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ALONZO, VENTURA MARTINEZ
Alonzo y Sus Rancheros. Ventura Alonzo (with the accordion)
was a pioneer as a female instrumentalist and bandleader
in a male-dominated arena. She was also the first Tejana
accordionist to record. The ensemble was versatile and
ranged from música ranchera to a jazzy big band sound.
Ventura Alonzo Collection, Texas Music Museum.
ALONZO, VENTURA MARTÍNEZ (1904–2000). Ventura Martínez Alonzo, accordionist and pianist, was born on December 30, 1904, in Matamoros, Mexico. Her entire family, including seven siblings, moved to Brownsville, Texas, in 1909. Although her father died in 1915, he was a significant musical influence in Ventura's life because he taught her to play piano. The family lived for several years in Kingsville where she began to play piano at age twelve. In 1917 they moved to Houston. In the mid-1920s Ventura was married to a man by the name of Gallegos, and they had at least one son. The couple later divorced. In the early 1930s Ventura married Frank Alonzo, born in January 1908. They had several children.
Frank and Ventura formed the group Alonzo y Sus Rancheros, and the band began playing in 1938. Frank played bajo sexto, and Ventura played piano and accordion. They made their first recordings for Falcon Records and then on other labels such as Alameda, Rio, Broadway, and Ideal. Ventura was a pioneer as a female instrumentalist and bandleader in a male-dominated arena, and she became the first Tejana accordionist to record. After World War II the band became known as Alonzo y su Orquesta as the Alonzos modernized and expanded their sound beyond that of música ranchera to a more cosmopolitan big band that included saxophones and trumpets. The group traveled extensively around Texas.
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In 1956 the Alonzos opened La Terraza, one of the few ballrooms in Houston catering to Mexicans and Mexican Americans at that time. Ventura was in charge of all business tasks including negotiating contracts with bands, taking tickets at the door, and even playing the accordion when the house band opened for other groups. La Terraza featured many of the groups that went on to form the legacy of Texas-Mexican music, including Paulino Bernal y su Conjunto, the first conjunto to play at the ballroom. Flaco Jiménez, Valerio Longoria, Los Caminantes, and others also played at La Terraza. Ventura and her husband Frank retired from music in 1969. Frank Alonzo passed away on September 1, 1997, in Houston. On August 14, 1996, a mural honoring Ventura Alonzo and her musical legacy was unveiled in Houston’s Magnolia Park. She died on December 14, 2000. Known as “Queen of the Accordion,” Ventura was inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame in 2002.
Frank and Ventura Alonzo Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Houston Chronicle, August 14, 1996. Manuel Peña, The Mexican American Orquesta: Music, Culture, and the Dialectic of Conflict (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999). Manuel Peña, Música Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999). Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, “Alonzo Y Sus Rancheros” (http://www.tejanoahp.org/artofint/alonzo.html) accessed August 24, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Clayton T. Shorkey, "Alonzo, Ventura Martinez," accessed April 24, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/falac.
Uploaded on May 8, 2014. Modified on June 13, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.