I didn't grow up listening to Lalo Guerrero. Fact is the first I heard of him was when he was honored in 1997 at the Los Angeles Living Roots Festival. He was only 81 years old.
He seemed like a charming grandfather. The grandfather that we would want to have who is charming, warm, humorous and as if that weren't enough - who could sing and play guitar.
Over the years I came to learn that he was a composer, had done a little acting on occasion, was a storyteller, and was known as the Father of Chicano Music. The last because he initiated, shared or recorded almost every form of music enjoyed by Chicanos. Bolero, rhumba, rock, salsa, ranchero, comedic parody, and so many other forms. In English or Spanish or both; no small feat. If writing in English and Spanish were quite so automatic we'd have a lot more bilingual writers.
The Smithsonian declared him a National Folk Treasure and he was the recipient of the National Medal of the Arts.
His life paralleled and often directly reflected the Chicano/Latino experience. He was born 4 years after Arizona became a state, lived through the deportations of the 30s, the Zoot Suit Riots of the 40s, through the Civil Rights struggles of the 60s and the 70s and throughout he was Balladeer of the Chicano Experience. There was so much to his life and talents; Pancho Lopez; Walt Disney, Los Lobos, Las Ardillitas, the list is incredibly long.
We were honored to have him as our first Grand Marshal in 1998.
Lalo's mother taught him to play, encouraged his great love of music and to "embrace the spirit of being Chicano". His mother's heritage was Mexican and Irish.
So there is peculiar irony to his having been born on Christmas Eve in 1916 and his passing on March 17 in 2005.
Lalo Guerrero - presente - in our hearts and our minds.