The controversy over Go Tejano Day at RodeoHouston has incited calls for boycotts, online petitions and protests outside NRG Stadium.
But it hasn’t affected attendance.
Sunday’s crowd of 75,357 for La Maquinaria Norteña and La Arrolladora Banda El Limón broke the all-time attendance record (previously held by 2013’s Go Tejano Day).
Fans lined the aisles around the stadium. Six of the top 20 slots in all-time paid attendance belong to Go Tejano Day.
Mariachi Azteca de America from San Antonio won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Go Tejano Committee Mariachi Invitational, which played out between headliner sets. Houston’s Mariachi Imperial de America, who won in 1998, came in second place.
La Maquinaria Norteña, who opened Sunday’s show, seemed to offer clever nods to fans who want rodeo organizers to put Tejano bands back on the bill.
Band members eschewed the usual car ride and walked across the dirt floor to the stage, playing “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” They were dressed in red, white and blue blazers. And they covered ’90’s hit “Ayer y Hoy” by Tejano group Mazz.
“We are so proud to be a part of the Houston rodeo,” one member said. “We’re proud to be Mexicans. We’re proud to be Americans. We’re proud to be Texans.”
The band’s succession of hits drew enthusiastic cheers and incited loud singalongs. Every song was a showcase for its bright, polished musicianship, built on a blend of saxophone and accordion.
La Arrolladora Banda El Limón, who performed in 2011, returned with the same blaring horns and infectious energy. They sported black suits with lots of sparkle.
Bandleader René Camacho and his 16-member crew danced through much of their set. It was fun to watch them swivel their hips through tunes “Siempre Estas Tu” and “Cosas Que Nunca te Dije.” Much of the record-breaking crowd followed suit.
La Mafia frontman Oscar de la Rosa went on a profanity-laced tirade last month at Club El Dorado, accusing RodeoHouston of being “anti-Tejano.” Protests have repeatedly been organized over the years, including a small one Sunday on Kirby in front of the stadium.
The last Tejano act to appear at RodeoHouston was Emilio Navaira in 2007. The Grammys and Latin Grammys eliminated the stand-alone Tejano category several years ago. There are currently no local radio stations, aside from online-only formats, dedicated to Tejano music, which originated in Central/South Texas and peaked in the mid-90s with Selena.