Keeping conjunto alive

SAN BENITO — Soledad Nunez has been immersed in the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center since she was a small child.

Her father, Rogelio Nunez, is credited as one of the founding members of the center 25 years ago.

Since then, the center has been a staple of the San Benito community because of its dedication to the preservation, promotion and development of the rich cultural heritage of the Mexican-American contribution to the visual arts, music, theater, dance and literary works.

During the San Benito Chamber of Commerce weekly “Coffee With” session yesterday, Nunez described her position as coordinator at the center and how she is now working to preserve the center for future generations.

Narciso Martinez was born in 1911 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, but lived most of his life near San Benito.

The center was named in his honor as the result of his philosophy of being a proud man of Mexican ancestry and working-class origins. He was a man of the people who over the years gave of himself and his musical talents so that others could enjoy his contributions. He was a man who was willing to share his rich musical and Texas-Mexican border experience.

Something the center would like to capitalize on is the arts as a source of economic development. Nunez said they are trying to push city leaders to view them as a stable source of income for the city.

“The arts are a very important part of a community, especially one like this,” Nunez said. “A tourist comes in from out of town and stays for the festival for three days, spends money here and stays here.”

Since its inception, the center has prided itself on producing quality year-round programming.

The biggest event is the annual Conjunto Festival, which brings some of the best conjunto musicians from the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas for three days of puro conjunto music.

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