Unlocking an Old Memory with Discarded Keys

One of my fondest memories growing up was going to the movies with my parents. Even in San Diego, we had our version of the Million Dollar Theatre, but ours was in Logan Heights.“El Coronet” was where Mexican cinema was a weekly Mecca for the culturally starved and homesick. It didn’t matter if I had a small Spanish vocabulary, at 8 years old I began to understand the tension between women and men giving into love, keeping their principles and resolving their differences to come together. All this visual-audio negotiation took place in a spectacular romantic Ranchera Musical, with fabulous costumes, handsome leading men and strong principled women. It was there that the emotionally charged scaled notes began to send chills up my spine, at the same time made my heart well up with cultural pride. My friend, John Santos an Afro-Cuban drummer told me he feels the same deep emotion when he hears bagpipes, because he is part Irish. Makes me wonder if sounds are also part of our genetic make-up. Denise Chavez’novel Loving Pedro Infante reaffirms that we Chicanitas learn about our ideal hombre through these icons of Mexican cinema.


One of the memorable singer-actors of these musicals was Antonio Aguilar. A native of Zacatecas, Mexico, Antonio Aguilar is one of the few Latinos that has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. This must have been such a great personal triumph for someone who came to Los Angeles with no connections, slept outdoors at Plaza Olvera before landing humble work—struggled to carve his place in the US— but eventually returned to Mexico to find his real destiny. Antonio Aguilar popularized Charrería, a style of Mexican performance that mixes beautiful Mexican vaquero costumes, singing and masterful horseback routines. So cherished was his estilo, that he became known as “El Charro de Mexico”.

Antonio Aguilar passed away over a year ago (June 2007), and the loss was felt heavily on the Eastside. Printer and artist, Daniel González first blogged on Myspace about his family’s sadness over the death of this beloved singer and performer. His family set out a collection barrel for old keys right in front of their Aunt Theresa’s restaurant in East LA called Teresita’s—this, for the purpose of commissioning a life-sized sculpture of Antonio Aguilar.

As you can see from my recent picture qbove—there is quite a ways to go before finding a designer, a location for the statue and getting the keys melted for casting. I love art that is created out of ingenuity and passion. To be invited to participate in the process is the cherry on top.

Teresita’s Restaurant specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine with recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next – originating from the Pueblo of Teul de Gonzalez Ortega in Zacatecas, Mexico. For those of you eastside LA bloggers and readers still on a quest for the perfect taco de papa—consider Teresita’s papa flautas or flat tacos with all the fixins. I highly recommend them with a side of guacamole. Teresita’s is located at 3826 E. 1st St., East Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 266 6045 .

Soon we wlll remember those that have passed and we’ll honor their memory during Dia de los Muertos. Join in this special way of remembering a gifted singer who connected minds across borders. I remember playing in my back yard in San Diego, running between sweet smelling clothes hung on lines to dry, in the distance my mother was cleaning house singing to the latest Mexican song on the radio.

4 thoughts on “Unlocking an Old Memory with Discarded Keys

  1. I always get the Milanesa de Pollo at Teresita’s. The place is nice, cozy, and down-homestyle. Check out their cool collection of vintage Mexican cigarettes in the glass case.
    Definitely “Estilo Zacatecas”. Thanks Victoria, for your heart-warming post!

  2. Lovely post Victoria! Now I know what to do with that pile of old keys I was saving. I knew they’d serve a purpose.
    I like your idea of sounds being part of our genetic make-up. I feel similarly about smells. The smell of roasted poblano chiles, corn and squash cooked together stirs something primal inside me.

  3. My father grew up in Villanueva, just a stone’s throw from Antonio Aguilar’s home. I do believe that responding to a certain kind of music is genetic. My friend, who is of Scottish ancestry, gets misty-eyed whenever she hears bagpipes. I get misty-eyed when I hear Mariachi, which scholar believe originated in the Jalisco-Zacatecas region. Can’t wait to go to Teresita’s. Me encanto tu entrada de hoy.

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