Costumes Once Headed For Trash Are Now Part Of Huge Tejano Music Collection Just Added To The Wittliff Archives

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University says the addition is “one of the largest known collections of Tejano Music materials and memorabilia in existence.”

By Laura Rice & Leah ScarpelliOctober 12, 2018 11:16 am

Ramón Hernández says Tejano music – which he describes as Texans performing Mexican music – has always been a part of his life. He grew up with it on the radio and then spent 35 years working with Tejano musicians as a publicist and journalist. Over the years, he began a collection of photos, sheet music, rare recordings, and other memorabilia and documents. Today, some of the most striking items in his huge archive are the costumes.

“When I was working for Little Joe y La Familia, he had a closet full of outfits and he instructed one of his guys to take them out to the trash can and I said, ‘What? You’re going to throw them away?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Can I have them?’ ‘Sure.’ – and that’s how it started,” Hernández says.

He considered one day starting a museum – but says he found that to be an “impossible task” – and one he decided would not be right for his collection.

“It takes money and it takes a philanthropist,” Hernández says. “And when you have a museum, you put everything in one building and you saturate it with all these objects on display. It’s going to be like the locals going to the Alamo – they’ll go to the Alamo when they’re in elementary school, they’ll go to the Alamo when they have family coming over but, other than that, they’ll never go back again. And the same applies to a museum: once you’ve seen it once or twice, that’s it, you’ve fulfilled your need to see it.”

Hernández says The Wittliff Collections seemed like the perfect home.

“What was I going to do with it? It’s nice to have the collection at home but I wanted to share all that information with the people, with the public,” Hernández says.

Photo courtesy of The Wittliff Collections.

More items from Hernández's Tejano music collection.

Hernández says he looks forward to having students, researchers, and anyone interested in Tejano music access the collection. That may be especially important now as Tejano music is getting harder to find on the radio.

“I’ve questioned the different general managers and program directors at various stations that used to be 100-percent Tejano programming or have a 100-percent Tejano format and their explanation was it’s the numbers, whatever sells,” Hernández says.

He says Tejano is now primarily available on YouTube and Internet radio so to have his Tejano archive in an official collection is fantastic.

“I’m glad it’s got a home,” Hernández says. “I’m now 77, soon to turn 78, and I didn’t want to pass and have all my items just — you know — thrown away or going here and there…. So it’ll be preserved. It’ll be something that I can leave behind for everybody to, you know, learn from and enjoy.”