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Mexican musicians in California and the United States, 1910-50.

Mexican musicians have continuously crossed the United States-Mexico international border in both directions in search of professional opportunities. The period from the time of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to approximately the middle of the twentieth century is especially important since it represents the time when Mexican (and Latin American) popular and art music came to prominent national attention throughout the United States, within and outside Spanish-speaking communities. The Mexican musicians profiled here, as well as countless others, have transmitted musical styles and repertories that have enriched musical life in both countries and have crossed the boundaries between the many manifestations of musical culture and mass media in the twentieth century: film, radio, television, recordings, musical theater, opera, concerts, and print media. They have also moved between a "mainstream" English-speaking context and local Latino society in California and the Southwest, New York, Chicago, and, more recently, in Mexican and Latino diasporas throughout the United States. While most of these musicians have been male, a significant number of women musicians have made important contributions to musical life on both sides of the border, especially in the popular music world. (1)

Significant work has been produced by a number of scholars concerned with popular music, recordings, popular culture, and cinema that is crucial to an in-depth understanding of the role of Mexican and Mexican American musicians in the United States. (2) Additionally, the outstanding and absolutely essential Frontera Collection of Mexican American Music (UCLA, Arhoolie and Los Tigres del Norte Foundations) makes available on the internet thousands of recordings of Mexican and Mexican American popular music, principally from the pre-World War II period, including recordings by some of the performers studied in this article. (3)

In recent years, significant interest has been aroused in the contributions of Latino performers in Hollywood, especially with the release of films such as the HBO/Cinemax documentary The Bronze Screen. (4) And the creative work of Latino writers is being studied as part of Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project (University of Houston). (5)

Because of the dispersed nature of the historical record, perhaps, and understandable nationalist sentiment, Mexican writers most often focus on the work of Mexican popular musical performers within Mexico and Latin America, and, to a lesser extent, on their activities in the United States. Chicano scholars naturally concentrate on the creation and reception of a distinctly Chicano or Latino popular culture in the context of Latino communities in the United States, along with their interest in and connections to Latin America. However, the extensive careers of the leading Mexican popular musicians in the United States--and especially in California--from the Mexican Revolution to the immediate post-World War II era have received much less attention in the scholarly literature, though the careers of important Mexican art music composers such as Manuel M. Ponce, Carlos Chavez, and Silvestre Revueltas and their connections to musical life in the United States have been extensively studied.

While the contributions of a number of musicians active on both sides of the border are examined here, the life and career of one individual in particular is singled out for closer scrutiny: Mexican operatic tenor, film star, recording artist, and recitalist Jose Mojica, who personified the urbane, middle- and elite-class musical establishments. Mojica moved easily between both countries, and between Spanish- and English-speaking audiences in California and throughout the United States. He also crossed the borders between high art and popular culture through his recordings of Mexican and Latin American popular songs, recital tours, and work in the early American cine hispano (Spanish-language cinema) of the 1930s, the Hollywood studio response to a perceived need for Spanish-language sound films, geared toward U.S. Latino, Latin American, and Spanish audiences. However, unlike other very highly visible Mexican performers active in Hollywood during this period--Ramon Novarro, Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez--Mojica's career has heretofore not received a critical appraisal.


In contrast to the Mexican film industry, which generally favored a positive, nationalistic view of Mexico, many U.S. and European films presented racist or stereotypical representations of Mexico and Mexican characters, at least until the 1960s. (6) As part of Hollywood's foreign appropriation of Mexican (and Latin American) characters and themes during the silent-film period of the 1910s and 1920s and into the sound-film era of the 1930s, most of the major American movie studios promoted Latin American--especially Mexican-actors in order to provide exotic "Latin lovers" for American and international audiences. (7) The careers of important Mexican musical performers demonstrate how they either advanced or declined in their profession through their contact with the studio system of the 1930s, and how Hollywood used or misused Latin American performers.

Three of the performers discussed here were actors who periodically sang and who had important careers in American silent and early sound films: Ramon Novarro, Lupe Velez, and Dolores del Rio. Tenor Tito Guizar was a popular singer and film actor with operatic training who helped kick off the Mexican musical comedia ranchera (singing horseman) film genre with Alla en el Rancho Grande (On the Big Ranch) of 1936. The two Mexican opera singers, baritone Rodolfo Hoyos and Jose Mojica, were active in Spanish-language Hollywood musical films of the early 1930s. Mojica was the most successful of the Latin American singers active in Hollywood's cine hispano of the early 1930s.

Significantly, Novarro, Velez, and del Rio started their motion picture careers in silent films, when foreign accents could not be noticed by audiences. Unlike some other foreign silent film stars, all three successfully made the transition to sound films in Hollywood. While primarily actors, they also performed as singers from time to time, particularly Novarro. Guizar had a long but intermittent career as a singer and actor in Hollywood and the United States, though he also enjoyed an extensive career in Mexico; consequently, he appeared to much greater advantage in Mexican films. Novarro, del Rio, Velez, Mojica, and Guizar established significant international careers, especially through their Hollywood film work. Hoyos, though very active in California, New York, and Mexico in opera and in lighter theatrical and musical forms, was less well known in comparison with the others. All of these performers served as role models for Spanish-speaking audiences in the United States, who otherwise saw relatively few individuals with Spanish surnames in positions of national artistic prominence.

Ramon Novarro (Jose Ramon Samaniegos) (1899-1968) was one of the few Mexican performers to achieve great success as an actor in Hollywood in the 1920s. He was also a fine singer. Novarro moved to southern California from his native Durango with his family during the Mexican Revolution, and started as an extra in such Hollywood films as Cecil B. De Mille's 1917 epic Joan the Woman (with Metropolitan Opera star Geraldine Farrar). By the early 1920s he was appearing in leading roles in such important films as The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) and Scaramouche (1923). In the later 1920s and into the early 1930s, as one of MGM's biggest stars, he appeared as romantic lead in a series of exotic or historical dramas and contemporary comedies, most notably in Ben Hur (1926), Ernst Lubitsch's silent film version of The Student Prince (1927), with Norma Shearer, and Mata Hari (1931), with Greta Garbo. During the early days of sound film, Novarro also performed as a singer (and dancer) in three MGM film musicals by the composer-lyricist team of Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey: Devil May Care (1929), In Gay Madrid (1930), and the English, Spanish, and French versions of Call of the Flesh (1930). (8)

Novarro directed and starred in MGM's Spanish and French versions of Call of the Flesh--Sevilla de mis amores (Seville of My Loves, also known as La Sevillana) and La Chanteur de Seville (The Singer from Seville)--at a time when the major studios were producing Spanish, French, Italian, and German versions of their films for the European and Latin American markets. (He also contributed the Spanish lyrics to Herbert Stothart's songs for Sevilla de mis amores.) Besides Novarro, who was a truly multilingual actor, performers appearing in foreign-language versions of Hollywood films included, among others, comedians Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton, singer and actress Jeanette MacDonald, and actor and singer Maurice Chevalier--interesting companions indeed! This experiment only lasted sporadically through the 1930s, however, and Hollywood films have been dubbed or subtitled for foreign audiences ever since.

Novarro's strong interest in pursuing a singing career in addition to film acting led him to study voice with baritone (later tenor) Louis Graveure (1888-1968) in Los Angeles beginning in the late 1920s. Though he appeared on international recital tours as a vocal soloist, Novarro never achieved his goal of becoming a professional opera singer; however, he did sing three opera arias in the film Call of the Flesh: "Ah! fuyez, douce image" (Ah! Depart, Sweet Vision) from Jules Massenet's Manon, "Una furtiva lagrima" (A Furtive Tear) from Gaetano Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love), "Questa o quella" (This Girl or That One) from Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto.

In the mid 1930s, Novarro appeared again in two other MGM musicals: a film adaptation of Jerome Kern's modern operetta The Cat and the Fiddle (1934), with Jeanette MacDonald, and Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II's original romantic film operetta The Night Is Young (1935), with English singer Evelyn Laye. Novarro's performance in The Cat and the Fiddle is convincing and graceful; he possessed a secure singing technique as well as a well-placed and pleasing lyric tenor voice perfectly suited to operetta. His diction in both speaking and singing parts is charming and very clear. The Cat and the Fiddle is his best-known and most successful singing film role.

In the later 1930s, Novarro's motion picture career faltered, and he never again regained film star status. However, the shrewd investments he made while a top Hollywood actor (he reportedly earned ten thousand dollars a week at the height of his popularity) gave him financial freedom. Still wanting to perform, he later appeared on the stage and in secondary roles in Hollywood films and on television (Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, Dr. Kildare). However, it is the performances of his youth that were the most significant and are the best remembered today. His fine looks, natural acting ability, dashing manner, and pleasing tenor voice made him one of the most popular of all the Latin American performers to appear in Hollywood films of the 1920s and 1930s. (9)

Although Novarro never established a significant career in Mexico, he did appear in a Mexican film version of the story of Juan Diego and the Virgen de Tepeyac, La virgen que forjo una patria (The Virgin Who Forged a Nation) of 1942, which featured a film score by the important Mexican composer Miguel Bernal Jimenez (1910-1956). Novarro appeared as the humble indio Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin Mary appeared on the Hill of Tepeyac. (10)

Dolores del Ro (1905-1983), reportedly Ramon Novarro's cousin, arrived in Hollywood in 1925 from Mexico and was quickly promoted in films such as What Price Glory (1926), The Loves of Carmen (1927), and the film version of Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona (1928)--the later two presenting her as Spanish and Mexican-Californian characters. Like some other Hollywood stars who were primarily actors, such as Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson, or Joan Crawford, del Ro was called upon to sing from time to time, though the studios did not regularly feature her as a singer in her films--unlike Velez of Novarro. She did have a sweet (but not large) singing voice. (11) Del Ro was more successful than Novarro of Velez in the longevity of her career (she appeared in films in the United States and Mexico between 1925 and 1978), the number of her films, as well as the overall quality of her movie performances. Unlike Velez, she was given the opportunity to take on varied roles and was not strictly typecast. In the early 1940s, she returned home to Mexico, where she established herself as one of Mexico's most important and beloved dramatic screen actresses, with fine successes like Emilio Fernandez's Flor Silvestre (Wild Flower) (1943) and Mara Candelaria (1944), among others. She later returned to American films from time to time. The most famous Mexican film actress of her generation, del Ro has attracted the attention of many writers and scholars in Mexico and the United States, and a number of biographies and articles have appeared in recent years, including both scholarly and popular approaches to her life and career. (12)

Lupe Velez (Mara Guadalupe Velez de Villalobos) (1908-1944) was known as the "Mexican Spitfire" because of her fiery on- and off-screen personality (she also appeared in a series of films of the same name). After a convent school education, Velez performed as a singer and dancer in erotic musical revues in Mexico City, for which she attracted public adulation and notoriety. (13) Indeed, she was an important protagonist in the teatro frivolo (popular light, satirical musical theater) that flourished especially in the 1910s and 1920s during and after the Mexican Revolution. Arriving in Hollywood in the mid-1920s, she first appeared in films in 1927--Sailors Beware and a leading role in The Gaucho with matinee idol Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Velez went on to an important Hollywood film career, and later also worked in the British and Mexican cinema. She also briefly acted in Hollywood's cine hispano in the early 1930s. Though most of her motion picture career was spent in Hollywood, her film work was reported in the leading Mexican newspapers and in such Spanish-language film magazines as Cine Mundial and Cinelandia, published respectively in New York and Hollywood. The Mexican public avidly followed her American career, as, for example, in 1927 when the major Mexico City newspaper Excelsior commented on her ascent to Hollywood fame after the premiere of The Gaucho.
 Still in June of this year [1927] [Lupe Velez]
 was happy to earn the applause of the
 crowds that attended the tandas [variety
 shows] of the lyric theater, in the Aztec
 capital ... Anyone would say, when evaluating
 her rapid ascent, that the joke only
 requires one to get a ticket to Hollywood,
 appear before the camera, and triumph.
 But those of us who know what actually is
 involved with the struggles in the studios,
 we must confess that a triumph like the
 one the young Lupe has enjoyed is unique
 in the history of the art. (14)

After the advent of sound film in the late 1920s, Velez sang periodically in a number of her Hollywood motion pictures--as she had done earlier in the teatro frivolo in Mexico City. (15) She was a talented singer whose voice was particularly suited for the popular repertory that she sang in English and Spanish. Probably more than many other leading Latin American stars appearing in Hollywood films--with the definite exception of Carmen Miranda--Velez was typecast in roles that most frequently presented her as an exotic, emotional, and fiery, but also humorous "Latin.:" (16) Her passionate on-screen personality was echoed in her tempestuous private life and torrid love affairs with Hollywood figures such as actor Gary Cooper and swimmer and actor Johnny Weismuller, whom she later married. (17) Despondent over personal difficulties and sorrows, she committed suicide at age 36. Like Ramon Novarro and Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez's life and career have been investigated extensively, though her work in the Mexican musical theater is less known than her Hollywood film career, at least in the United States.


