Hispanic Heritage Month

Generations of Latino culture infuse Austin’s famous live music scene

One of few music pioneers for Latinos during his time, Grammy-award winner Ruben Ramos has been courting Texas crowds for a half century.

“I enjoy entertaining my raza,” he’ll tell you.

The sound of Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution is rooted in Tex-Mex culture, with a splash of rock ‘n roll, and a dash of blues. His music foundation, however, comes courtesy of the big-band sounds of the ’40s he learned from his brother, Alfonso.

Ramos grew up in a family of eight in Sugarland, Texas. He remembers spending his childhood days helping his family pick cotton. At the age of 10, his family moved to Austin, where Ruben got the opportunity to shine. Through trial and error, Ramos found his voice in Tejano music.

“I murdered some songs along the way,” admits Ramos, “because I didn’t know Spanish.”

For Ramos, music was always more than a pastime. He left behind a high-stress job and friends bound for trouble to follow a new path.

“Music saved my life,” said Ramos.

Throughout the years, Latino influence in Austin music has grown and continues to blossom to this day: from Nash Hernandez Orchestra, Beto y Los Fairlanes and Conjunto Los Pinky’s to Gina Chavez, Grupo Fantasma, and Sonido Sol.

Austinite Stephanie Bergara is one of them. She fosters all genres of Latin music, both through her job in the City of Austin Music Department and as a Selena tribute artist by night.

She still remembers the first time she laid eyes on the Corpus Christi star.

“I was eight-years-old,” said Bergara. “That was the first time I took notice and realized there was a person, a Mexican-American woman on television who was from Texas and was singing and was a superstar. And I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I didn’t realize I would take it so literally.”

She created Bidi Bidi Banda in 2014, with the idea that it would be a one-time gig. She never realized it would turn into thousands and thousands singing along, honoring Selena’s spirit.

“Of course, the banda will always be there and we always continue to do it as long as people want to see it, but I’m trying to figure out what’s next for Stephanie,” Bergara said. 

Taking note of those artists are the next generation of Latino musicians, like the Tiarra Girls. The Mexican-American trio first made their debut in 2012. The girls take steps to infuse Latin rhythms into their rock ‘n roll vibe.

“It’s all over the place,” said singer Tori Baltierra. “But we’re finding where we are going right now. We want to show people that we can play music and expand their understanding of who are as people and as Latinos.”

It’s a lifelong goal for Ramos, who says he looks forward to seeing the next Latino generation take over. 

“I want to keep the Tejano, Chicano going and who else can keep it going, but the young ones,” he said. “Maybe in a different fashion, but I urge all new artists to go out and get it. There’s room for you here, too.”

He’s encouraging young artists to be persistent, “porque nadie te lo va a dar: because no one is going to give it to you.” While always remembering “sin música no hay vida: without music, there’s no life.”