A group of leaders from Austin’s Latino music scene called for the creation of a Latino music fund on Wednesday, during the citizen communication portion of an Austin Music Commission meeting.
A document submitted to the commission from the Mexican-American Music Alliance (MAMA) and the Latin Music Coalition Austin (LMCA), requested a $1.5 million fund be created to address the "disparity that exists" in financial support for Mexican American and Latino musicians, community venues and industry development. Latinos make up more than a third of Austin's population.
"As of today, there's still not a signature Latin music venue, a radio station that nurtures Latin local talent or a destination Latin-centric music mestival," musician Alex Vallejo said during the meeting.
Ana Maciel, who serves on the advisory board for the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center Hillside Concert Series, said she never received assistance to pay the artists for the event, the longest running outdoor music series in Austin, until the 60th anniversary of the series in 2018.
When she asked the city’s parks department for support in earlier years, "we were told that we received enough help by allowing us to have the stage for free," Maciel said over the phone on Thursday.
"That, to me, says a lot about how culturally disconnected (Latino musicians) are from what this music scene is all about," she said.
Johnny Limon, vice president of the Austin Tejano Music Coalition, said the last time that Tejano music was included in any event at Auditorium Shores was "way back during the Austin Aqua Festival." Aqua Festival was a popular city music event that ended in the mid-’90s.
The sad part, Limon said, is that Tejano music is "the only native Texas music. And yet, we do not play a part in any of the music scene downtown."
In the document submitted to the commission, the music groups also called for $2 million of the $12 million bond approved in 2018 for creative spaces to be allocated to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center, in order to create a Latino music hub.
Maciel, who also has served as board chair for MACC, said the center had been promised $27 million in bond money from the city, but a planned expansion has not taken place.
According to a city document from a 2018 meeting of the MACC’s advisory board, Maciel asked about a timeline for release of the funds. Kim McNeely, director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, responded that the department does not get all the money in one lump sum but that a certain amount would be given for design work.
"There is no space at the MACC, because (the expansion) has not been completed," Maciel said at the Music Commission meeting.
Since the beginning of the year, the commission has been examining how new hotel occupancy tax dollars in the ATX Live Music Fund should be allocated. On June 11, Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone, vice-chair of the commission, called for the creation of a Black Live Music Fund to support Austin’s long-marginalized Black music community during a meeting of a separate working group formed to discuss the fund.
Mahone called for half of the hotel occupancy tax money to be allocated to the Black Live Music Fund to redress Austin’s decades-long failure to support the city’s Black music scene.
Since then, the Music Commission has started meeting twice a month to discuss the Black Live Music Fund, and they have formed a separate working group focused on systemic racism within the music industry.
Last month, a group of prominent musicians signed a petition supporting Mahone’s efforts.
On Thursday, Mahone said he would invite members from the Latino music groups to join the systemic racism working group.
"We will definitely be discussing this going forward. I also anticipate other groups coming forward soon with similar asks and plans, which are deserving as well," Rick Carney, chair of the Music Commission, said on Thursday. "For me, the goal is to address these inequities and rethink how public funds are used to support music and the arts."
UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify a detail about the MACC expansion.