Free exhibit highlights the impact of Hispanic musicians in Houston

Discover the history of Hispanic sounds at the Houston Public Library

HOUSTON – Houston Public Library offers more than just books. You can also hear Latino sounds that shaped our city at the free exhibit open now at the Julia Ideson Building in Downtown Houston, highlighting the history of Hispanic musicians in the Bayou City.

It's called "¡Música! A History of Hispanic Sounds in Houston," and it's an interactive experience that showcases the impact of Latinos on our local music scene.

"We wanted to have this be as interactive and have different aspects to the exhibit so that, when children come in here, they learn, and everybody learns. So, you're not only reading and looking at the photographs, but you're listening to the music," said Mikaela Selley, Hispanic collections and oral history archivist with the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, who gave Houston Life reporter Lauren Kelly a tour of the premises.

Courtesy of Houston Public Library

The exhibit features some of the biggest names in Tejano music, such as Lydia Mendoza, the "First Lady of Tejano," or Ventura Alonzo, who was known as "the queen of the accordion" during the 1940s and '50s, but other important figures from different genres are also featured.

Courtesy of Houston Public Library

"You'll notice as we walk around  that (the exhibit) is organized by genre and the idea is to showcase the contributions that we've had in every decade and every single style of music," said Selley. She said some items on display are from the Hispanic Archival Collections but others, such as instruments, are on loan.

"These instruments represent different generations of the Zenteno family here in Houston. And the guitar belonged to Norma Zenteno, who passed away. The family was kind enough to loan these items to share their family history and their contributions. And one of the stories shared with us is that the guitar still smells like her perfume," said Selley.

In the exhibit, you can find great items such as the RCA record company contract from 1939 that was rewritten for Lydia Mendoza and pictures from dances at the Pan American Night Club, a historic music venue for the Mexican American community during the 1960s and '70s.

Courtesy of Houston Public Library

"¡MÚSICA! A History of Hispanic Sounds in Houston" runs through Nov. 9 at the Houston Public Library. The exhibit hall is located at 550 McKinney St., Houston,TX 77002.