Tipica -- an all-girl orchestra composed of talented and well-trained students
from Baytown’s Mexican community
-- played an important role in local musical entertainment from here to California.
In 1946 the young musicians, directed by Tipica founder Dr. Antonio Banuelos,
went on a concert tour from Texas to New Mexico,
Arizona and California. Generally regarded as a musical genius, Banuelos – known
as “The Professor” -- was a native of Spain, graduate of German conservatory and
a member of the Houston Symphony. He also was the man who put Baytown
on the map of Latin American music.
In addition to Tipica, Banuelos directed the Mexican Boys Band, another product
of the music program that began in the Goose Creek school system in the middle
of the Depression.
Elvira Renteria Martinez, who played the marimba in
Tipica, recalled that Banuelos wrote all of the musical scores by hand.
courtesy Eugenia Rios.
|La Tipica Orchestra
played for countless community-wide and school programs far and near and were
much in demand for special occasions such as Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence
Day Sept. 16. This photo was taken on the stage of a school auditorium in the
1940s. On the front row, from left, are Eva Rentería Barajas, Margaret Martinez
DeLeon, Aurora Hinojosa Rentería and Alice Salinas DeHoyos. Second row, from left:
Socorro Juarez Barajas, Pura García Muñoz, Mary Ellen Rincon Muñoz, Soledad Marron,
Alice Lopez Araujo and Rachel Torres Lara. Third row, from left: Carrie Salazar
Martinez, Lucy Alvarado Zamora, Amada Vazquez Quijano, Amalia Vazquez, Carmen
Piña Contreras, Gloria García Hinojosa, Elvera Rentería Martinez, director Dr.
Antonio Bañuelos, Antonia Lopez Loredo, Flora Martinez Ramirez and Janie Salinas
“I am fortunate
to have some of them,” she said. “He also composed music, which the orchestra
played. When we were in Los Angeles during our tour, we were asked to audition
This was during the golden era of Latin American music
with such names as Carmen Miranda, Xavier Cugat and Carmen Caballero in the limelight.
The audition offer to go professional was a dream come true, Martinez said, but
the older girls started thinking about their boyfriends back home and refused
to consider the possibility of remaining in California. “It became an issue, and
we did not audition.”
the Gulf Coast was destined
to lose Bañuelos to the West Coast. He received an offer he could not turn down
and, after the tour, returned to California. Some of the Tipica members kept in
contact with him until his death during the Sixties.
the years Tipica performed in Baytown
and Houston and throughout Texas,
playing for Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16) and other events.
In recent years the orchestra played for the unveiling of the old De Zavala School
cornerstone and dedication of the current De Zavala School. At the new school,
for sentimental reasons, they featured the serenade "Las Mañanitas.”
members treasure the serenade because it traditionally was played for their mothers
before every Mother’s Day.
“There was always a community dance on the Saturday night before
Mother’s Day. We would go to the dance and from there, proceed to De Zavala, tune
our instruments and board a truck that had a huge bed … We would then go to the
home of each of the orchestra members and sing and play ‘Las Mañanitas’ for each
“We did this for many years and it never ceased to be a very touching
time.” In addition to ‘Las Mañanitas’ each girl would select a song that she knew
her mother liked, and they would play that song before proceeding to the next
last home on their schedule, the girls always were served Mexican hot chocolate
remembered Banuelos as “a hard taskmaster, a perfectionist, very exacting. He
loved us, though, and when one of the members died from a ruptured appendix in
about 1940, he took it very hard. We were asked to play ‘La Golondrina’ (The Swallow),
a Mexican farewell song, at her gravesite and he never asked us to play it again.”
All of the girls were thrilled and proud to be members of Tipica. “Being
selected to play in the orchestra reflected a lot of work, as well as considerable
musical knowledge and skill,” Martinez said. “In addition to this, we were required
to maintain an A average, inasmuch as this was an extra- curricular activity that
at times required our leaving school early or missing school to play out of town.”
Initially Humble Oil & Refining Co. paid Banuelos’ salary, and the parents
also paid a portion. The school district eventually began paying his salary in
Martinez said, “The parents’ contribution was truly a sacrifice,
because they also paid for their children’s instruments. Some had more than one
child in the music program. My parents, for instance, had six children in the
music program. Fortunately, I played the marimba and one of my brothers (in the
Mexican Boys Band) played the bass horn, so that helped.”