Over the years, Mexico has produced a significant number of operatic tenors as well as tenors active in the popular music world who had operatic (or formal) vocal training. Placido Domingo (of Spanish birth but raised in Mexico), Francisco Araiza, Ramon Vargas, and Rolando Villazon have appeared in the major opera houses and concert halls of the world in the past decades. Mexican tenors of an earlier era such as Pedro Vargas (1904-1989), Juan Arvizu (1900-1985), Mario Talavera (1885-1960) (also an important popular songwriter), Carlos Mejia (1892-1968), and Alfonso Ortiz Tirado (1896-1960) undertook formal vocal studies and achieved international prominence. They had beautiful, prodigious, and flexible voices, and they focused on careers in popular music (and some in opera). They rose to the top of their profession as a result of their talent, the popular repertory they championed, and their audiences' warm and emotional response to their often operatic-style singing. And, significantly, they all performed regularly in the United States during the height of their careers. This can especially be said of the two Mexican tenors profiled here, Jose Mojica and Tiro Guizar. (Ortiz Tirado very well could be identified as the third Mexican tenor, but since he did not appear in Hollywood films, his important career on American radio in New York in the 1930s is not considered in detail in this study.) Two additional reasons for this examination of the lives and careers of Mojica and Guizar are that they are only briefly mentioned in American scholarship on Latino musical life, and that they serve as representative examples of the careers of a much larger number of performers.


Tenor Jose Mojica (1896-1974) became an opera singer somewhat by chance and at a relatively early age. The illegitimate son of a woman of some means, he was raised in San Gabriel, Jalisco. Mojica and his mother were forced because of personal tragedy and a reversal in economic fortune to move to Mexico City when he was a teenager. After studies at the Escuela Nacional de Agricultura (National Agricultural School), he entered the Conservatorio Nacional (National Conservatory) and the Academia de Artes Plasticas (Academy of Visual Arts) in 1915. Though he had aspirations to be a painter, he discovered a vocation for opera through exposure to performances given by resident and traveling opera troupes in the capital during the turbulent years of the Revolution. Mojica was a voice student of Maestro Jose Pierson (1861-1957), who facilitated his entry into the ranks of the opera world in Mexico City by hiring him to sing with his own Compania Impulsora de Opera. (18) Pierson also taught and promoted numerous Mexican singers, including the famous tenor and medical doctor Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, "El cantador de America" (The Singer of America); (19) Juan Arvizu, "El tenor de la voz de seda" (The Silken-Voice Tenor); Pedro Vargas, "El tenor de las Americas" (The Tenor of the Americas); and the beloved motion picture star and singer Jorge Negrete (1911-1953), "El charro cantor" (The Singing Charro).

Mojica first sang small operatic roles and then later some leading parts with the Impulsora company at different venues in Mexico City, and also for other impresarios at the Teatro Arbeu and for outdoor performances at the Plaza El Toreo (Mexico's City's large bullfight arena in which dance, opera, and musical events were also held). Because of good fortune and his talent, Mojica was engaged in 1919 to sing with the Chicago Opera Company, which performed in the beautiful and capacious Auditorium Theater in the Windy City. In the 1920s, the company was under the directorship of soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967), alongside whom Mojica frequently sang. (20) He performed both secondary and principal roles in the French and Italian repertory, and an occasional English- or German-language part.

Mojica was especially noted for his many performances of the role of Pelleas that he sang to Mary Garden's Melisande in Claude Debussy's important opera Pelleas et Melisande. (Garden was closely associated with the role and had been the first Melisande at the opera's premiere in Paris in 1902.) Mojica also appeared in several operatic premieres in Chicago, including the role of the Prince in Sergei Prokofiev's modernist opera Love for Three Oranges in 1921. (21) He sang with the Chicago Opera (1919-1930, 1940), San Francisco Opera (1924), (22) and Ravinia Opera (1926-1929) (an important summer opera festival held in a park near Chicago), in addition to his numerous Mexican operatic performances. (23)

Mojica also performed with the Chicago Opera on its tours throughout the United States, which included regular appearances in California. In 1924, five years after leaving Mexico for Chicago, Mojica returned briefly to operatic performance in Mexico City, singing the role of the youthful Almaviva in Gioacchino Rossini's great comic bel canto opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), and in several other operas. However, he apparently never returned to the operatic stage in the country of his birth after 1924. His roles, such as Radames in Verdi's Aida, Prince Shuysky in Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, and Faust in Charles Gounod's Faust, demonstrate his musical and dramatic flexibility. (24) Ronald L. Davis, chronicler of opera in Chicago, praised Mojica for his willingness to take on both secondary and principal roles, and signaled Mojica's strong interest in costuming:
 A tenor with whom [Mary] Garden was
 singing frequently those days [the 1920s]
 was Jose Mojica, sometimes called "the
 Rudolph Valentino of opera." Mojica was
 young, Mexican, strikingly handsome,
 and the possessor of a unique sense of
 characterization and costume. Commenting
 on his performance of Pelleas, the Chicago
 Evening Post said, "He was at all times a
 picturesque figure, adolescent, with the
 halting grace of adolescence, beautifully
 bewigged and well costumed, acting with
 ease and considerable personal dignity."
 Operatic lore has it that he was so
 gorgeously costumed as Nicias in Thai's
 that once a couple of infrequent opera-goers
 were astonished when Mary Garden
 appeared on the scene. They had
 assumed that Mojica was the leading
 lady. [See cover photograph] He had a
 way of turning small parts into important
 ones, even quite minor roles like the
 marriage broker in Madama Butterfly
 and Narraboth [the Captain of the Guard]
 in Salome. (25)

Claudia Cassidy (1899-1996), a powerful and opinionated music critic who reviewed concert and opera performances in Chicago over a period of many decades, heard Mojica perform with the Chicago Opera on numerous occasions in the 1920s. She praised the Mexican tenor as "that supreme artist in smaller roles" and remembered him as "the most gorgeous young pagan who ever turned monk to devote himself to the poor." Cassidy also recalled Mojica's performances in Russian composer Musorgsky's operatic masterpiece Boris Godunov alongside the great Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin: " ... though I saw Chaliapin's Boris with a superior cast, the man I remember with him is the cringing, mortally dangerous Shuisky, who was Jose Mojica." (26)

Mojica's recordings of Italian and French opera arias made in the 1920s reveal a voice that is fresh, flexible, and more than capable of navigating quickly moving melodic passages, as in his performance of "Ecco ridente in cielo" (Behold, Smiling in Heaven) from Rossini's Il barbiere di Sivigila, as well as long, spun-out slower musical phrases, such as in his "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore. (27) Mojica was especially suited to the lyric tenor roles in which he specialized, and while he did not possess an overly large of forceful voice (thus definitely precluding the heavier principal Verdi tenor roles such as Otello in the opera of the same name), his recorded performances stress clear diction, a centered tonal production, careful use of vibrato, and a beautiful shading of the voice at certain key moments. His recordings from the 1920s and 1930s of some of the best Mexican popular songs of those decades show a dramatic approach to the popular repertory, but one that also includes a lighter touch when appropriate. The same fine musical attributes heard in his operatic recordings can also be heard in his evocative and charming recordings of popular songs.

Mojica moved easily between the worlds of opera, recital hall, popular music, and recording and film studio in the United States and Mexico, although he was criticized by some for this versatility. Because of his fine lyric tenor voice, matinee idol looks, and excellent acting ability on stage, he was signed by the Fox Studio in 1929 to appear in a series of Spanish-language musical films in Hollywood during the infancy of the cine hispano. Mojica was contracted by Fox at the time when most of the major studios were beginning to make foreign-language films for outside markets. Fox also secured Mojica's services because of the interest among Hollywood studio moguls at the dawn of the sound film era in hiring operatic singers for their musical films. At the same time that Mojica was working for Fox in the early 1930s, Metropolitan Opera stars Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore were appearing in early MGM musicals such as The New Moon and Cuban Love Song. (28) Lily Pons, Gladys Swarthout, Nino Martini, Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Robert Merrill, and other important Metropolitan Opera singers also made the (usually brief) pilgrimage to Hollywood.

Mojica was the singer who had the greatest success in the early cine hispano, and he made eleven musical films for the Fox Studios: One Mad Kiss/El precio de un beso, Spanish and English versions (1930), (29) Cuando el amor rie (When Love Laughs) (1930), (30) Hay que casar al principe (The Prince Must Marry) (1931), (31) La ley del harem (The Law of the Harem) (1931), (32) Mi ultimo amor (My Last Love) (1931), (33) El caballero de la noche (The Gentleman of the Night) (1932), (34) El rey de los gitanos (The King of the Gypsies) (1933), (35) La melodia prohibida (The Forbidden Melody) (1933), (36) La cruz y la espada (The Cross and the Sword) (1934), (37) Un capitan de Cosacos (Captain of the Cossacks) (1934), (38) Las fronteras del amor (Love's Frontiers) (1934). (39) He was most frequently cast as romantic leads--Mexican, Spanish, Russian, English, Gypsy. For a number of his musical films, Mojica, with his piano accompanist and friend Troy Sanders, provided original songs (for One Mad Kiss, Las fronteras del amor, and other films)--Sanders wrote the music and Mojica the lyrics. (Mojica also wrote the lyrics to popular songs by several of Mexico's most important composers, including "Nocturnal" by Jose Sabre Marroquin.) And in some of his Spanish-language films and recordings, Mojica performed with Mexican baritone Rodolfo Hoyos. Many of these Fox films were financially successful in Mexico, Latin America, and Spain. They were also shown in theaters in California, New York, and elsewhere in the United States. (Apparently, only a few of Mojica's eleven Fox films survive, including La Cruz 12 y Espada and One Mad Kiss. (40))

In the 1920s and 1930s, Mojica performed extensively as a solo recitalist on the national tour circuit, in California, and abroad. In his recitals he especially favored a mix of Mexican popular songs and arrangements of Mexican folk songs--which he often performed while in Mexican costume--as well as the standard art song repertory, especially French and Italian songs. He also performed selected opera arias from his Chicago Opera repertory in his solo recitals, often to piano instead of orchestral accompaniment. Mojica frequently lent his talents to benefit concerts of other special performances, such as the "Mexican Night" held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in June 1931, during which he performed the aria "Spirto gentil" (Fair Spirit) from Donizetti's opera La favorita (The Favored One), as well as Mexican songs. Also heard at the Shrine were baritone Rodolfo Hoyos, the orchestral pieces Rhapsodia mexicana (Mexican Rhapsody) and Crepusculo otonal (Autumn Twilight) by local composers Juan Aguilar (41) and Jose Perches Enriquez (see below), and works by the major Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce (1882-1948). (42) (The Mexican consul also spoke to the large audience.)

