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No beans about it, says Watsonville Councilman Emilio Martinez: the dual berry festivals will be a fiasco.
LES PETERSON, the promoter who decided to move the whatever-type-berry-you-want-to-call-it festival from Watsonville to the fairgrounds, announced that he will have Malo headline the event. This leaves the city of Watsonville with no headliner and with little time to put on a festival that may end up with nothing more than a few food vendors. No doubt, the dueling Strawberry/berry Festivals may prove to be a fiasco, but at the very least they'll provide some needed comedic relief during this depression we are calling a recession.
I do have to admit that paying to see Malo perform for what it will cost you to buy a loaf of bread is not a bad deal. Malo's 1972 hit "Suavecito" is considered the Chicano Mexican Anthem by some. If you don't remember the word "Chicano," I doubt you will also remember Malo unless 38 years ago you were groovy. Yep, way before you could text Mom and Dad from Cancun that you're studying for finals in your dorm room, Malo was a two-hit wonder.
The first time I heard "Suavecito" and "Nena" was on wax. I had just graduated from high school the year before. Cruising the empty Gilroy streets after midnight in my '58 Chevy Bel-Air, I'd listen to Wolfman Jack blare "Suavecito, me vida" on AM radio. If you don't remember disc jockey Wolfman Jack, it won't matter to you that the writer of "Suavecito" and original lead singer with Malo, Richard Bean, is still performing, but with his own band, "Sapo." Without Mr. Bean singing "Suavecito" along with Malo, will be like a combo plate without the whole enchilada.
The original Malo band is older than some trees surrounding the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. That's why you may only see one original performer, and he may be stuffed and held up by props. If I had my druthers, I would have Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs perform "Wooly Bully" for the downtown Watsonville Strawberry Festival at the same time Malo takes the stage. Sam the Sham begins his song with "Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quarto," so at least we know he can count in Spanish, which I wonder if promoter Peterson can do.
The only real Mexican anthem for "Chicanos" is "Volver" by Vincente Fernandez. When my kids see me have a few copas and want to see me cry and get a good laugh, they put "Volver" on the disc player. Within minutes Mom and I are dancing in the living room while I wipe away tears and make her promise to play the song at my funeral. Los Lobos, who performed at the Castroville Artichoke Festival, sing a mean version of "Volver." I hope Malo can perform "Volver," because if they can't, it will not be very "Suavecito." Hey, if Carlos Santana won't give a job to brother Jorge of Malo fame, we know something's up.
Watsonville should keep our festival simple, like the song "Wooly Bully": "Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw ... had two big horns and a wooly jaw ... Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully ..." Except I would change Wooly Bully to "Bule ha ule;" that translates to something like "smells like burning rubber," which may happen as people peel out from both berry festivals. You know where I will be--dancing to "Nena"!
Emilio Martinez is the District 6 representative on the Watsonville City Council. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the council or city staff.
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