The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has enjoyed enthusiastic support throughout this community. It would be dismaying if many Hispanics, the population's largest segment, felt slighted by the organization that puts on this hallmark event.
For that reason, the disagreement over Hispanics' music preferences needs to be resolved quickly and respectfully.
Earlier this week, a group of Hispanic leaders accused rodeo officials of shortchanging Hispanics in their selection of Tejano Day entertainment, assignments of positions within the organization and the number of scholarships awarded to Hispanic students. They called on Hispanics to stay away from the event, which starts today and runs through March 22.
A leader in the dispute, former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, said, ”We request our friends across the whole state of Texas not to attend the Houston Livestock Show.”
One of the points of contention appears to be that rodeo organizers booked non-Tejano performing groups to play at the show's main venue on March 16, Go Tejano Day. That might give the public pause if there were no Hispanic musical acts at all set to play that day. But that's not the case.
Tejano is a brand of music that grew out of Mexican folk and German polka music in Central and South Texas and enriched the culture of Texans of Hispanic descent. Non-Tejano fans are likely to recognize the name Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the artist known as the ”queen of Tejano music” who was murdered in 1995.
Unfortunately, this form of musical entertainment appears to have been eclipsed among Hispanic music enthusiasts by other styles. That accounts for why on the main bill at this year's Go Tejano Day are Duelo, a norteño band from Roma, and Los Horoscopos de Durango, a duranguense act from Chicago.
As Leroy Shafer, the rodeo's chief operating officer, points out, Go Tejano Day is not just about Tejano music, but also about Hispanic culture. The day should showcase more than one slice of Hispanic arts. What's more, Tejano bands will perform that day on smaller stages. It's telling, too, that a member of the rodeo's Go Tejano Committee told the Chronicle he opposes the boycott.
Members of VIVE Tejano-Houston, the group formed to voice complaints about the rodeo performers, also charge that the rodeo awards too few scholarships to Hispanic students and hasn't enough Hispanics at the executive level.
But rodeo officials counter that nearly a third of the 927 students who attended Texas universities on rodeo scholarships last year were Hispanic. They acknowledge, however, that the executive committee includes no Hispanics. Those members are elected based on years of service, leadership and financial contributions a merit system that seems fair enough.
Though the charges made against the rodeo are on the thin side, they should not be lightly dismissed. The success of the rodeo and its educational goals will depend in large measure on this area's growing Hispanic population. The rodeo must work with those who feel aggrieved and come to an amicable understanding. By custom and design, the rodeo belongs to all of greater Houston, and all segments of this population must be made to feel welcome and a valued part of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo events.