After his work in Hollywood films ended in the mid-1930s, Mojica returned to Mexico and built his own estate in the beautiful colonial-era city of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, which he helped develop into a center for the visual arts. He also appeared in a lavish production of El capitan aventurero (The Adventurous Captain) (1939), a film version of the three-act Spanish comic opera Don Gil de Alcala (1932) by the famous Valencian composer Manuel Penella (1880-1939), (43) which reportedly had appeared earlier in live performance in Mexico City in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)--then, as now, one of Mexico's principal and most beautiful performance venues. (44)

Reportedly the most expensive Mexican film made up to the time of its release at a cost of six hundred thousand pesos, El capitan aventurero failed to recoup its expenses at the box office, even though the film's producers had felt that the presence of Mojica would guarantee its success. (45) This story of aristocratic love set in New Spain (colonial Mexico) was directed by Arcady Boytler and had a screenplay by Salvador Novo. Though a number of the original songs by Maestro Penella were used in the film, additional music was also composed and arranged by Eduardo Vigil y Robles (see below) and Manuel Castro Padilla. Film historian Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro cites director Boytler's astute observations on the differences between Hollywood's cine hispano and the Mexican cinema at the time of the filming of El capitan aventurero.
 The Mexican film productions made in
 Hollywood cannot compete with those
 that are being made here. In Hollywood
 they spend a great deal of money, and
 have the best technical and material elements
 at their disposal; but they do not
 have sufficient collaborators who are adequate
 for the job.... For Hollywood to be
 able to compete with our productions, it
 will need a strong nucleus of individuals
 who are thoroughly familiar with our
 characters, customs, national psyche, costuming,
 and other similar factors. (46)

After the release of El capitan aventurero, Mojica returned briefly to opera, performing the parts of Narraboth in Richard Strauss's Salome (one of his signature roles) and Fenton in Verdi's Falstaff with the Chicago Opera in 1940. These were probably his last appearances in opera.

Besides his work as an opera singer and film star, Mojica was very active in the recording studio, where he recorded many Mexican and Latin American popular songs of the day for the Edison and Victor (later RCA Victor) companies, as well as a number of opera arias. He was especially known for his promotion of Mexican songwriter Maria Grever's (1885-1951) famous song "Jurame" (Swear to Me), the refrain of which is "Jurame/ que aunque pase mucho tiempo/pensaras en el momento/en que yo te conoci"("Swear to me/that even though much time may pass/you will think about the moment/when I first met you.") Mojica's records are prized by collectors today, particularly his operatic recordings on Edison "Diamond Discs" as well as the picture disc versions of songs from his Fox film musicals of the 1930s; the latter can sell for more than two thousand dollars each today. (His three RCA Victor picture discs were special promotional versions of recordings from three of his Fox films, with photographs of Mojica embossed on both sides of the shellac discs; these were issued especially for sale in Latin America.) Many of his recordings have been re-released on long-playing album and some on compact disc. (47)

According to the important Mexican cultural historian and writer Carlos Monsivais, Mojica was homosexual. (48) Though this statement might be disputed, it may well indeed be true. If this is the truth, Mojica's personal orientation undoubtedly had an impact on his film and musical career. He was certainly plagued by an inner conflict between the profane and the spiritual, which would later alter the course of his musical career. His autobiography Yo, Pecador (also published in English as I, A Sinner) verifies this, and explains how he felt torn between his desire for an international career, the temptations of the flesh, and a need for a contemplative life. Mojica also frequently mentioned the close but conflicted relationship he had with his mother in his autobiography. He never married and his mother lived with him periodically during his adulthood, in Mexico, Chicago, and Santa Monica, California. This conflict between the sacred and profane can also be seen to some degree in the ways Mojica was portrayed in the news media and film industry.

In the early 1930s, in order to capitalize on his physical beauty, the publicity department of the Fox Studio arranged for him to be photographed nude, though discretely posed outdoors in a tree (perhaps near his Santa Monica Canyon estate of in the Hollywood Hills), as a publicity photograph for a Spanish-language motion picture fan magazine. (49) While it was common for Hollywood film studios to capitalize on the physical beauty of its young female actresses, it was also a practice to emphasize male physical attributes in publicity photographs, especially in the freer "pre-Code" period of the early 1930s. George O'Brien, Johnny Weismuller, and Ramon Novarro were portrayed in this manner at that time, as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., had been earlier. (50) In the later 1930s, Mojica, along with his friend Salvador Novo (1904-1974), the important, controversial, and well-known Mexican writer, was again photographed nude, in a swimming pool. This photograph was reproduced in the short-lived but influential illustrated Mexican photo journal, Rotofoto, "revista supergrafica" (extra-illustrated magazine), and caused a scandal. (51) Novo, an openly gay man, left truly revelatory memoirs, which were only published many years after his death as La estatua de sal (The Statue of Salt) because of their very personal and controversial nature. (52) However, since La estatua de sal stops at a point well before the time Novo actually knew Mojica, Novo's very revealing autobiography understandably contains no reference to the Mexican tenor. Though Mojica alludes to the sins of his youth in the title of his own autobiography, Yo, pecador, he never reveals the truly intimate details of his life. This was only to be expected of such an autobiography published in 1956 by the then Franciscan friar, which also bore the ecclesiastical mark of approbation of the Nihil Obstat. (53)

By the early 1940s, Mojica had permanently left operatic performance and gradually retired from public performance as a layman. He had begun to turn to the religious life earlier, sometime in the mid 1930s, and had entered the Franciscan Third Order for the laity. After the death of his mother, he decided to study to take the vows of a Franciscan friar and to prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained in Lima in 1947, and he assumed the religious name of Fray Jose Francisco de Guadalupe Mojica; he later resided in the Convento de San Francisco in Arequipa, Peru. (54) After his ordination he returned to regular work in the concert hall, tour circuit, and the radio and recording studios, in addition to appearing in several more films, always in his Franciscan habit, in order to raise funds for his order. But now he sang spiritual songs in Latin and Spanish as well as the beloved Mexican popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s, especially those secular songs without an overtly sensuous or erotic orientation. It was very rare for a member of a Roman Catholic religious order to be permitted to perform professionally around the world as a singer and film actor, but then what other Hollywood film star of opera singer had ever become a Franciscan friar before?

Mojica's 1956 autobiography Yo, pecador was quite successful in Mexico, Latin America, and the United States--with a print run of forty-one thousand copies in the first three Spanish editions alone. (Published in Mexico City, it was extensively reprinted. (55)) The royalties provided substantial funds for the Franciscan order. Yo, pecador was also made into a well-received motion picture in 1959 in Mexico (Mojica was portrayed by Brazilian actor Pedro Geraldo), and carried his fame and religious convictions throughout Mexico, Spain, and Latin America and to Spanish-language theaters in California and elsewhere in the United States. (56) When Mojica died in 1974, his funeral attracted the attention of tens of thousands of mourners in Lima, who crowded the streets of the capital city of Peru. Though he was Mexican by virtue of birth, upbringing, and strong personal attachment, he had become an adopted son of Peru decades before his death, hence this outpouring of public affection.

The overall quality, varied nature, and international scope of Mojica's inter-related operatic, recital, radio, recording, and film careers place him among the most important Mexican performers of the twentieth century. With his extensive musical activities in California and throughout the United States, he also represented Mexican and European popular and art music to both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences. But the inner conflict he endured while a performer in the secular world may have only been resolved after he entered the religious life. Jose Mojica continues to be well remembered today in Latin America; his recordings are esteemed many years after his death, and a number of posthumous biographies have appeared. (57)


Like Mojica, singer and actor Tito Guizar (Federico Arturo Guizar Tolentino) (1908-1999), "El galancantor de Latinoamerica" (The Leading Man/ Singer of Latin America), also had a long and multifaceted career in Mexico, California, the United States, and Latin America. He was also born in Mojica's home state of Jalisco, Mexico (in its capital city of Guadalajara). (58) Also like Mojica, he was a formally trained tenor who studied voice with Jose Pierson in Mexico City. Guizar also studied voice later with the world-famous Italian operatic tenor Tito Schipa (1888-1965) in New York. (The timbre of Guizar's voice is reminiscent of that of Schipa, his tocayo, of namesake.) Though he performed on the major concert stages throughout the Americas, Guizar was best known as a fine interpreter of canciones rancheras (popular songs with a rural flavor of theme) and the songs of Mexican popular composers such as Maria Grever, Ricardo Palmerin, and Agustin Lara.

After vocal study in Italy in the 1920s, a Mexico City debut at the Teatro Politeama (season of 1927-1928), and radio, nightclub, and recording studio work in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Guizar was first brought to international attention in 1936 when he appeared in Fernando de Fuentes's critically-acclaimed film Alla en el Rancho Grande (On the Big Ranch), which was notable also for the well-known title song that he sang in the film. This pioneering Mexican film brought him the international recognition that propelled his career forward. By 1936 Guizar had also made his first appearances in Hollywood films. Alla en el Rancho Grande ushered in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (circa 1936-1956), and, as a result of his fine acting and singing talents, handsome looks, and his being in just the right place at the right time, Guizar earned an iconic status as one of the models for singing charro (horseman) films in the many well-received comedias rancheras (rural film comedies usually with numerous songs) of the time. (The immensely popular singing actors Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante followed Guizar in these roles. (59)) Though Guizar later appeared in many Mexican and Hollywood motion pictures, he is best remembered for this first major film role.

Showing his musical versatility, Guizar performed with popular dance bands and orchestras during the swing era (Xavier Cugat, Guy Lombardo), as well as with light classical "pops" orchestras, and appeared regularly on his own radio shows broadcast from New York in the 1930s. He also made a large number of recordings in Mexico and the United States (especially in New York and Los Angeles), though unfortunately only a small portion of these are readily available on compact disc today. (60) However, several of his films are available currently on DVD and videotape. Much later in his career Guizar also appeared as an actor on Mexican telenovelas (soap operas), performing, for example, as the abuelito (grandfather) of the famous Mexican popular singer and actress Thalia in the popular 1994 series Marimar. (61)

Of the performers active in motion pictures on both sides of the border--Guizar, Novarro, del Rio, Velez, Mojica--Guizar was perhaps less well-served than the others by the Hollywood film industry. In Hollywood films, he was usually cast as secondary leads, given special "Latin" novelty numbers, of was relegated to western dramas such as The Gay Ranchero (1948) or On the Old Spanish Trail (1947) with singing cowboy Roy Rodgers and his famous horse Trigger. Guizar was better served in such well-acted, beautifully shot, and evocative Mexican musical films as Alla en el Rancho Grande, Amapola del camino (Amapola of the Road) (1937), and Que lindo es Michoacan (How Beautiful Is Michoacan!) (1942), in which his relaxed personality, fine acting ability, and charming speaking and singing voice were seen and heard to great advantage. (62) He possessed a beautiful lyric tenor voice well suited to the lighter nineteenth-century Italian opera arias that he sang on occasion on recital programs in venues such as New York's Carnegie Hall. He was especially noted for his live performances of the many popular songs by Mexico's most important songwriters that he must have sung thousands of times over the decades. However, his greatest, lasting contributions were his film appearances in classic Mexican films of the 1930s and 1940s and the recordings he made on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. These made a significant impact on Spanish-speaking audiences in California's Mexican theaters and homes, especially in Los Angeles.