World War II, Tipica members
did their part for the war effort, playing for war bond rallies. The girls would
leave school early – from elementary, junior high or high school – and tune their
instruments and change into their costumes at De Zavala.
From there they’d
go to the refinery gate and play a concert as refinery employees were changing
shifts. The workers would stop and listen and then buy war bonds on the spot.
The bond drives proved to be a big success and the Tipica musicians continued
the concerts as long as the bond drives went on. They also played at veterans’
hospitals in Temple and Houston
and at a military camp.
A feast for the eyes, their colorful costumes
were purchased in Mexico.
Martinez said, “We consider ourselves more like
family, rather than friends, and this is also true of the boys’ band. We often
attended each other’s rehearsals and bonded from our youth. On Sundays, we would
routinely get together after church and go somewhere. We often went to Morgan’s
Point or to the beach in Galveston
-- Tipica and band members. At times, it was an even number of boys and girls,
but these were not dates, just close friends enjoying time together.”
courtesy Eugenia Rios
|La Tipica Day was
proclaimed by then-Mayor Pete Alfaro in 2002 in honor of the 65th anniversary
of the orchestra. On the front row, from left, are Socorro Juarez Barajas, Aurora
Hinojosa Rentería, Alice Lopez Araujo and Margaret Martinez DeLeon. Second row,
from left: Lucy Hinojosa De Palma, Rose Marie Avelar, Gracieka Pantoja Capetillo,
Elvera Rentería Martinez, Gloria García Hinojosa and Mayor Alfaro.
Today, the remaining
members of Tipica continue to have a strong bond, still getting together to play
their music and have fun. Since the marimba is hard to carry, they meet in Martinez’s
home. “The last time we played was a few months ago for a visitation when our
original pianist died,” she said.
orchestra had no official theme song but chose “La Jesusita en Chihuahua” to open
a concert at the Baytown Historical Museum for the unveiling of the Hispanic Heritage
Exhibit. Jesusita is translated to mean Jesse or Jessie, and the orchestra played
the song to honor their beloved De Zavala principal, Jessie Lee Pumphrey.
The Professor, the members closed the concert with a march called “Zacatecas.”
When Banuelos family members left Spain, they came to Zacatecas, Mexico.
funny thing happened on their way to California in ’46. When the Tipica members
arrived at the first city on the tour, they learned they were being billed as
being from Mexico and therefore did not speak English.
“We could not believe it,” Martinez said. “We were to speak only Spanish while
we were in public. The problem was that our PTA and our teachers had agreed that
no Spanish was to be spoken on campus in order that all may master the English
language. Consequently, English had become our primary language over the years.
“We were truly feeling the stress this brought on, and some were just
not coping well with the problem. We were in the hotel lobby prior to leaving
for a concert one day when people became really intrigued at the sight of such
young girls wearing these strange (to them) costumes, etc. They came to us and
asked us questions. We just stood there and did not answer. They became bewildered
at our silence, as this was way before the influx of non-English speaking Hispanics.
They kept on pressing the issue, and finally asked the question again: ‘Don’t
you speak English?’ One of the girls replied, speaking perfect English: ‘No, we
don’t.’ We all broke into laughter.”
La Tipica and the Mexican Boys Band had their inception in about 1935 when Humble
Oil & Refining Co. hired Banuelos to teach music to the children of Humble employees.
Some of the instruments came from the company band that had disbanded. The music
students met at the community hall owned by the company – the same location where
they attended school before the original De Zavala was built.
school building opened, children of non-refinery workers entered the music program.
said, “Our music lessons began immediately following the close of the school day,
and the program was rigid. We were first taught the rudiments of music, and once
we mastered the basics, solfeo followed. This required our beating the scales
to the tempo each one called for, and we simultaneously sang the scales. Each
scale was in a different key, as well as a different tempo and those of us who
could beat the scales to tempo, while simultaneously singing them to pitch, were
selected to participate in the orchestra.”
October 1, 2012 columns
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