History came calling multiple times with the unveiling of a State of Michigan Historic Marker in Mexicantown on Friday, September 29. The official marker is the first-of-its-kind to honor the musical legacy of Tex-Mex migrants in Michigan. Secondly, it is the first historical marker to be installed in Southwest Detroit and the first that recognizes the contributions of a Hispanic community in the state of Michigan.
The official marker recognized the leadership of Martin H. Solis, Jr. who brought his brand of Tejano music called conjunto to Detroit and other parts of the state. Solis was a bajo sexto player and vocalist, who along with his cousin, Willy Huron, formed one of the first conjuntos based in Michigan, Conjunto Los Primos.
A second smaller black granite marker was also dedicated to recognize the contributions of many other Detroit Tejano music pioneers who were part of the lively music scene in the post war years. The list of the pioneers honored on the smaller marker appears below.
The official unveiling at the Mexicantown Plaza at Bagley and 21st Streets was accompanied by live entertainment by local Tejano band Beto y Dos Guys. Hundreds of family members of Martin Solis and the other Tejano musicians gathered in the Plaza along with former and current residents of Mexicantown and contemporary fans of the music genre and the celebration of Latino cultures. It was fitting that what started as an overcast afternoon, turned into a bright and sunny day by the end of the program, matching the electric mood of the crowd.
Raymond Lozano, executive director of the Mexicantown CDC, spoke about the significance that these historic markers bring to preserving the legacy of Mexican and Latino migrants in Michigan and in particular in Southwest Detroit. “Mexicans and Latinos have been in Detroit since the beginning of the 20th Century, and while expressways, bridges and gentrification continue to challenge and impact the Southwest Detroit community, it’s heartwarming, although 50 years later, the recognition and acknowledgement of our migrant contributions to Detroit, to Michigan and beyond, are being celebrated,” he noted.
Also present at the unveiling was Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center/Michigan Historical Commission, which is responsible for placement of the markers across the state. She acknowledged the fact that this is the first official marker in Southwest Detroit and one recognizing the contributions of the Mexican American community. “I know. It’s about time,” she said. “I’m hoping there’s going to be a lot more that follows this one.”
Frank, son of Martin Solis, and his wife Anna Solis, have been the driving force behind the approval and installation of the historic markers. Together, the Solis family had the honor of pulling down the covering that draped the markers to reveal its historic messages for all the world to see.
Recognition of the contributions of Tejano music in our community is just the beginning for Frank Solis. “We plan on bringing Tejano dances back to Detroit. Now that he (Martin Solis) has been inducted into the Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame, a lot of the bands from around the country would love to come to Detroit,” he said. In fact, the historic weekend was capped off by a dinner dance in Allen Park on Saturday evening featuring live entertainment by the Tejano band Grupo Vicio.
The marker is a joint project between the Martin H. Solis Jr. Tejano Association and the Michigan Music Hall of Fame, with support from Third Man Records, the Mexicantown Community Development Corporation (MCDC), the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan, SCP Radio and the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University.
Honorees pictured on the granite monument unveiled Friday in Mexicantown:
- Raul Alfita (singer-drummer)
- George Cantu (accordionist)
- Rufus DeLaCruz (bajo sexto guitarist)
- Willie Huron (saxophonist)
- Neto Garcia (saxophonist)
- Juan Gonzalez (multi-instrumentalist)
- Nicolas Guerrero (accordionist)
- Frank Martinez (bassist)
- Joe Martinez (guitarist)
- Ray Martinez (saxophonist)
- Rodolfo “Rudy” Martinez (guitarist)
- Manuel Rivera (accordionist)
- Librado “Lee” Rocha (accordionist)
- Jose “Joe” Sarabia (multi-instrumentalist)
- Martin Solis (bajo sexto guitarist)
- Casimiro Zamora (accordionist)