A thorough study of the principal Mexican musicians who appeared in California and the United States (not to mention the less nationally prominent performers) during this period is beyond the scope of this essay. Nevertheless, the careers of certain pioneering performers and musicians active in the parallel musical worlds of the recording studio and musical stage reveal common trends that many Mexican musicians experienced in their lives and that still endure today, albeit often in different ways. Some of these musicians were both stage performers (actors and singers) and recording artists, while others (especially instrumentalists, musical arrangers, and composers) functioned primarily off screen, in the recording studio (including the radio broadcast and film soundtrack recording studios), and in live performance. The emphasis here on these parallel worlds of recording studio and musical stage helps us understand the multiple ways in which musicians of any ethnicity or background functioned in their roles of entertainers and artists, and how audiences received and consumed the products of these artistic endeavors.

Commercial recordings of popular music strongly reflect contemporary trends and fashions in musical repertories and genres, as well as singing and instrumental performance styles. This is especially true of the Mexican musical scene. Because the recording industry was first established in the United States and Europe and only later spread to Mexico and Latin America, commercial recordings of Mexican popular and classical music were first made in the United States. Firms such as Berliner, Zonophone, Bettini, Edison, and Columbia released recordings of Latin American and Mexican music in the United States as early as the 1890s. Recordings of Mexican musicians apparently were not made in Mexico until 1904, when the American Edison and later the Victor and Columbia companies visited Mexico City on recording expeditions and began to record some of the leading Mexican musicians and ensembles, including male vocal duets (with guitar accompaniment) such as Abrego y Picazo and Rosales y Robinson, (63) the principal Mexican military bands (Banda de Estado Mayor, Banda de Zapadores), the Orquesta Tipica (Mexican Typical Orchestra) of Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, baritone Felipe Llera, the Quinteto Jorda-Rocabruna (the string quintet led by pianist Luis G. Jorda and violinist Jose Rocabruna), Trio Arriaga (two mandolins and guitar), and guitarist Octaviano Yanez, among others. (64) However, the lack of a discography of early Mexican recordings precludes a definitive statement as to the status and complete extent of the very first recordings made in Mexico.

A number of Mexican and Latin American performers active in the overlapping fields of concert music, opera, operetta, zarzuela (Spanish-language musical theater), and popular music recorded for American companies in New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio and in other centers of early recording activity in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century. For example, the very first Mexican American musician--born and resident in the United States--to make commercial recordings of which I am aware was singer Eugenia Ferrer (also a pianist), who recorded eighteen songs in New York for Emile Berliner (the inventor of the flat disc) in 1898 and 1899. (65) She was the daughter of the important San Francisco guitarist-composer Manuel Ferrer (originally from San Antonio, Baja California), (66) some of whose musical repertory she recorded, including the songs "Los lindos ojos" (The Beautiful Eyes) and "El jaleo de Jerez." (67) These songs formed part of the large Mexican salon repertory of the late nineteenth century, which falls in between the art music, musical theater, and popular repertories. As with other "ethnic" recordings, Eugenia Ferrer's eighteen seven-inch Berliner discs were recorded for the local market in the United States as well as for Latin American record buyers. (68)

In comparison to the early recording pioneer Eugenia Ferrer, who was not really well known on a national level in her lifetime, a later recording artist, the Spanish-born singer, actress, and dancer Mana Conesa (1892?-1978), who made numerous recordings beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, had a very large presence in Mexican popular culture over eight decades (she was a long-time Mexican resident). She also spent a number of years living and working in Los Angeles. Conesa was known as "La gatita blanca" (the Little White Cat), after her first appearance in Mexico City in the popular zarzuela of the same name, in November 1907. (69) Celebrated for her abilities as a dancer, comedienne, and singer of light music in satirical and political musical revues and zarzuela in Mexico City, Conesa was also notorious for her risque manner of acting and singing. Mexican poet, writer, and critic Luis G. Urbina (1868-1934) even complained that she could read the Padre Nuestro (Our Father) and make it sound salacious. (70) Despite his disapproval, her many admirers vociferously applauded her performances, some going so far as to pay the fines imposed by theatrical censors for her performance of suggestive material. Indeed, she was censured for obscenity on stage by government authorities on various occasions, including for her performances in La gatita blanca. But however prominent Conesa was, she was only one of numerous performers active in the teatro sicaliptico (sexually suggestive theater) that flourished in this period. Indeed, Conesa was one of the leading stars of the Mexican musical stage along with performers such as singer Esperanza Iris (1888-1962), "la reina de la operetta" (the Queen of Operetta), who was also the owner of the famous Teatro Iris, one of Mexico City's principal theaters. (71) (Iris's performances were never as suggestive as those of Conesa.)

Maria Conesa also periodically attracted the attention of governmental officials in the 1910s and 1920s because of the political nature of some of the musical revues and other musical theater pieces, including zarzuela, in which she appeared, as well as the controversial nature of some of her admirers or presumed lovers. (72) Though she vigorously denied any involvement, Conesa was even rumored to have been connected somehow to the infamous deeds perpetrated by the notorious Banda del Automovil Gris (Gang of the Gray Automobile) in 1915. (This was a gang of thieves who robbed the homes of Mexico City's elites, apparently with secret official complicity, and made their getaway in a gray automobile. Their activities rocked Mexican society and even served later as the basis for several motion pictures.) However, such attention only served to heighten public interest in Conesa's stage appearances and increase box-office revenue. (73) The high level of her salary also attracted the attention of the public, as, for example, when the Mexico City newspaper El Imparcial reported on 5 January 1909 that the Alcaraz Company had offered three thousand pesos per month for her services. (74)

While in New York on several occasions between 1907 and 1909, Conesa recorded songs from La gatita blanca, as well as couplets (strophic songs) from theatrical works and Mexican zarzuela songs. (75) (She also made recordings in Mexico.) In this way her most popular songs were made available to city dwellers as well as to those in the provinces who could not travel to the capital or other cities to see and hear her in person. Later, she returned to New York on several occasions. While in New York in 1917, she took part in an early and unusual attempt at a musical film. George R. Webb, for his Webb Singing Pictures, directed a number of actors and singers, including Conesa and opera singer Giuseppe Campanari, who agreed to be filmed performing Act IV of Georges Bizet's Carmen. (Conesa must have acted the part of the Spanish gypsy Carmen.) Other singers, performing behind a screen, pretended to represent musically the characters appearing on the screen. Besides Carmen, Enrico Caruso's recordings of arias from Verdi's opera Rigoletto and Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci were played while silent films of these scenes made by Webb were shown. (76) This experiment was short lived and the union of image and sound in filmed opera would only be achieved with the sound-on-disc Vitaphone short films of opera excerpts of the later 1920s.

Besides her extensive work in New York's Spanish-language theaters, Conesa appeared elsewhere in the United States during her career. In addition to performing in San Antonio and elsewhere in the Southwest, she resided in Los Angeles on several occasions, where she appeared to acclaim in local Spanish-language theaters. As theater historian Nicolas Kanellos documents, Los Angeles had the most active Spanish-language theatrical scene in the United States, and it was only natural that Conesa would be drawn there by its many professional opportunities, especially after she was forced to leave Mexico for a time in the late 1920s.

In addition to her extensive work on musical stages in Mexico, California, and elsewhere in this country, Conesa also appeared in a number of Mexican films later in her career, including Refugiados en Madrid (Refugees in Madrid) (1938), Madre a la fuerza (Mother by Force) (1939), La rebelion de los fantasmas (The Rebellion of the Ghosts) (1946), Una mujer con pasado (A Woman with a Past) (1948), Hijos de una mala vida (Abused Children) (1949), and Entre tu amor Y el cielo (Between Your Love and Heaven) (1950). During her visit to Los Angeles in 1930 she had hoped to break into Hollywood; however, she never appeared in its cine hispano. In Refugiados en Madrid, she demonstrated her insinuating singing and performance style before an admiring audience in this melodrama set in the Mexican embassy in Madrid during the tumultuous days of the Spanish Civil War (the film was released during the height of the war). (77)

Conesa's amazing longevity as a major participant in Mexican popular culture over many decades (stage, screen, recordings, personal appearances) was matched by few other performers. (78) And in Mexico she is remembered today long after her death. When the world-famous Mexican popular singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel (b. 1950) wrote his song "Maria de todas las Marias" (Mary Among All the Marys) in honor of Mexican actress Maria Felix (1914-2002), he referred to her along with other beloved Marys such as the Virgin Mary, opera singer Maria Callas, songwriter Maria Grever, and Maria Conesa, who, in Gabriel's words, was the "deleite de los caballeros de la epoca revolucionaria de Mexico a principios del siglo XX" (the delight of the gentlemen of the revolutionary era in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century). (79)

Another Mexicana musician who performed in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, but without the same sort of notoriety that Maria Conesa attracted, was soprano Carmen Garcia Cornejo, who appeared in opera and concerts on both sides of the border. (80) After performing leading roles in Italian operas such as Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor (as Lucia) and Verdi's Rigoletto (as Gilda) in Mexico in the 1910s, Garcia Cornejo visited New York in 1917, in company with Miguel Lerdo de Tejada (1869-1941), the celebrated leader of the renowned Orquesta Tipica, and with tenor Mario Talavera and baritone Angel Esquivel. In Camden, New Jersey, she recorded for the Victor Company a series of Mexican songs by such important composers as Manuel M. Ponce and Lerdo de Tejada. These songs, while part of the popular repertory, also crossed the boundaries between art song, popular song, and folk music. Lerdo de Tejada accompanied Garcia Cornejo on the piano on these 1917 recording sessions. They recorded his songs "Sin ti" (Without You), "Asomate a la ventana" (Lean Out the Window), and "Perjura" (Perjurer) (perhaps his best-known piece), as well as Manuel M. Ponce's beautiful "A la orilla de un palmar" (Beside a Palm Grove) and world-famous "Estrellita" (Little Star). (81) Both "Perjura" and "Estrellita" are well known today in Mexico, the United States, Europe, and Latin America, and have achieved a canonic status in the popular "light classical" repertory. They are also part of a core group of Spanish-language songs well known to English-speaking audiences from at least the 1910s through the 1950s through the filters of concert performances, film, radio, and recordings. They are performed and recorded today by Spanish and Latin American opera singers for their crossover albums (Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras). The canciones romanticas (romantic songs) that Garcia Cornejo performed in public and recorded with Lerdo de Tejada in 1917 are similar in musical style and poetic sentiment to those published in New York in 1919 in the series Canciones mexicanas (Coleccion Carmen Garcia Cornejo). (82) This collection was an attempt by Garcia Cornejo and her musical arranger Guillermo A. Posadas (the assistant director of Lerdo de Tejada's Orquesta Tipica) to enter the rough-and-tumble music-publishing world of New York's Tin Pan Alley. (83) While its primary intended audience was probably the Spanish-speaking community in the United States, Garcia Cornejo and Posadas may have hoped that their collection Canciones mexicanas would also reach the English-language sheet-music buyer.

