JIMÉNEZ, ABELARDO [CHA CHA] (1947–2011). Conjunto and Tejano vocalist and instrumentalist Cha Cha Jiménez was born Abelardo Jiménez on May 23, 1947, in Kingsville, Texas. He was the son of Abel and Elida Jiménez. He honed his musical talents at a young age. As a teenager he performed with the famed group El Conjunto Bernal and traveled with the band to Vietnam as part of the USO to entertain American troops; the group was the first Latino ensemble to do so.
Several years later, Jiménez was drafted into the United States Army. He fought in Vietnam and earned the rank of sergeant. He was also awarded thirteen medals for his bravery in battle. After his military service, Jiménez settled in Texas and lived in the small South Texas town of Alamo in Hidalgo County, where he had spent most of his life. He performed throughout South Texas with such notable conjunto groups and players as El Baile Grande, Agustín Ramírez, Los Relampagos del Norte, and Los Fabulosos Cuatro. He was a skilled guitarist and also an accomplished keyboardist and accordionist, but he was most recognized for his distinctive vocals. He organized his own Tejano band, Los Chachos, in 1974. Jiménez incorporated various styles of Latin music, including salsa and the sounds of mariachi. During his career, he recorded for both Hacienda and Freddie Records.
In 2003 Jiménez, along with his group Los Chachos, was inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame. He was honored in the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Benito in 2006. In the spring of 2011 he was diagnosed with liver cancer. At the time, Jiménez was performing in a play, Pat & Lyndon, about Vietnam that was presented at a Vietnam veterans’ celebration in McAllen. He died on June 15, 2011, at McAllen Medical Center. A funeral Mass was held for Jiménez, a Catholic, at Resurrection Catholic Church in Alamo. He was buried with military honors at Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission. He was survived by his wife, Marina, three children, and six grandchildren.