By Steven Adamo
The beautifully restored 1976 film “Chulas Fronteras” screenedtwice this week at select theaters in Southern California.
Though the focus of the lm isTejano musicians on the Texas- Mexican border, the music is complemented with beautiful footage of everyday life in these border towns.
Filmmakers Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz seamlessly blend the footage of the area with music, photographs and live performances.
The images of everyday people help illustrate the stories being shared in the song lyrics, often about the Mexican-American experience in Texas.
One of the most poignantmoments in the lm was during thesong “Rinches de Texas” by Dueto Reynosa.
The song discusses the violence caused during the 1966 Rio Grande City Melon Strike in Starr County.
Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association helped organize the strike demanding contracts, more pay, access to bathrooms, water breaks and better working conditions.
Texas radio DJ Willie Lopez,who wrote the song, is also brie yfeatured in the film. His long-
running radio show, also titled “Chulas Fronteras,” played only regional Mexican music like conjunto music.
In an interview with the Brownsville Herald in 1996, Lopez said “this accordion music is authentic and part of our region.”
Chulas Fronteras does a great job at showcasing all the musicians. Some of the most entertaining performances was “Mi Texana” and “México Americano” by Los Pingüinos del Norte.
In “México Americano,” the lyrics describe the pride he feels for both countries. “Mexican by ancestry, American by destiny, I am of the golden race. I am Mexican- American. I know the English language and speak Spanish, too. I am of the noble race. I am Mexican- American. Two countries are my home. With honor I’ll defend them.”
One of the best performances is “Un Mojado Sin Licensia” by Flaco Jimenez, who is like the Chuck Berry of the accordion.
The film always digs deeper and gets to the heart of the people involved with this music.
People like Salomé Gutierrez, songwriter and owner of the Del Bravo Record Shop in San Antonio, who helped artists like Jimenez early in his career. Before Gutierrez’ death in 2016, he was credited with writing over 1,000 songs and recording half of them.
One of the scenes to get a big reaction from the audience was during a performance of “Volver, Volver” by Los Allegras de Terán.
The band was performing the song in front of a few men on horseback.
At rst they were in the distance,but soon the horses got so close that the accordion player Eugenio Abrego pushed the horse away, mid-performance, without missing a beat.
The screening also containeda 30 minute bonus lm featuringmore artists including Leo Garza, Andres Berlanga, Ricardo Mejia and Conjunto Tamaulipas.
The music is mixed in with poetry read by Maria Antonia Contreras.
Some highlights from this shortlm include a live performance byChavela Ortiz and Brown Express for the song “Besos y Copas.”
During this part, Ortiz’s impressive accordion skills are onfull display. When the lm jumpsto “Las Nubes” by Little Joe yLa Familia, the lm focuses nexton the intricate Chicano mural art – featuring artists Daniel Falcez, Rogelio Cárdenas and Brocha de Hayward.
The lm is currently screeninguntil the end of the year at theaters across the country and is also available on DVD and Bluerayfrom the lmmakers’ website www.lesblank.com.