“A Tribute to Jose Alfredo Jimenez”
By: Heidi Powell-Prera
Saturday night September 25, 2021 at the Dunham theater at Houston Baptist University
I was at the Houston Baptist University Dunham theater, but it felt like I was watching a show in Las Vegas or New York. The sound quality in the Mezzanine seats was golden, the harmonies could bring you to tears. The dancers were beautiful in their traditional costumes and their rhythmic dance was in perfect precision. I enjoyed every minute of it and so did the packed sold out crowd of fabulously dressed mariachi lovers.
Jose Afredo Jiminez died in 1973 at the young age of 47 leaving a song book that is considered a cultural legacy. The show was closed with a beautiful video of him singing and Mariachi 7 Leguas playing along with him.
After the show, I Spoke with Baldemar Rodriquez the show’s Artistic Director, Co-Host for the evening, and a Founder. He was known to be the driving force behind the festival these past 19 months. His determination and talent mixed with his amazing team allowed him to put together a truly spectacular show showcasing Hispanic culture. Houston’s own Blanca Beltran was his fabulous co-host. Mariachi 7 Leguas and Ballet Folklorico UTRGV put on a seamless show to a sold out house.
Heidi: So what is next? What are you working on that’s coming up?
Baldemar: Yes, I also work with the Alley theater. We are working on an immigration story with an all latino cast. I am actually involved in the community engagement more than the production end. That is coming up in October, all centered around the book, The House on Mango Street.
-NEA Big Read: Alley Theatre/ El Zócalo is a creative community exploration of The House on Mango Street, the seminal 1984 novella by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros. Overlapping with National Hispanic Heritage Month, NEA Big Read: Alley Theatre/ El Zócalo drives the conversation into the community through an interactive line-up of bilingual events, using The House on Mango Street to explore LatinX culture, traditions, and issues; and ignite discussion around the importance of heritage. https://www.alleytheatre.org/neabigread
Heidi: The Mariachi Festival was also a fundraiser for Stephen F. Austin High School, right?
Baldemar: Yes, it is to fund the festival; but also, to fund the start up of the Mariachi curriculum at Stephen F. Austin.
Heidi: Do you have the program already in a few other schools?
Baldemar: No, we don’t. We were going to start last year but then the pandemic happened and we had to postpone our plans. We’ve been slowly producing the show thinking like six months ahead, thinking that when it disappeared, we would be ready to move forward. We caught the attention of the people at Stephen F. Austin, and they were open to the program and introduced us to to the HISD trustee, Judith Cruz who is championing these efforts at the High School. There’s different components that come together to make sure this happens because it is an HISD school and we want to make sure that we have the commitment from the school that if we start it they will work to maintain it.
Heidi: I was a latina in band, and I would have loved a Mariachi program!
Baldemar: It’s the different types of instruments. It’s being able to contribute to the culture the traditions. Especially in a school where there’s a lot of latinos; whether it be immigrants newly in or chicanos born in this country. Just the fact that this is possible is so exciting to us. Our goal over the next couple of years is to be able to execute the same program at Milby High School and in more schools every year.
Heidi: Please explain to us about the importance of a program such as yours?
Baldemar: I think the importance is that we strive to educate our young people, that we try to cultivate and enrich our hispanic heritage and we do this in so many different ways. Through the arts; not just music and dance, but also the culinary arts, literary arts, audio visual arts, etc… So even though we are starting with dance and music, our goal is to be able to enrich the community with all these other artistic disciplines where we can actually maintain our traditions and our culture.
Heidi: What does the music of Jose Alfredo Jiminez mean to you?
Baldemar: It brings me back to my childhood. It connects me to my parents and my grandparents. I was born in Mexico so when I hear this music, it very quickly takes me through a time capsule of so many memories of when I was a kid and enjoying the culture. So it’s pretty much something that will continue to ignite the traditions and the culture that I’ve lived all my life, and sometimes we forget. The simplest things like listening to a mariachi song, man, that takes you right there to that moment.
Heidi: I am from Guatemala and hearing the marimba always takes me home.
Baldemar: I love to learn about other Latino cultures. I think we have a universal culture, and even though each is unique, I think we all have enough in common that we can connect and share our experiences and honor those in our home countries.
Heidi: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, and I am so glad to hear about your project. I wish you much success.
New Supporters of the program this year were the Women of ATT and HACEMOS-Hispanic Employees of ATT To see all the sponsors: https://houstonmariachifestival.com/2021-program/
Baldemar is also the Chairman of the Aeolian Manor Foundation who was a gold sponsor along with Greg Compean owner of Compean Funeral Home. Everything Baldemar does he does with focus, attention to detail, and passion. The Aeolian Manor Foundation hosts several concerts each year featuring world-renowned organists on the incredible pipe organ housed there. The instrument is one of the largest in the state, containing over 7,000 pipes.