Like Carmen Garcia Cornejo, who could sing both opera and popular music, but unlike Maria Conesa, who only sang popular music, Mexican baritone Rodolfo Hoyos (1896-1980) was equally versed in the popular and cultivated styles of singing and acting. He had a substantial career in opera, zarzuela, films, recordings, live performance, and radio on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. While less well known on an international level than the other performers discussed above, he nevertheless made an important contribution to Mexican culture in the United States, especially in Los Angeles and New York. He also appeared in opera in Mexico City and Guadalajara from the early 1920s, and in opera and on local Spanish-language radio in California from the 1930s. In 1974, Hoyos--who had hosted and performed on radio programs in Los Angeles from 1932 through 1967--was interviewed by a team of researchers (Gutierrez and Reina Schement) investigating the history of Spanish-language radio in southern California. Hoyos provided important details about radio activities in the 1930s that illuminate the era. Recalling that his early radio programs "were a mixture of live music, poetry, drama and discussion," he "described his [work with] early programs as a [radio] broker and the subsequent change to recorded programs." Hoyos remembered that "We would present artists, I would sing and have many artists. There were groups of singers. We would put radio dramas with recognized artists such as [the prominent actor] Romualdo Tirado ... I began to use records and it became easier for us and less expensive." Gutierrez and Reina Schement noted that "in the early days [the 1930s] Hoyos paid the station $180 a week for a daily show of one hour. He also sold advertising in addition to producing the show." (84)

Besides his regular work as a radio broadcaster and producer, popular performer, and opera singer, Hoyos performed in zarzuela and operetta companies throughout the United States and Mexico, and headed his own zarzuela troupe for a time. He was also very active in the recording studio, and made recordings for almost all the major American record companies (Columbia, Edison, Victor, Brunswick, Vocalion, Okeh) over several decades, beginning in the late 1910s. (85) Hoyos was as proficient in singing Mexican huapangos (from the state of Veracruz) and other folk-style musical pieces as he was in performing the current romantic popular songs by important Mexican composers such as Maria Grever, Mario Talavera, or Jorge del Moral. He would even sing in a crooning style from time to time and could do comic sketches, all in Spanish. Besides his work with popular music, and his appearances in the standard nineteenth-century Italian and French operatic repertory in Mexico and the United States, Hoyos also sang in the 1932 Los Angeles premiere of David Rizzio, the opera by California composer Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957) about Mary Queen of Scots.

Billed in supporting roles, Hoyos appeared in Spanish-language Hollywood films: Carne de cabaret (Cabaret Flesh--named after the famous Argentine tango of the same title) (1931), Un capitan de Cosacos (A Cossack Captain) (1934)--with Jose Mojica, Piernas de seda (Silk Legs) (1935). Hoyos even reportedly appeared as the Count di Luna in sequences from Verdi's opera Il trovatore (The Troubador) in the Marx Brothers' madcap MGM classic film comedy One Night at the Opera (1935), which may have been cut from some release prints, unfortunately.

Hoyos's career was similar to that of many other Mexican performers of the time in that it involved work in a variety of mediums and styles. Like Jose Mojica, Hoyos never scorned performing in both the operatic and popular repertory, and, like his compatriots Mojica, Guizar, and Ortiz Tirado, Hoyos made a specialty of Mexican canciones romanticas of the 1930s. His son, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (1916-1983), also had a varied career--but as an actor and not a singer--in Hollywood films and television programs from the 1950s until 1982. (86) Rodolfo Jr. was most frequently typecast and was relegated to playing Mexican or Latin American villains and heroes. (The younger Rodolfo also served as radio announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team for many years.)

The music of the beloved Mexican composer and singer-guitarist Guty Cardenas (Augusto Alejandro Cardenas Pinelo) (1905-1932), "el ruisenor yucateco" (The Yucatecan Nightingale) continues to speak directly to listeners today. Though his career was lamentably short, Cardenas was truly one of the most important Mexican popular singers and songwriters of the 1920s and early 1930s, and one of the most important songwriters in all of Latin America. Starting his performing career in Merida, Yucatan, Cardenas toured throughout Mexico, appearing in villages, towns, and the principal cities. In 1928 he moved to New York, where he made more than two hundred recordings between 1929 and 1931 of Mexican and Latin American songs, including his own compositions and songs by some of Mexico's most important songwriters, including Tata Nacho (his early champion), Ricardo Palmerin (his Yucatecan compatriot and mentor), and Agustin Lara (his friend). (87) Cardenas also recorded for various early Mexican record labels, including Peerless, Nacional, and Huichi. In the year before his death he appeared on the important Mexico City radio program Calendario Artistico (Artistic Calendar) on the leading Mexican station XEW, "La Voz de la America Latina" (The Voice of Latin America), under music director Guillermo Posadas. (88)

The stylistic range of Cardenas' recordings is most impressive and was unmatched by most other Mexican popular singers of his or a later day. His repertory included boleros (with Agustin Lara he helped introduce the form to Mexico), Ecuadorian pasillos, Colombian bambucos, Chilean cuecas and valses (waltzes), Argentinian tangos and danzones, Peruvian Faravies, Mexican huapangos and corridos (narrative ballads), various other Mexican regional popular and folk songs, and, importantly, the trova yucateca from his home state of Yucatan. And he could even sing in Spanish in a crooning style to the latest American-flavored dance band arrangements! He had a marvelous guitar technique and his recordings exhibit a seemingly inexhaustible fountain of innovative and evocative guitar accompaniment patterns. He also appeared in several films made for the Hollywood cine hispano in the early 1930s, including La dama atrevida (The Bold Woman, First National, 1930- And he performed in Los Angeles' Spanish-language theaters in the early 1930s. Though Cardenas' career was tragically cut short at an early age when he was murdered at 27 in a Mexico City bar, both his memory and songs definitely have an important place in the history of Mexican music on both sides of the border. (89) His songs, such as "Nunca" (Never), "Caminante del Mayab," (Traveler of the Mayab),"Ojos tristes" (Sad Eyes), "Flor" (Flower), and "Un rayito de sol"(A Little Sunbeam) are as fresh today as they were seventy-five years ago.

Not all the prominent Mexican musicians active in California and the United States were singers. Many were orchestra of band leaders, instrumentalists, of composers (of several of these). Two musicians serve as representative examples of the many performers active in these musical spheres in California and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century--Jose Perches Enriquez and Eduardo Vigil y Robles.

Mexican composer and pianist Jose Perches Enriquez (1882-1939), who made recordings of Mexican popular music in the United States, was a longtime Los Angeles resident. Perches, a member of a musical family (both his parents were pianists and his father was also a composer), received formal musical training in his native city of Chihuahua, where he frequently performed as a boy. After he moved to Mexico City as a teenager, he studied at the National Conservatory with composer, piano virtuoso, and piano pedagogue Julio Ituarte (1845-1905)--one of nineteenth-century Mexico's most important musical figures. Like his teacher Ituarte, Perches Enriquez also taught for many years at the National Conservatory. Appearing as a piano soloist on both sides of the border, he reportedly served as operatic tenor Enrico Caruso's piano accompanist at one time. He was also the composer of the well-known danza "Secreto eterno" (Eternal Secret), later used as the theme song for a Mexican film of the same name, released in 1942. Perches Enriquez had a varied and successful musical career in both Mexico and the United States. But by the 1930s he had moved permanently to California.

Perches Enriquez made recordings of popular Mexican dance music in San Francisco in 1928 with his own orchestra. (90) In Los Angeles in 1935 he recorded with members of Los Madrugadores, the important Mexican-American musical group and pioneers of California's early Spanish-language radio, founded by the politically active singer and songwriter Pedro J. Gonzalez (1896-1995). (91) Perches Enriquez also worked as a composer, arranger, and performer in Hollywood motion-picture studios. Like many of the other Mexican musicians active in the United States, his life and career do not enter the current scholarship on Mexican American music and society.

Composer and conductor Eduardo Vigil y Robles, who served as music director for Spanish-language recordings for the Victor company in the 1920s and 1930s, was very active professionally on both sides of the borden He was also the composer of the well-known popular songs "La nortena" (The Northern Girl) and "Chula la manana" (How Beautiful Is the Morning). Vigil y Robles, a member of a distinguished Mexican musical family, conducted the Victor house orchestra for many recordings of zarzuela and operetta in Spanish as well as Spanish and Latin American popular songs, including, for example, extensive selections from Franz Lehar's operetta El conde de Luxemburgo (The Count of Luxembourg) and Oscar Straus's operetta El soldado de chocolate (The Chocolate Soldier) (with starring singers Margarita Cueto, Jose Moriche, Juan Pulido) in New York in 1931. (92) These Spanish-language versions of popular Austrian and German musical theater pieces were geared to the large Latin American and Spanish markets as well as to local Latino communities in the United States, including those in California and the Southwest. This repertory mirrors that of the Esperanza Iris operetta company in Mexico, which also toured throughout the Americas (including California) at about the same time with a similar theatrical focus. Vigil y Robles had an important impact on the dissemination of Mexican and Latin American popular styles throughout the world in the 1920s and 1930s because of his leading position as director of Spanish-language records for the Victor Company, which at the time was perhaps the dominant record company.

In addition to the numerous performers profiled above, hundreds of other Mexican (and Latin American) musicians, both famous and less well known, were very active in the United States during the first hall of the twentieth century, especially in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and New York recording studios, and in Spanish-language theaters in these and other cities. (93) Their participation in Mexican musical life in California and elsewhere in the United States was crucial to its development. (94) All of these musicians made important contributions to musical life in both countries. In fact, the majority of the best- and lesser-known Mexican popular performers and composers were active in the United States from the time of the Mexican Revolution to World War II. And even more Mexican musicians continue to maintain cross-border careers today.

In conclusion, while much scholarly work has been accomplished in documenting and studying Mexican classic films and theater, and books and articles have appeared that investigate Mexico's incredibly rich popular and art music heritage, much more work is needed in order to better understand the symbiotic relationship between the Spanish-language stage and the film, recording, and radio studio in Mexico, California, and the United States during the period represented in this study. For it was then that Mexican composers, songwriters, singers, instrumentalists, actors, and directors created new entertainment industries that endure today, albeit in often radically changed forms. They also created new musical and theatrical repertories that had a great impact on Mexico's cultural and commercial life, and also traveled well beyond Mexico's national borders, northwards to the United States, and throughout Latin America, Spain, and Europe. A particularly striking aspect of these performers' musical careers is that many of them were so versatile in the types of music they performed and composed, not only various types of Mexican and American popular music, but also opera and concert ("classical") music. They were also highly mobile. While the connections between Mexico's very rich musical culture and that of California during this period still remain relatively unknown in the state, this study explores certain very visible aspects of these connections: that is, the artistic work of those musicians (and singing actors) who traveled in search of fame and fortune across the international border and the boundaries between high and popular culture. Many of them found it.

