The Rocks Off 100: Festival Chicano's Daniel Bustamante

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

Who? Two weekends ago, Rocks Off attended the 33rd annual Festival Chicano at Miller Outdoor Theatre. We were surprised and delighted to see almost 30,000 fans of Tejano music come out to support a movement that many have written off as dormant and dead.

The man behind the success of the event is Mr. Daniel Bustamante, an articulate and welcoming silver-haired gentleman who has been supporting Chicano causes and culture in Houston since the 1970s, with Tejano music providing his soundtrack.

What Is Your Background? "I am a Chicano," says Bustamante. "Some of my ancestors settled Tejas in the early 1700s as land grantees. I was born in Corpus Christi and raised there and in a small South Texas agricultural town of Mathis. I graduated from Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi and from the University of Houston in 1971.

"I have been an organizer all of my life," he adds. "As a union organizer, community activist, social advocate, and cultural worker, I have tried to ensure that all people are respected. I currently direct a civil rights organization. I am involved in work to advance culture, education, health, housing, rural development, human rights, and other vital issues in our world."

Home Base: "I live in Houston's Woodland Heights in a cottage I bought in 1976, while I was directing the Casa de Amigos Drug Treatment Program for young people that were inhalant abusers," Bustamante says.

Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Houston is the greatest city in the U.S.," crows Bustamante. "It was a boom town in 1969, when I arrived from Corpus Christi to attend the University of Houston, and it still is a boom town. The history and diversity are incredible.

"There is so much work to do in order to ensure equity and inclusion in education, employment, civil rights, health, housing, and just about everything," he adds. "Our heritage in music, culture, and history is yet to be truly told. I want to do all I can to ensure that it happens."

Good War Story:

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In the 1970s, I started to produce music events in City of Houston parks as a response to the lack of Chicano community cultural events. On Easter Sunday 1977, I produced a Chicano music concert at Moody Park, in the Near North Side of Houston, headlining Little Joe y La Familia.

Thousands of people showed up. The city authorities told me that there could be no more events at the park of that sort, because of the lack of facilities for parking, bathrooms, and general needs. The park was a historically neglected facility in he heart of Houston's largest barrio.

The years that followed were filled with the Jose Campos Torres police murder, the Moody Park riot, and resulting unrest. I approached the Miller Outdoor Theatre board in an effort to procure an event date and funding for a Chicano music concert.

I was told that the theatre was the site for production of the fine performing arts, such as opera, symphony, ballet, and others, all primarily White productions. It was made very clear that the board did not believe that the Chicano community had performing arts of the caliber to qualify for inclusion.

I persisted for several years in efforts to obtain a date and funding. In April of 1980, I was given a date and a grant of $1,500 to produce a show. The grant was hardly enough to cover the cost of the stagehands. I approached Little Joe with my dilemma and he immediately agreed to perform at his expense.

The 1st Annual Festival Chicano was held and resulted with Miller Outdoor Theatre overflowing with thousands of people. A spring thunderstorm occurred in the middle of the show and no one left despite the rain. I was so empowered by the people that I told the city that we needed an October date and more money, or we would be at City Hall, with our audience, demanding equality.

We got an October date, more funds, and the rest is history.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "People backstage as band guests, that get on the stage wings, and pollute the artist's stage presence with their visual intrusion."

5 Albums Yiou Can't Live Without:

Little Joe y La Familia, Para La Gente Selena, Live! The Last Concert The Beatles, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changin' Mana, Amar Es Combatir

Best Show Ever:: "First Annual Festival Chicano, April 1980, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston, Tejas."

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