Tony de la Rosa: Guerillero del Acordeon

In early June, the Mexicano community in South Texas lost a cultural treasure when Tony de la Rosa, a Conjunto music pioneer, succumbed to medical complications.

Born in 1931, de la Rosa became a pioneer in the Conjunto music genre with an innovative pyrotechnic accordion style and the first use of amplified instruments. his innovations allowed the transition of the genre from the cantinas to the dance halls throughout the underground communities of migrant and immigrant workers thought the United States. De la Rosa honed his skills following the secret army that built the economy of the southwest and keep the super markets full of produce.

He provided the music that was often the only moments of joy for migrant workers that were forced to live in sub human conditions and often found whole families working dawn to dusk picking the fruits of the factory farms. The dance halls were he performed, were those island of humanness that reminded the migrants of their culture and of homes where they were more than "wetbacks" or "meskin". It was a ritual of identification that resisted assimilation into a world that accepted them as workers, but created an otherness that justifies their exploitation.

Today, his music still fills the migrant camps thought the agricultural belt of the United States. His music mixes in with the Banda music and Cumbias that provide the soundtrack for a workforce that is often forgotten but crucial to the American economy.
In the thousand of dance halls in Texas and throughout the United States, working class couples still fill the dance floors when the first notes of "Atotonilco" by Tony de la Rosa is played. With the smoothness of skaters on ice, they dance the unique shuffle style of the taquachito into the wee hours of the night.

This is where Tony de la Rosa's legacy was born, and ultimately, where it will live on.
De la Rosa was the classic organic intellectual that defines a working class culture that is well aware of the nature of its exploitation. He was a cultural guerillero whose weapon was the acordeon.

--Raul Cano

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