Chelo Silva, Tejana singer, was born Consuelo Silva in Brownsville, Texas, on August 25, 1922. She was the eldest daughter of seven children. As a teenager she started singing in school and at church, and by her late teens began performing with a local group, the Tito Crixell Orchestra. By 1939 she was well-known in Brownsville and was invited to sing on a local radio show hosted by the young Américo Paredes. The two were married the same year, but the marriage ended in divorce some years later. They had a son.
During the early 1940s, Silva continued to perform on radio and at the Continental Club, where she had begun her singing career. As a brilliant interpreter of the canción romántica style, she rapidly became popular. In 1952 she was signed by Discos Falcón in McAllen. With a more extensively marketed recording arrangement, her fame quickly spread throughout the Southwest. Soon the Mexican label Peerless began distributing her records all over Mexico, and she became an international star. Chelo eventually recorded more than seventy titles for Discos Falcón.
In 1955 she signed with Columbia Records and gained even more commercial exposure. She made a series of major hits, including "Está Sellado," "Sabes de Qué Tengo Ganas," "Amor Aventurero," and "Soy Bohemia." Accompanied by guitar trios, her distinctive low contralto had a melancholy quality well-suited to the canción romántica. Hailed as "la Reina de los Boleros." she continued to perform until the 1980s, touring extensively throughout Mexico, South America, and the United States. She also performed with notable figures of the música ranchera style, such as José Alfredo Jiménez, Javier Solís, and Lola Beltrán. She died of cancer on April 2, 1988, in Corpus Christi. In 2004 Silva was inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame. She was also a member of the South Texas Music Walk of Fame.
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Ramiro Burr, The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music (New York: Billboard, 1999). Manuel Peña, Música Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999).
Genres (Conjunto, Tejano, and Border)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez,
“Silva, Consuelo [Chelo],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 17, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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