(1) This present study is a companion piece to John Koegel, "Crossing Borders: Mexicana, Tejana, and Chicana Musicians in the United States and Mexico," in Walter Aaron Clark, ed, From Tejano to Tango: Latin American Popular Music (New York: Routledge, 2002), 97-125.

(2) Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, 1982); Emilio Garcia Riera, Historia documental del cine mexicano (Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, 1992-1997, 18 vols.), Garcia Riera, Mexico visto por el cine extranjero (Guadalajara: Ediciones Era, 1987, 6 vols.); Juan S. Garrido, Historia de la musica popular en Mexico, 1876-1973 (Mexico City: Editorial Extemporaneos, 1981, 2nd ed.); Claes af Geijerstam, Popular Music in Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976); Nicolas Kanellos, A History of Hispanic Theater: Origins to 1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990); Steven Loza, Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993); Yolanda Moreno Rivas, Historia de la musica popular mexicana (Mexico City: Alianza Editorial Mexicana, 1989, 2nd ed.); John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 2nd ed.); Richard K. Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893-1942. Vol. 4: Spanish, Portuguese, Philippine, Basque (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990); Janet Sturman, Zarzuela: Spanish Operetta, American Stage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000). The detailed documentary record of Mexican popular music in this period remains to be established, however, and a definitive history of this musical tradition has yet to be written. The materials for such a comprehensive history are found in large quantity in recorded sound collections and film archives, newspapers and periodicals, sheet music and photograph collections, the internet (especially eBay and digital archives), other documentary sources, and, importantly, in public memory, in the United States and Mexico (and elsewhere in Latin America and Spain). A wide range of sources is utilized here to illuminate the study of popular and art music in a multi-faceted approach, particularly from the perspective of the performer.

(3) Frontera Collection:; accessed March 8, 2006.

(4) The Bronze Screen: 100 Hundred Years of the Latino Image in Hollywood; produced, directed, and written by Susan Racho and Nancy de Los Santos (Chicago: Questar, 2002, DVD).

(5) See:; accessed July 1, 2006.

(6) In his seminal Historia documental del cine mexicano, Emilio Garcia Riera chronicles the history of the Mexican sound film from 1929 to 1976, and in his Mexico visto por el cine extranjero he charts an amazing number of references to Mexico and its people in American and European motion pictures from 1894 to 1988.

(7) Juan B. Heinink and Robert G. Dickson, Cita en Hollywood: Antologia de las peliculas norteamericanas habladas en castellano (Bilbao: Ediciones Mensajero, 1990); Luis Reyes and Peter Rubie, Hispanics in Hollywood: A Celebration of 100 Years in Film and Television (Hollywood: Lone Eagle Publishing Company, 2000); Charles Ramirez Berg, Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002); Ana M. Lopez, "Are All Latins from Manhattan?: Hollywood, Ethnography, and Cultural Colonialism," in Lester D. Friedman, ed., Unspeakable Images: Ethnicity and the American Cinema (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 404-424.

(8) Novarro performed as a singer in five MGM musicals of the 1930s, and his recording of "The Pagan Love Song" was used in the soundtrack for his silent film The Pagan of 1929 (the film had pre-recorded music but no dialogue). However, he only made a few commercial recordings, including, for example, Spanish composer Jose Padilla's famous song "El Relicario" (The Reliquary) and French operetta composer Andre Messager's song "Long Ago in Alcala" (HMV B-8426; recorded in 1936); Messager's song was re-released on the LP album A Nostalgia Trip to the Stars, 1920-1950, Vol. 1 (Monmouth- Evergreen Records MES 7030).

(9) That Novarro was a romantic figure for many moviegoers in the United States and Latin America can be seen in the Cuban son (a popular and folkloristic song type) "La nina del cine" (The Cinema Girl), recorded by the Trio de Moya in Havana, circa 1929-1930 (Brunswick 40858). In the first verse of this humorous song a girl says to her mother: "Mama, me voy al cine, al cine me voy, mama. Me gusta Ramon Novarro porque el besa muy sabroso" (Mama, I'm going to the picture show. I like Ramon Navarro because he gives hot kisses'). This song is included in the compact disc set A History of Early Cuban Trova, 1900-1940 (Alma Criolla 803), released by Zac Salem.

(10) Allen R. Ellenberger, Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999). The best study of Novarro's important career and tragic death is Andre Soares, Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002). Soares's meticulously documented and fascinating book sensitively treats Novarro's homosexuality and its direct relationship on his acting and singing career, as well as his brutal murder.

(11) Del Rio recorded the song "Ramona" to promote the 1928 film of the same name directed by Edwin Carewe (re-released on the LP album Stars of the Silver Screen, 1929-1930, RCA Victor LPV-538). On the reverse side of the original 78-rpm record (Victor 4053) is del Rio's performance of Mexican songwriter Tato Nacho's (Ignacio Fernandez Esperon) song "Ya va cayendo" (It's Falling).

(12) Joanne Herschfield, The Invention of Dolores del Rio (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); David Ramon, Dolores del Rio (Mexico City: Editorial Clio, 1997, 3 vols.).

(13) On the Mexican musical review, see El pais de las tandas: Teatro de Revista, 1900-1940 (Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, 1987, 3rd ed.); Jorge Miranda, ed., Del rancho al Bataclan: Cancionero de teatro de revista, 1900-1940 (Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Culturas Nacionales, 1984); Armando Maria y Campos, El teatro de genero chico en la revolucion mexicana (Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Direccion General de Publicaciones, 1996, reprint of 1956 ed.).

(14) "Todavia en junio de este ano, se contentuba con ganar el aplauso de las transnochadores que acudian a las tandas del teatro lirico, en la capital azteca .... Cualquiera diria, al apreciar su rapido ascenso, que todo el chiste consiste en tomar billete hacia Hollywood, presentarse ante la camera y triunfar. Pero quienes sabemos lo que significa la lucha en los estudios, debemos confesar que triunfo como el de la nina Lupe, son unicos en la historia del arte ..." Cited in Paco Ignacio Taibo 1, Gloria y achaques del espectaculo en Mexico, 1900-1929 (Mexico City: Ediciones Leega/Jucar, 1988), 113.

(15) For example, Velez sang Irving Berlin's song "Where Is the Song of Songs for Me" in D. W. Griffith's early sound film The Lady of the Pavements (1929); she also recorded the song separately (Victor 21932-A). (This was re-released on the LP albums Stars of the Silver Screen, 1929-1930, RCA Victor LPV-538; and The Vintage Irving Berlin, New World Records LP album NW 238.) Velez also recorded "Mi Amado" (My Beloved) from the film The Wolf Song of 1929 (Victor 21932-B).

(16) A notable exception was Velez's appearance in Fernando de Fuentes' 1938 evocative Mexican film La Zandunga.

(17) Gabriel Ramirez, Lupe Velez: La mexicana que escupia fuego (Mexico City: Cineteca Nacional, 1986).

(18) Jose Octavio Sosa, Opera en Bellas Artes: Una cronologia analitica, 1934-1999 (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1999), 129.

(19) Enriqueta de Parodi, Alfonso Ortiz Tirado (Hermosillo: Instituto Sonorense de Cultura, 1996, 2nd ed.).

(20) Robert L. Brubaker, "130 Years of Opera in Chicago," Chicago History 8, no. 3 (Fall 1979): 156-169; Claudia Cassidy, Lyric Opera of Chicago (Chicago: Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1979).

(21) Michael V. Pisani, "A Kapustnik in the American Opera House: Modernism and Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges," The Musical Quarterly 81, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 487-515.

(22) Arthur Bloomfield, 50 Years of the San Francisco Opera (San Francisco: San Francisco Book Company, 1972).

(23) Robert C. Marsh, "The Ravinia Opera, 1912-1931," The Opera Quarterly 13, no. 3 (Spring 1997): 97-106; Marsh, "The Annals of the Ravinia Opera, Part 3: 1922-1926," The Opera Quarterly 14, no. 1 (Autumn 1997): 79-101; Marsh, "The Annals of the Ravinia Opera, Part 4: 1927-1931," The Opera Quarterly 14, no. 2 (Winter 1997/1998): 57-82.

(24) Mojica's principal and secondary operatic roles included, among others, Aida (Verdi): Radames, Messenger; Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): Almaviva; Boris Godunov (Musorgsky): Prince Shuysky; Carmen (Georges Bizet): Remendado; Falstaff (Verdi): Fenton; Faust (Gounod): Faust; Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss): Prince Orlofsky; Gianni Schicchi (Giacomo Puccini): Rinuccio; L'heure espagnole (Maurice Ravel): Gonzalve; Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (Massenet): Monk Poet; Louise (Gustave Charpentier): Noctambulist, King of Fools, Song Writer; The Love for Three Oranges (Prokofiev): Prince; Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti): Lord Arturo Bucklaw, Normanno; Madama Butterfly (Puccini): Goro, Yamadori, Pinkerton; Manon (Massenet): Guillot, Des Grieux; Morgana (Alejandro Cuevas): Beppo; Le nozze di Figaro (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart): Don Basilio; Otello (Verdi): Cassio, Roderigo; I Pagliacci (Ruggiero Leoncavallo): Beppe, Tonio, Silvio, Canio; Parsifal (Richard Wagner): First Knight; Pelleas et Melisande (Debussy): Pelleas; Rigoletto (Verdi): Borsa, Duke of Mantua; Romeo et Juliette (Gounod): Tybalt; Salome (Richard Strauss): Narraboth; Thais (Massenet): Nicias; Il Trovatore (Verdi): Manrico; La vida breve (Manuel de Falla): Paco; A Witch of Salem (Charles Wakefield Cadman): Deacon.

(25) Ronald I. Davis, Opera in Chicago (New York: Appleton-Century, 1966), 154.

(26) Cassidy, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 120, 166, 174, 179.

(27) "Ecco ridente in cielo" (Edison 82343-R), recorded in 1925; "Una furtiva lagrima" (Edison 82344-R), recorded in 1926; rereleased on Three Edison Tenors: Giuseppe Anselmi, Alessandro Bonci, Jose Mojica (Marston CD 51002-2).

(28) The prominent American baritone Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960) appeared in a number of early film musicals, including The Rogue Song (1930), with Laurel and Hardy; Cuban Love Song (1931), with Lupe Velez; and Metropolitan (1935). Soprano Grace Moore (1898-1947) started her career on the Broadway musical stage and later moved to the Metropolitan Opera. She also appeared in early film musicals, including A Lady's Morals (1930), a film biography of Swedish singer Jenny Lind; and in the smash hit One Night of Love (1934). Tibbett and Moore appeared together in the first of MGM's two film versions of Sigmund Romberg's famous operetta The New Moon (1930).

(29) In El precio de un beso (alternate titles: Un beso apasionado, Un beso de pasion) Jose Saavedra (Mojica) incites the local people to revolt against an unjust tax. It was shown at the Cine Palacio, Mexico City, beginning September 4, 1930, for two weeks (Maria Luisa Amador and Jorge Ayala Blanco, Cartelera Cintematografica, 1930-1939 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Filmoteca Nacional, 1980), 26). For details and plot descriptions of Mojica's Hollywood films, see Alan Gevinson, ed., American Film Institute Catalog. Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

(30) In Cuando et amor rie, Mojica plays Emilio Rodriguez de Viana, a "congenial but mysterious trainer of wild horses" on the ranch of Don lose Alvarado, in Mexican California.

(31) Prince Alexis, disguised as Lieutenant Eric Sandro (Mojica), falls in love with the beautiful Yvette (Conchita Montenegro) in Hay que casar al principe.

