Sin las mujeres no hay conjunto: mapping Chicana feminisms in the performances of Susan Torres, Clemencia Zapata, & Ruby Franco
Conjunto music stands as a musical and stylistic expression that symbolizes working class Mexican American cultural identity in Texas. The marriage of the accordion and the bajo sexto lay the foundation for the conjunto sound. Scholars Manuel Peña, Juan Tejeda, and others discuss the working class origins of conjunto music as one that gives voice to the Mexican American working class experience. In their works they discuss pioneering musicians Narciso Martinez, Santiago Almeida, Valerio Longoria, Tony de la Rosa, El Conjunto Bernal, and Santiago Jimenez Sr. While these musicians shaped the style of conjunto that Texas is known for, women also made and continue to make tremendous contributions to the genre. Unfortunately their contributions continue to go unacknowledged in popular narratives on conjunto music. While women contribute much to conjunto music, conjunto pioneers Carmen y Laura, accordionist Eva Ybarra and others have been given very little recognition. In efforts to reclaim lost narratives by women in conjunto, I apply a third space feminist framework to analyze racialized identity and gender within the world of conjunto. To do this, I focus on how the performances of Susan Torres, Clemencia Zapata, and Ruby Franco challenge patriarchal notions of Texas conjunto expression and present a voice of Chicana agency within Mexican American cultural traditions.