Interview by Clint Westwood
Article by Alex Ramirez

Last Friday, the 39th annual Tejano Conjunto Festival hosted Conjunto Blues, a one-man show written and performed by San Antonio theatre artist Nicolas R. Valdez. The show kicked off this year’s fully virtual 2-day programming presented by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, a welcomed choice considering last year’s festival cancellation due to COVID-19. Valdez, a mainstay in the San Antonio theatre and music scenes, first staged the project for the Guadalupe in 2016, as part of the 35th edition of the Festival.
Conjunto Blues takes the audience on a musical journey through a collection of true-to-life characters portrayed by Valdez. Inspired by his memories growing up learning the accordion and listening to conjunto—a musical genre Valdez considers “the soundtrack to the Mexican-American working class experience”—the play is a meta-affair for its creator and star. Valdez plays iterations of his own family, the most prominent to the story being his grandfather whom Valdez described as a resilient “blue collar worker all his life” and “a big conjunto fan” that pushed him toward the musical style.
Valdez, a native of the Southeast side with over 15 years of cultural arts activism under his belt, understands the complex themes that arise in conjunto music, namely, “the political and social turmoil [Mexican-Americans] have gone through.” He hopes the show can offer an honest take of Mexican-American society and music through a critical perspective.
“I think ultimately the show’s about preservation of culture,” Valdez says.
Along with being a theatre practitioner, Valdez is also an accomplished musician, fronting the popular Chicano musical ensemble Los Nahuatlatos. Playing an incendiary mix of ska-infused cumbia beats alongside a wailing squeezebox, the band is a natural extension for Valdez, who credits the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center with jump-starting his artistic training and ambitions.
“I started doing their conjunto music program when I was 9 years-old,” Valdez says. “The Guadalupe was the first place that I really started exploring theatre and started exploring themes of, ya know, nuestra cultura.”
To learn more about Conjunto Blues, visit