(32) In La ley del harem (alternate titles: En los brazos de ella, El hijo del desierto), Al-Hadi, an Arabian prince (Mojica), finds true love with Renee Duval, a French woman (Carmen Larrabeiti).

(33) Mojica played a Basque fisherman in Mi ultimo amor (alternate titles: Momento loco, Su ultimo amor).

(34) Mojica played Dick Turpin, a bandit in eighteenth-century England, in El caballero de la noche (alternate ride: Tu amor o la vida).

(35) In El rey de los gitanos (alternate title: El zingaro vagabundo) Mojica played Karol, King of the Gypsies. It was shown at the Cines Teresa, Granat, Venecia, Parisiana, and Rivoli in Mexico City beginning March 3, 1934 for one week (Amador and Ayala Blanco, Cartelera Cintematografica, 1930-1939, 102).

(36) In La melodia prohibida (alternate title: La cancion prohibida), a "South Sea Island Romance," Mojica plays Kalu, an innocent native boy alternately seduced by a woman, modern music, and urban life. It played at the Cines Teresa, Granat, Venecia, Parisiana, and Rivoli in Mexico City beginning June 23, 1934 for one week. See Juan B. Heinink y Robert G. Dickson, "La melodia prohibida: Jardiel Poncela en Hollywood," Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes:; accessed July 20, 2006.

(37) In La cruz y la espada (alternate title: Oro de California), Mojica played the role of a Franciscan in Alta California. It was shown at the Cines Goya, Teresa, Odeon, Rialto, Monumental, Granat, Eden, Venecia, Parisiana, and Rivoli in Mexico City beginning May 3, 1934 for one week (Amador and Ayala Blanco, Cartelera Cintematografica, 1930-1939, 107).

(38) Un capitan de Cosacos (alternate titles: Entre dos fuegos, El centauro, Cosacos) played at the Cine Palacio in Mexico City beginning on February 7, 1935 for one week. Mojica appeared as Captain Sergio Danikoff, a Russian officer exiled to Siberia.

(39) The plot of Las fronteras del amor (alternate titles: Love Flight, En alas de amor, El vuelo de amor) very slightly resembles Mojica's own life in that the world-weary opera singer Miguel Segovia (Mojica) returns to his ranch in Mexico. After a series of adventures, Segovia marries the American beauty Alice Harrrison (Rosita Moreno).

(40) These two films are in the UCLA Film Archives. Though most of his Fox films appear to be lost, a number of Mojica's later films survive, including El capitan aventurero (1939), Melodias de america (Melodies of America) (1941), El Portico de la Gloria (The Portico of Glory) (1953), Seguire tus pasos (I Will Follow Your Footsteps) (1966), as well as his film biography, Yo, pecador (1959).

(41) Juan Aguilar was active in the music scene in Los Angeles, and among his many other activities, he worked on the scores for films with a Mexican connection, including Sergei Eisenstein's Thunder Over Mexico (1931) and Viva, Villa (1934). He is profiled in Robert Stevenson, "Local Music History Research in Los Angeles Area Libraries: Part I," Inter-American Music Review 10, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 1988): 19-38. The Juan Aguilar Collection of musical manuscripts is at the Department of Special Collections, Music Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

(42) Isabel Morse Jones, "City Spirit Revealed in Concerts," Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1931, A7.

(43) Penella was the composer of the famous Spanish opera El gato montes (The Wildcat) (1916) and the revista La musas latinas (The Latin Muses) (1912), both of which were performed in Mexico and the United States. For a detailed plot summary of Don Gil de Alcala, which zarzuela expert Christopher Webber believes is Penella's most important musical score, see Chrisopher Webber, The Zarzuela Companion (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002): 185-190.

(44) Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro, Arcady Boytler (1893-1965) Pioneros del cine sonoro II (Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro de Investigacion Cinematografica, 1992), 98-100, 120-121, 174-177. El capitan aventurero is available on videotape and DVD from Spanish Multimedia:; accessed January 10, 2006.

(45) Pantallas y Escenarios, March 15, 1939, cited in de la Vega Alfaro, Arcady Boytler, 99.

(46) "Las produciones mexicanas hechas en Hollywood no pueden competir con las que aqui se hacen. Alla gastan mucho dinero, cuentan con grandes elementos materiales y tecnicos, disponen de incontables recursos; pero no tienen suficientes colaboradores, adecuados y eficaces.... que para poder competir con nuestra produccion, necesitaran en Hollywood un fuerte nucleo de personas verdaderamente capacitadas y conocedoras de nuestros tipos, de nuestras costumbres, de nuestra psicologia, de nuestra indumentaria y demas complementos." Cited in Vega Alfaro, Arcady Boytler, 99.

(47) Some of the recent compact disc re-releases of Mojica's recordings include: Jose Mojica: Historia de exitos (Orfeon 10645, Mexican release), Grandes voces del mundo: Alfredo Kraus, Jose Mojica (Orfeon 13239; Mexican release), Three Edison Tenors: Giuseppe Anselmi, Alessandro Bonci, Jose Mojica (Marston: 51002-2, British release), Jose Mojica Tenor (1897-1974), Gabriella Besanzoni Contralto (1890-1962) (Club 99 CD 99-23; United States release), Jose Mojica: Jurame (LBACD 031; Brazilian release).

(48) Carlos Monsivais, Salvador Novo: Lo marginal en el centro (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 2000), 36-37. For an invaluable collection of Monsivais' writings on popular culture, including essays about Dolores del Rio, Tin Tan, and Cantinflas, see Carlos Monsivais; John Kraniauskas, ed., Mexican Postcards (London: Verso, 1997).

(49) "Jose Mojica Faunesca," photo clipping from an unidentified Spanish-language film magazine, ca. 1930; Jose Mojica Clipping File, Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research; University of Wisconsin, Madison. Earlier, Ramon Novarro, in publicity shots for Ben Hur (MGM, 1925), had also posed in such situations. See Soares, Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro.

(50) Mick LaSalle, Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2002).

(51) Carlos Monsivais, "Pages Lllergo defendio la tolerancia y auspicio la libertad de expression," Proceso, Mexico City, January 5, 1990; cited in Olivier Debroise, Fuga mexicana: Un recorrido por la fotografia en Mexico (Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994), 33.

(52) Salvador Novo, La estatua de sal (Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1998), with a prologue by Carlos Monsivais.

(53) Mojica was a member of a religious order at the time that he completed Yo, pecador. Therefore, to publish his autography, he was first required to obtain the permission of bis Franciscan Provincial Minister in Arequipa, Peru, who gave it the stamp of Imprimi Potest ("it can be printed"); it was then sent to the archdiocesan censor in Mexico City, who gave it the stamp of Nihil Obstat ("nothing stands in the way"); lastly it was sent for approval to the Archbishop of Mexico, who gave it the stamp of Imprimatur ("let it be printed").

(54) A book about Mojica's conversion to a religious life was issued to celebrate his ordination: Luis Spota, Jose Mojica, hombre, artista, y fraile (Mexico City: Prometeo, 1944).

(55) Jose Mojica, Yo, pecador (Mexico City: Editorial Jus, 1956); translated as, I, A Sinner (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1963).

(56) The film version of Yo, pecador was based on Mojica's autobiography, and though certain periods in his life were stressed over others, it did not shy away from presenting truthful details of his life. For example, his status as an hijo natural (illegitimate child) was discretely woven into the plot. It seems likely that the vogue in the 1950s for Hollywood operatic film biographies is echoed in the Mexican film version of Yo, pecador. (MGM's The Great Caruso of 1951, starring tenor Mario Lanza, is an example of this.) Interestingly, Mojica appeared briefly as himself at the very end of the film, when he is shown celebrating Mass. Yo pecador is currently available on DVD and videotape. See:; accessed March 8, 2006.

(57) Fray Gonzalo de Jesus, O.F.M., Fray Jose G. Mojica, O.F.M.: Mi guia y mi estrella (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1975); Jose Diez Martin, Memorias del idolo Jose Mojica (Madrid, 1975); Ernesto Arauco Travezan, Jose Mojica: Mundo, arte, y espiritu (Lima: Editorial Bruno, 1999).

(58) See the entire issue of the profusely illustrated Mexican magazine Somos devoted to Tito Guizar and Esther Fernandez, his Alla en el Rancho Grande co-star (vol. II, no. 201, November 1, 2000).

(59) For a fine pictorial overview of the history of the Mexican cinema during its Golden Age, see Carlos Monsivais, Rostros del cine mexicano (Mexico City: America Arte Editores, 1997, 2nd ed.); Carlos Monsivais and Carlos Bonfil, A traves del espejo: El cine mexicano y su publico (Mexico City: Ediciones El Milagro, 1994).

(60) Tito Guizar: Epoca de oro de la radio (Instituto De Conservacion y Recuperacion Musical, compact disc, ICREM-012, Mexican release), Tito Guizar, Yo canto para ti--El Galan-Cantor de Latinoamerica (Alma Latina, compact disc, ALCD-042, Spanish release, produced 1996); Tito Guizar, Pedro Infante: Peerless 70 anos, 1933-2003, Una historia musical (Peerless, compact disc, 60558-2, Mexican release, produced 2003.

(61) Charles Ramirez Berg, Carteles de la epoca de oro del cine mexicano/Poster Art from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (Zapopan: Archivo Filmico Agrasanchez, Universidad de Guadalajara, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia), 13.

(62) Jorge Calderon Gonzalez, Nosotros, la musica, y el cine (Xalapa: Universidad Veracruzana, 1997), 97-99.

(63) Rafael Herrera Robinson's 1904 Edison cylinder recording of the pre-revolutionary era "Corrido de Jesus Leal" has been released on the CD set The Mexican Revolution: Corridos (Arhoolie CD 7041-44). It is probably one of the earliest commercial recordings made in Mexico. The Mexican duet of Jesus Abrego and Leopoldo Picazo made a number of recordings for the Edison and Victor companies. Some remained in vogue for many years after their initial release. For example, several of their acoustic-process Victor discs from the turn of the century were listed as available for sale in the United States and Latin America as late as 1928 (Catalogo de Discos Victor, 1928-1929; author's collection). Abrego y Picazo's song and comic skit "La rancherita" (The Little Rancher Girl) (recorded in 1905), is included on the CD collection Duetos Mexicanos, issued in 1995 by the Asociacion Mexicana de Estudios Fonograficos (AMEF T-44-04). Their version of the "Corrido de Marcario Romero" is included in The Mexican Revolution: Corridos Arhoolie CD anthology. Also see the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project of the University of California, Santa Barbara:; accessed July 1, 2006.

(64) The first recordings of Mexican mariachi music (twenty-one sones abajenos--lowland tunes) were made in Mexico by the Cuarteto Coculense (from Cocula, Jalisco) in the fall of 1908 and spring of 1909, reportedly for the Columbia, Victor, and Edison companies. Some of these have been released on the compact disc Cuarteto Coculense: The Very First Mariachi Recordings, 1908-1909, "Mexico's Pioneer Mariachis, Vol. 4" (Arhoolie CD 7036). Also see Hiram Dordelly Nunez, ed., Cancionero del Cuarteto Coculense: Sones abajenos (Mexico City: Centro Nacional de Investigacion, Documentacion e Informacion Musical "Carlos Chavez," 2004).

