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Arts & Culture

'As I Walk Through The Valley' Captures South Texas' Vibrant Music Scene

Punk <em>luchadores </em>are part of the south Texas music scene.
Punk <em>luchadores </em>are part of the south Texas music scene.

Editor's note: This is one of three segments in this week's episode of Alt.Latino. Listen to the full show.

Two years ago I got a crowdsourcing email from two guys making a movie about, of all things, the rich musical history of south Texas.

I was expecting lots of accordions and cowboy hats, but As I Walk Through The Valley is instead an insightful examination of 1960s garage rockers, a decades-long commitment to DIY performance spaces and Tejano punks wearing lucha libre masks.

I sat through the film mesmerized by the story, which was new to me — but also by some aspects that were familiar. I didn't know any of the bands or musicians, but I did recognize the desire to create music no matter what; the drive to express yourself and tell the world "I exist" when so many things and people tell you that you don't; and the loving dedication of family and friends who make the local bowling alley feel like the main stage at Coachella.

Filmmakers Ronnie Garza and Charlie Vela, who live in the Rio Grande Valley, say they made the movie "because no one else would." That commitment was rewarded when the film was selected to premiere at the prestigious South by Southwest Film Festival earlier this month. I caught up with Vela and Garza while they were still buzzing from their SXSW screenings, where tears of joy mixed with heartfelt applause.

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