This Saturday, more than 7,000 people will be filling up the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas to recognize Tejano artists from all over the U.S. The 32nd Annual Tejano Music Awards will feature performances by new and upcoming artists such as Ricky Valenz and Juaquin Cura, as well as Tracy Perez and Jessica Sanchez, among many others.
Long-time Tejano singer Elsa Garcia is also one of three to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her years of dedication to Tejano music. She is also known as the first female producer in the genre of Tejano music and was the first Hispanic to have a Barbie doll made in her likeness in 1996.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says Garcia bashfully. “I feel like there aren’t enough words to describe the elation. All the time we spend making music to make people happy — it’s just a confirmation this may have happened.”
Garcia, now 58, immigrated to Houston, Texas from Monterrey, Mexico at 2 years old. She was pretty much destined for a life in music, as her mother, Hermelinda Escamilla, was a famous Mexican singer in the 1940s and ‘50s, known as “Linda la Norteña.”
“My mom is my inspiration,” says Garcia. “There was just a spark in her eye when she sang, and I saw it reflected in the crowd. I may have subconsciously seen it. My husband saw that talent in me and said ‘don’t waste it.’”
She says her husband was the one who literally pushed her on the stage. He used to have a local band, and one night, during a performance at the University of Houston, the singer got laryngitis. She says her husband begged her to sing.
“I’m a super shy introverted person, but as soon as I got on that stage, it felt so natural,” says Garcia. “I was nervous, but the rest is history. I became the lead singer of the group.”
She says being a Capricorn, she tends to be very hands on and a little OCD — that’s what led her to become producer of her last five albums and even went on to produce her brother’s first album.
Although she does not have a favorite album, because she says she puts the same love and feeling in all of them, she says her first huge hit was the song “Ya Te Vi” in 1993.
“It became the national anthem for Tejanas,” says Garcia. “The men equally love the song.”
Garcia, now retired, has had a successful career of 11 albums — 4 attaining gold — various awards, and being inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in 2011.
“‘I did that?’ I have not stopped saying those words. When you are in it, you are just working, you have the blinders on. I carried 10 people on staff and I always cared about them bringing home money to their families.”
Garcia says she’s so happy now.
“It was time to spend time with my children,” says Garcia about her two daughters and one son. “I wanted to be a part of their life.”
She says she still keeps herself busy working from home as a real estate investor and as owner of a signing agency.
“It’s part of my character,” says Garcia. “I’m not a very good housekeeper, but I can run businesses.”
She says she feels she has done more in life than she ever would do professionally, and she’s at peace knowing she accomplished one of her most important goals — putting her three kids through college, because they are the first in the family to go.
“If I get another opportunity to perform I will be happy,” says the humble Garcia. “I’ll possibly do a reunion tour, and only because my fans keep bugging me…I feel like it’s unfair not to do that for my fans, at least one big show.”