Why Tejano music may never return to Go Tejano Day at RodeoHouston – Houston Chronicle

Little Joe, Selena and Emilio Navaira at RodeoHouston.
You know you’re from Houston if you complain about — 
The Humidity.
Jammed freeways. 
The RodeoHouston lineup.
It’s the same cycle every year. Weeks of anticipation before the entertainer announcement, followed by weeks of complaints when the lineup is revealed. And some of the loudest criticisms are directed at Go Tejano Day.
“That’s not Tejano!”
“I’ve never even heard of them!”
“This is Texas, not Mexico!”
Those are just some of the social media posts that came in the hours after Thursday night’s announcement. They’re the same ones unhappy RodeoHouston attendees have been making for almost two decades. And the solution is unclear. Tejano music, despite reports to the contrary, is not dead. But it’s certainly not as robust as it once was.
Tejano superstar Emilio Navaira at RodeoHouston in 1995.
Go Tejano Day started in 1990 to celebrate “the spirit of the day,” according to the RodeoHouston website. Indeed, RodeoHouston has long contended that the “Tejano” in Go Tejano Day is simply the Spanish-language translation of Texan. It’s a play on words, not a description of the musical lineup.
The first Go Tejano Day featured Roberto Pulido, Emilio Navaira and Vikki Carr performing at the Astrodome. (Carr, for the record, is a pop singer.) Tejano acts occupied the slot for several more years. It made sense at the time. Tejano music was entering its golden era, led by Selena, La Mafia and Navaira. All three performed multiple times at RodeoHouston and helped popularize the sound outside of the U.S.
Attendance records were regularly set and broken on Go Tejano Day. But Tejano music began its decline after the 1995 death of Selena. There was simply no other act who could match her star power and level of success. The Grammys and Latin Grammys eliminated the stand-alone Tejano category several years ago. Radio moved away from the format.
Oscar de la Rosa of La Mafia pumps up the 55,000-plus RodeoHouston crowd in the Dome in 1998.
 Norteño acts began to split the bill with Tejano performers. Grupo Limite, a wildly popular group from Mexico, was the first non-Tejano act to play Go Tejano Day in 1997. The late Navaira, who played the first Go Tejano Day, was the last Tejano act to play RodeoHouston in 2007.
Through the years, the Go Tejano Day controversy has incited calls for boycotts, online petitions and protests. In 2015, La Mafia frontman Oscar de la Rosa went on a profanity-laced tirade at Club El Dorado, accusing RodeoHouston of being “anti-Tejano” and telling them to “kiss my Teajno (expletive).”
None of it has affected Go Tejano Day’s popularity. Six of RodeoHouston’s top 10 most-attended shows fell on Go Tejano Day. None of them include Tejano performers. Los Tigres del Norte’s 2019 show holds the all-time record with 75,586 paid attendance. Norteño, banda and regional Mexican acts fill out the rest.
Award winning Tejano music artist Little Joe speaks during a press conference in 2008. Tejano leaders from across the state asked Hispanics not to attend the Houston Rodeo because of the exclusion of Tejano music from the main stage at the rodeo.
Tejano artists can still fill venues around Texas. But it’s largely the same acts who have been doing it for years: Little Joe y La Familia, David Lee Garza, La Mafia. The big winners at the most recent Tejano Music Awards were Jay Perez and Shelly Lares, who released their first albums three decades ago.
1990: Roberto Pulido, Emilio Navaira and Vikki Carr
1991: Joe Lopez, Jimmy Gonzales y Grupo Mazz
1992: La Mafia
1993: Selena and David Lee Garza y Los Musicales
1994: Selena and Ram Herrera
1995: Selena and Emilio
1996: La Diferenzia and La Mafia
1997:  Grupo Limite and Emilio
1998: La Mafia and Intocable

1999: David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, featuring Emilio Navaira, Jay Perez, Ram Herrera and Oscar G 
2000: Kumbia Kings and Los Tucanes de Tijuana
2001: Control and Intocable
2002: Ramon Ayala and Los Tigres del Norte
2003: Intocable and Los Tres Amigos featuring Little Joe, Ruben Ramos and Roberto Pulido
2004: Bronco and Jennifer Peña
2005: Duelo and Jimmy G y El Groupo Mazz
2006: Jay Perez and Ramon Ayala
2007: Emilio and Pesado
2008: Duelo and Los Horoscopos de Durango
2009: Alacranes Musical and Ramon Ayala
2010: El Trono de Mexico and Pesado
2011: La Arrolladora Banda El Limon and La Leyenda
2012: Duelo and La Original Banda El Limon
2014: Pesado and Banda MS
2015: La Arrolladora Banda El Limon and La Maquinaria Norteña
2016: Banda Los Recoditos and Los Huracanes Del Norte
2017: Banda El Recodo and Siggno
2018: Calibre 50
2019: Los Tigres del Norte
2020: Ramon Ayala
2022: Los Tucanes de Tijuana
Fans hold on to old favorites and leave little room for younger artists to flourish. New acts such as The Homeboyz or Angelica and Asalto struggle for recognition. Even Destiny Navaira, the niece of Emilio and daughter of Raul Navaira, tallies fewer than 2,000 Spotify listeners.
Tejano, barring a long-deserved Selena tribute, may never make its way back to RodeoHouston. But it would certainly help if new talent was given the attention and respect it deserves.
 
 
Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He also covers various aspects of pop culture. He has reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He’s appeared as a regular correspondent on Fox26 and was head judge and director of the Pride Superstar singing competition for a decade. He has been named journalist of the year multiple times by both OutSmart Magazine and the FACE Awards. He also covers various aspects of pop culture, including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
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