New museum gives history to Tejano music

By Chito de la Torre

You'll hear more ahhs than at a dentist's office. It's literally wall to wall Tejano history at the newly opened Hispanic American Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum.

"Somebody's got to preserve our history," says Ramon Hernandez, the museum's creator. And if anyone can pull it off, it's Hernandez.

Often called the encyclopedia of Tejano music, Hernandez knows more about the Tejano genre than any single person, in my opinion.

Hernandez worked for many of the artists. At one time he worked with GP Records with Selena. As a publicist with CJ Talent (run by Joe Rios) he worked with Emilio Navaira and Ram Herrera. And he's also worked closely with Little Joe. "With Little Joe, I covered 39 states in one year plus Japan and Mexico," says Hernandez (By the way, Little Joe and Ramon are not related). In fact, Time/Warner will soon publish a biography about Little Joe written by Ramon Hernandez.

Although the museum is new, the idea is not. That was born in 1989. Hernandez first began getting a lot of exposure on the material he had archived through his relationship with the Pura Vida Awards, who since 1991 have been colaborating with Hernandez on the Pura Vida Music Awards Hall of Fame.

But even before that, Hernandez was meticulously filing away biographys, data, photos, anything having to do with Tejano music.

"This is me about 31 years ago," says Hernadez pointing to a picture of Sunny Ozuna and himself. There Stands Lopez and next to him, with camera dangling around his neck is Ramon Hernandez. "I was taking picture of Sunny at the Domingo Pena show on KIII channel 3 in Corpus," explains Hernandez.

Of course as a jounalist, I got the deluxe guided tour lead by Hernandez himself, but anyone who goes to the musuem opened every day form 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. can have a guided tour if they'd like, or they can stroll through the museum at their own pace, but be prepared to stay a while.

Hernandez has already filled 1000 square feet of space with awe inspiring photos, and memorabilia from Tejano artists from as far back as the 1920s, when Tejano music was just being formed. "And this is not even one one-thousands of what I have stored," says Hernandez.

From Lydia Mendoza to Selena, you can trace the growth of the Tejano music industry on the walls of the museum located inside the Tejano Opry House at 101 Produce Row in San Antonio's historic Market Square.

The Tejano Opry House, owned by Luis Ramirez, is a bar that occupies the second floor of the building, also owned by Ramirez. Although the museum is actually housed on the lower level, the walls of the bar upstairs are covered with memorablia from the museum giving it a "Hard Rock" flavor. "We'll be featuring a different aritst every time in the Opry House," says Hernandez, who this month features Little Joe.

Everywhere you look there's something that forces a "wow" out of you.

For starters, the Hispanic Amercian Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum has the largest collection of Little Joe albums, even larger than the one Little Joe has. He also has the complete colection of Sunny Ozuna albums. But Hernadez does more than display artifacts. He brings the m to life by providing you with the inside information that he has stored in the greatest museum of all, his own life, and the special relationship he's had with many of the artists.

"This is the actual suit that Little Joe wore on his Schlitz album cover," says showing me a manaquin wearing a slightly faded fusia crushed velvet jumpsuit. Then Hernandez points to the album cover where Little Joe is actually wearing the suit. "For credibility, I make sure that every piece of clothing I put on display is backed up by a photo of the artist wearing it," explains Hernandez.

Check out the Hispanic Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum. Addmission is only two dollars, but the memories you'll walk away with are priceless. For information, call the museum at (210) 225-1836.

--30-- (printed with permission)