(65) John Koegel, "Canciones del pais: Mexican Musical Life in California after the Gold Rush," California History 78, no. 3 (Fall 1999): 160-187, 215-219; Koegel, "Manuel Y. Ferrer and Miguel S. Arevalo: Premier Guitarist-Composers in Nineteenth-Century California," Inter-American Music Review 16, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 2000): 45-66; Koegel, "Mexican and Mexican-American Musical Life in Southern California, 1850-1900," and "Calendar of Southern California Amusements (1852-1897) Designed for the Spanish-Speaking Public," Inter-American Music Review 13, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 1993): 111-143.

(66) Mexican-born composer, guitarist, and teacher Manuel Y. Ferrer (1832-1904) was an active and important figure on the musical scene in San Francisco from his arrival there circa 1850 until his death. He was the founder of a musical dynasty, and many of his children followed him into musical careers, including his daughter Eugenia. His Compositions and Arrangements for Guitar (San Francisco, CA: Matthias Gray, 1882) is an important nineteenth-century anthology of guitar music. The International Guitar Research Archives (Ronald Purcell, Director) at California State University, Northridge, is the major repository for Manuel Y. Ferrer's music. IGRA Website:; accessed March 9, 2006.

(67) Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records, 1869-1870; Paul Charosh, Berliner Gramophone Records: American Issues, 1892-1900 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995).

(68) Proof of their dissemination in Latin America is the interesting fact that in 1999, a century after their first release, a number of Ferrer's recordings turned up for sale in Uruguay on eBay. They were sold to a collector in Argentina.

(69) For many evocative photographs of Maria Conesa's theatrical performances, including as the character of "La garita blanca" in the zarzuela of the same name, see Coleccion Mexicana de Tarjetas Postales Antiguas, Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez: http: //; accessed March 1, 2006.

(70) El Imparcial (Mexico City), November 11, 1907.

(71) Sergio Lopez Sanchez and Julieta Rivas Guerrero, Esperanza Iris: La tiple de hierro (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2002).

(72) Conesa was exiled from Mexico for a time because of her alleged involvement with General Jose Alvarez, who was charged with smuggling. This was widely publicized in the national and international press. See, for example, "Mexico Arrests Maria Conesa," New York Times, June 2, 1928, 10.

(73) See Del rancho al Bataclan and El pais del las tandas for song lyrics with political content sung by Maria Conesa.

(74) El imparcial (Mexico City), January 5 1909; cited in Taibo, Gloria y achaques del espectaculo en Mexico, 1900-1929, 47.

(75) Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records, 1785-1786. A number of Conesa's recordings were re-released on the Mexican LP album Maria Conesa: La gatita blanca (Asociacion Mexicana de Estudios Fonograficos, AMEF-03, released 1986). Six spicy couplets recorded by Conesa in 1913-1915 (in French and Spanish) were re-released in Spain in the compact disc set El arte del cuple: Primeros exitos de la cancion espanola moderna, 1906-1926 by Blue Moon (BMCD 7791, 4 discs).

(76) "Webb Singing Pictures," Internet Movie Database:; accessed March 1, 2004; "Caruso Hears His Voice," New York Times, January 15, 1917, 7.

(77) Refugiados en Madrid is available on videotape from the Agrasanchez Film Archive;; accessed March 1, 2006.

(78) Enrique Alonso, Maria Conesa (Mexico City: Oceano, 1987); Alberto Dallal, La danza en Mexico: Tercera parte: La danza escenica popular, 1877-1930 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, 1995); Pablo Duenas, Las divas en el teatro de revista mexicano (Mexico City: Asociacion Mexicana de Estudios Fonograficos, 1994); Maria y Campos, El teatro de genero chico en la revolucion mexicana; Enrique Olavarria y Ferrari, Resena historica del teatro en Mexico, 1538-1911 (Mexico: Porrua, 1961, 5 vols.), vol. 5; Maya Ramos Smith, Teatro musical y danza en el Mexico de la belle epoque (1867-1910) (Mexico City: Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Grupo Editorial Gaceta, 1995).

(79) "Maria es un nombre de la Madre del Ser mas amado. Han habido otras Marias historicas, como Maria Antonieta, la tragica Reina de Francia, Maria Estuardo, Reina de Escocia, Maria Curie, cientifica, investigadora, des cubridora del Ra (Radio), descubridora de los rayo "X", Maria Callas, la eminente y admirada soprano italiana, Maria la gran compositora de canciones bellas e inolvidables, Maria Grever, La inolvidable "Gatita Blanca," Maria Conesa, deleite de los caballeros de la epoca revolucionaria de Mexico a principios del siglo XX. A la unica que yo he conocido es a nuestra Maria Felix, por eso es Maria de todas las Marias." Juan Gabriel Website;; accessed March 9, 2006.

(80) Some of Carmen Garcia Cornejo's operatic activities are chronicled in Edgar Ceballos, La opera, 1901-1925: La historia de Mexico a traves del teatro (Mexico City: Escenologia and Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2002).

(81) Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records, 1896-1897.

(82) Guillermo A. Posadas, arr., Canciones mexicanas: Coleccion Carmen Garcia Cornejo (New York: Mexican Song Publishing Company, 1919); a possibly unique copy is in the Music Library, University of California, Berkeley. This collection may also have been published in Mexico, since Juan S. Garrido mentions it in his important study Historia de la musica popular en Mexico, 46.

(83) Posadas was an orchestra conductor, radio music director, arranger, and composer. His waltzes "Abandonado" (Abandoned) and "Sufrimiento de amor" (Sufferings of Love) were well known in Mexico and the United States. He also composed the film scores to the 1933 Mexican films El tigre de Yautepec (The Tiger of Yautepec) and El prisionero trece (Prisoner 13). In the 1930s, Posadas directed the musical program Calendario Artistico, broadcast on the Mexico City radio station XEW. His photograph appears in Pablo Duenas H., Bolero: Historia documental del bolero mexicano (Mexico City: Asociacion Mexicana de Estudios Fonograficos, 1993, 2nd ed.), 166.

(84) Rodolfo Hoyos, interview, March 26, 1974, Los Angeles, California; cited in Felix F. Gutierrez and Jorge Reina Schement, Spanish-Language Radio in the Southwestern United States (Austin: University of Texas at Austin, Center for Mexican American Studies, 1979), 6, 16.

(85) Hoyos's many solo recordings show his wide range and demonstrate his impressive vocal abilities. A few of these include: "La bayadera-Fox," (The Bayadere) (Victor 78199), "La leyenda del beso" (The Legend of the Kiss) (Victor 78201), "Miel de tus besos" (The Honey of Your Kisses) (Victor 78277), "Si pudiera olvidar" (If I Could Foget) (Victor 78584), and "Yo traigo la vida en un hilo" (My Life is on a Thread) (Victor 78273). He also recorded with Jose Mojica for Edison and Victor, with Guty Cardenas for Columbia, and with Enrique Herrera Vega and Carlos Mejia for Victor (Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records, 1739, 1840, 1964-1965, 1993, 2088-2089, 2162, 2330). Some of Hoyos's many recordings are available on the Frontera Collection website.

(86) See Kanellos, A History of Hispanic Theater for discussion of Hoyos's extensive theatrical activities in Los Angeles and New York.

(87) Some of these important recordings have been re-released on the compact disc La voz y; guitarra de Guty Cardenas, 1928-1932: El ruisenor yucateco (Alma Criolla Records, CD ACCD 80l; United States release); also see Alvaro Vega, coordinator, and Enrique Martin, ed., Guty Cardenas: Cancionero (Merida: Instituto de Cultura de Yucatan, Centro Regional de Investigacion, Documentacion y Difusion Musicales "Geronimo Baqueiro Foster," 2006), with accompanying compact disc.

(88) Pavel Granados, XEW: 70 anos en el aire (Mexico City: Editorial Clio, 2000).

(89) Garrido, Historia de la musica popular en Mexico.

(90) Perches Enriquez's waltz "Ofelia" and polka "Alicia" were recorded by the Jose Perches Enriquez Orquesta in San Francisco in 1928 and released on the Okeh label. They are included in the compact disc collection Orquestas Tipicas: Pioneer Mexican-American Recording Orchestras (1926-1938) Mexican-American Border Music, Vol. 4 (Arhoolie CD 7017).

(91) Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records, 2047, 2189-2190. Chris Strachwitz, owner of Arhoolie Records, has released a number of early recordings by Pedro J. Gonzalez and Los Madrugadores (without Perches Enriquez) on Los Madrugadores, Texas-Mexican Border Music, Vol. 18 (Folklyric LP 9036); and Pedro J. Gonzalez and Los Madrugadores, Historic Mexican-American Music, Vol. 13 (Arhoolie CD 7035). The documentary film about Pedro J. Gonzalez's life, Bailad of an Unsung Hero, was released in 1983, and a film biography, Break of Dawn/Rompe el alba, in 1988. For information about Gonzalez, see Cecilia Rasmussen, LA Unconventional: The Men and Women Who Did LA Their Way (Los Angeles: Times Books, 1998), 114-116.

(92) These 1931 operetta excerpts have been re-released on compact disc in Spain on the Blue Moon label (Serie lirica): El conde de Luxemburgo (BMCD 7531), El soldado de chocolate (BMCD 7533). See; accessed March 9, 2006.

(93) See John Koegel, "Musicos mexicanos y cubanos en Nueva York, c. 1880-1920," Historia Mexicana, forthcoming.

(94) Some other important Mexican musicians active in California and the United States between circa 1910 and 1950 include Manuel S. Acuna: orchestral director, bandleader, and songwriter; Fanny Anitua: opera singer and recitalist (contralto); Juan Arvizu: singer (also a classically-trained tenor) and actor; Lorenzo Barcelata: songwriter and film actor; Margarita Cueto: singer (soprano); Carlos Curti: orchestra director (of the first Orquesta Tipica), composer, and xylophone and mandolin soloist; Beatriz Escalona, known as "La Chata Noloesca," a popular singer and comic; Angel Esquivel: opera singer (baritone); Pedro J. Gonzalez: popular singer and songwriter; Eduardo Gonzalez Jimenez: theater composer and music director; Maria Grever: songwriter and singer; Pepe Guizar: popular singer and songwriter; Hermanas Aguila: popular singers; Hermanos Areu: popular singers, actors, and comics; Pedro Infante: popular singer and film actor; Agustin Lara: composer, popular singer, pianist, and film actor; Miguel Lerdo de Tejada: composer and music director (of the Orquesta Tipica Lerdo); Jose Limon: opera singer (tenor); Felipe Llera: popular singer (also a classically-trained baritone) and songwriter; Carlos Mejia: opera singer (tenor); Celia Montalvan: popular singer, and stage and film actress; Jorge Negrete: popular singer and film actor; Lucha Reyes: popular singer and film actress; Mario Talavera: singer (tenor) and composer; Trio Garnica Ascencio: popular singers; and Pedro Vargas: popular singer (also a classically-trained tenor) and film actor.

John Koegel, Associate Professor of Musicology at California State University, Fullerton, investigates Mexican music, as well as Mexican American, German American, and American music in the context of ethnicity and immigration. His articles and reviews appear in American Music, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Historia Mexicana, Heterofonia, Revista de Musicologia, Latin American Music Review, and California History, among others. His book Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City, 1840-1930 (University of Rochester Press) is nearing completion; he is also contributing a chapter on non-English-language musical theater to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Musical (second edition).
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Author:Koegel, John
Publication:California History
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Date:Sep 22, 2006
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