The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music. By Manuel
Pefia. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985. Preface, acknowl-
edgments, introduction, tables, maps, photographs, appendices,
references, selected discography, notes, index. $19.95, cloth; $8.95,
Manuel Pefia has done an excellent job in presenting an introduction
to the history and development of conjunto music (as well as of Texas-
Mexican music in general) and in analyzing the sociocultural context
that gave rise to the music. In a readable style, Pefia wends his way
through historical accounts and stylistic detail, leaving the reader with a
clear view of the musical and cultural complexity of his subject. This
book complements the work of Americo Paredes (With His Pistol in His
Hand and A Texas-Mexican Cancionero) and Dan W. Dickey (The Kennedy
Corridos), while breaking much new ground.
The first part of the work is a descriptive history of the development
of conjunto music. Chapter 1 sketches the character of Texas-Mexican
music from the mid-18oos to the early recording and commercializa-
tion of the music in the late 1920s. Although there are few firsthand
sources and little documentation of Texas-Mexican music in this period,
Pefia mounts a good case for the musical and cultural influence of the
city of Monterrey, Mexico, on South Texas at the time. In Chapter 2 he
outlines the rise of the button accordion as the preferred instrument
among working-class Tejanos and the early development of the con-
junto style. Most important to his later analysis, in Chapter 3 Pefia traces
the stylistic consolidation of conjunto as a working-class music from
1948 to 1960. Here he also begins to delineate the stylistic, cultural, and
class differences between two competing styles of Texas-Mexican mu-
sic-conjunto and orquesta tejana. In Chapter 4 Pefia discusses the static
quality of the mature conjunto style since 1960.
The second part of the book contains an interpretive sociocultural
and symbolic analysis of conjunto and orquesta tejana styles in relation to
both one another and the dominant Anglo-American society. Begin-
ning in Chapter 5 Pefia establishes the economic and class divergence
of two segments of Tejano society after World War II. In Chapter 6 he
shows the symbolic quality of the working-class Tejanos' adherence to
their own conjunto style and the middle-class Tejanos' adherence to the
orquesta tejana.
Pefia presents the theoretical framework of his analysis in Appendix
A, which will be of interest to scholars studying similar situations of
class and cultural divergence. Appendix B contains ten musical tran-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 11, 2014.