottonfields and Crossroads” and “Chicano! The Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.”

Austin360 film editor Charles Ealy recently interviewed Galán about “Children of Giant.” Here’s an excerpt from Ealy’s story:

“A cemetery in Marfa is still divided by barbed wire, with Anglos on one side of the fence, where fees are charged for maintenance, and Mexican-Americans on the other side.

Yet the true focus on “Children of Giant” is on the feelings of Marfa residents, both Anglo and Hispanic, who watched the filming of the classic movie — and how many Mexican-Americans see the movie today as one of the first to expose the discrimination that they faced.”

Check out the full story here, and watch a trailer of the documentary below:


Gina Chavez to present benefit concert at Stateside

Gina Chavez performs at the Austin Music Awards at SXSW on Wednesday March 18, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Gina Chavez performs at the Austin Music Awards at SXSW on Wednesday March 18, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Latin folk-pop artist Gina Chavez recently earned several Austin Music Awards including Musician of the Year and top Latin act. She also celebrated the city’s “Gina Chavez Day” earlier this month. But for Chavez, the trailblazing doesn’t end there.

On April 11, she’s bringing together other leading local artists for an evening of special performances on April 11 at Stateside at The Paramount that will benefit Niñas Arriba, a college fund Chavez co-founded for young women in El Salvador. Hip-hop duo and Austin’s Band of the Year, Riders Against the Storm will emcee the benefit concert that includes a line-up featuring collaborative sets with Chavez and Mother Falcon as well as Elizabeth McQueen’s new experimental trio, EMQ.

Chavez will also debut the video for her award-winning Spanish-language song “Siete-D,” which fuses rap, rock and cumbia and was inspired by trips Chavez took on the 7-D bus in El Salvador while she volunteered there in 2010.

“The idea for ‘Siete-D’ came to me while I was living in Soyapango. The public transit there is wild!” Chavez said in a news release. “You climb into old American school buses that are bursting with color and blaring reggaeton (Latin hip hop) as they tear through crowded city streets and hold on. On the surface,‘Siete-D’ is a party song, but ultimately it’s a tribute to the spirit of the Salvadoran people who endure gang violence and extortion every day with quiet resilience and the most giving hearts I have ever known.”

In October 2014, Chavez and Niñas Arriba co-founder Jodi Granado returned to El Salvador and filmed the “Siete-D” music video, which features the four young Niñas Arriba scholarship recipients. Tickets for the show, which range from $26-$60, are available online. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and show starts at 7:30 p.m.

To get you ready for the show, check out a Spotify playlist of some of Chavez’ songs below as well as an Austin 360 video we featured her in called Austin Gente, where she talks about the intersection of music and Latina identity. Check it out here.

Selena tribute events in April

 Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994.  Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.

Update: Puro Chingón Collective’s April 10 event has changed its time and venue. The updated info is below.

March 31st marked 20 years since the world lost Selena Quintanilla Pérez, but the legacy of this Tejano superstar — who was on the brink of crossing over to the English-language music market — lives on. In an Austin American-Statesman story last week, I took a look at Selena’s legacy, and how she’s impacted everything from pop culture to style.

Selena fans will honor her memory with tributes throughout the year, and especially during her birthday month in April when the Queen of Tejano would have turned 44 years old.

Here’s a look at some Austin-area events. Know of more upcoming Selena tributes? Contact

April 10: Puro Chingón Collective will present an interactive screening of the film “Selena” at 7 p.m. at The Off Center at 2211-A Hidalgo St. Guests will receive a bag of props to be used during key points throughout the movie.

April 14: TheGlitoris’ third annual TuezGayz Selena tribute party at Barbarella (611 Red River St.) Doors open at 10 p.m. Small Selena tributes at 11 p.m., midnight and 1 a.m. $5 cover

April 16: Bidi Bidi Banda Presents: A Selena Birthday Celebration concert at the ABGB at 9 p.m. (Sold-out show.)

Austin American-Statesman videographer Kelly West recently chatted with Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda lead singer Stephanie Bergara about how she interprets Selena.

April 16: Alamo Drafthouse presents a Selena Sing-Along movie screening at South Lamar and Alamo Drafthouse Village at 7 p.m.
April 17-18: Although this is in Corpus Christi, we thought you’d like to know about the highly anticipated Fiesta de la Flor festival featuring music by artists such as Los Lobos, Nina Diaz (of Girl in a Coma), AB Quintanilla y Los Kumbia King AllStarz and more.