Early música tejana star Carmen Marroquin dies

by Jason Mellard / Center for Texas Music History at Texas State

Episode #7 – Carmen Marroquin dies / Produced by Jack Anderson
Carmen (left) with her sister Laura (right) / Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association

On June 11, 2010, early música tejana star Carmen Marroquin died in Alice, Texas. Carmen and her sister Laura Hernandez had grown up singing together, so when Carmen married music entrepreneur Armando Marroquin in 1936, what came next made sense. Armando wanted to advance his jukebox business by manufacturing his own records. Once Carmen’s South Texas home became a recording studio in 1946, it was a natural step to sing with her sister Laura on record. Their work formed the cornerstone of Marroquin’s Ideal Records label that would do so much to define Texas Mexican music. The duet’s first hit—on the country label 4 Star rather than Ideal–took on the timely theme of a partner’s overseas deployment just as WWII was coming to a close.

Carmen y Laura went on to record hundreds of sides, often with other artists on the Ideal roster such as conjunto accordionist Narciso Martinez and orquesta bandleader Beto Villa. This was not the last piece in the Marroquins’ South Texas empire, though, as in the 1950s the couple opened La Villita dance hall outside Alice to showcase regional talent. Carmen often worked the door at a small pink cash register, and the Marroquin family managed the dance hall into the early twenty-first century.

Lucy and Mike Diaz, owners of LaVillita Dance Hall in San Benito, display photos from the hall’s heyday in the 1940s-50s. Still a major South Texas venue for conjunto and Tex-Mex musicians, LaVillita stages live bands and dances on Saturday evenings.

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