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Book Review:  "Los Tucsonenses"

by Mark Guerrero

     "Los Tucsonenses, The Mexican Community in Tucson 1854-1941" (University of Arizona Press, 1986) is a book written in an academic and scholarly manner that is nevertheless smooth and enjoyable reading.  It tells the story of the Mexican community of the city of Tucson, Arizona from the pueblo's beginnings as a presidio on the frontier of New Spain.  Tucson was a Mexican community before the arrival of the Anglo settlers.  Since Tucson was not initially overwhelmed by Anglo immigrants, Mexicans made up the majority of the town's population into the early 1900s.  Author Thomas E. Sheridan covers all aspects of the lives of the Mexican community including family, religion, the school system, urban and rural life, discrimination, and arts and entertainment.  He describes their lives from the barrios to the parlors of the Mexican elite.  He also devotes chapters to life during the depression and on the eve of World War II.

     Pages 246 and 247 are devoted to my dad, Lalo Guerrero, who was born and raised in Tucson.  Mr. Sheridan eloquently describes my dad's contribution to the Mexican community from the barrios of Tucson and beyond.  My favorite quote is "he created his own music- music that made people laugh or cry, music that captured the jazzy spirit of a generation."  Also of special interest to Chicano and popular music fans is the section on Luisa Espinel, born Luisa Ronstadt, who was an aunt of pop music legend and Tucson native, Linda Ronstadt.  (According to Mr. Sheridan, whom I asked via e mail, Luisa was Linda's father's half sister).  Luisa was a great singer and dancer, who performed across the United States and Europe.  Although she was formally trained in music and dance in New York, Paris, and Madrid, she also became widely known and respected as a singer of Hispanic folk songs.  Her father, Fred Ronstadt, was the leader of one of Tucson's earliest and most famous orchestras, the Club Filarmónico.  The book reveals a fact that was new and interesting to me, that Luisa Espinel published a book of Mexican folk songs in 1946 entiltled, "Canciones de Mi Padre," dedicated to her father, Fred.  You might remember Linda Ronstadt used the same title in 1987 for her successful album of mariachi music.  Another early Tucson orchestra mentioned in the book is the Banda de Musica of the Southern Pacific.  It consisted of Mexican mechanics employed by the railroad.  My grandfather, Eduardo Guerrero, who was a boilermaker, was a member of that band playing the French horn.  Yes, music does run in families.  I finally met the author, Thomas Sheridan, last year (2002) at a concert my dad did for the Tucson Jazz Society.  I was happy to meet the man who did such an enormous amount of research and work to complete a book of such scope and quality.  For more information or to order the book, "Los Tucsonenses," visit the University of Arizona Press website, uapress.arizona.edu or purchase at the amazon.com link below.  The cover of the book has changed from the one pictured above, but it's the same book.

For the Record

     On Page 247, the book refers to my dad's East Los Angeles night club as "Lalo's Place."  The correct name of the club was simply "Lalo's."
 

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Mark Guerrero
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