En Mi Corazón, Soy Tejana {A Chicago Girl Loves Corpus Christi}


One of the most wonderful and unique things about Corpus Christi is our Tejano heritage.  The food, music, and language add incredible richness and flavor to our beautiful city.

According to The Texas State Historical Association, The term “Tejano” was used as early as 1824, when Miguel Ramos Arispe, author of the Mexican Constitution, referred to Texans in correspondence with the town council of Bexar.

Today, “Tejano” typically refers specifically to South Texans of Mexican descent.  The term went mainstream nationally with the 1997 release of the movie Selena, the undisputed Queen of Tejano music.

I love Tejano music.

But “technically”, I’m not Tejana. Technically.  Because I am Tejana.  In my heart.  En mi corazón, siempre Tejana.

I was born in the suburbs of Chicago.  My mother is of Irish descent (mostly) and my dad is of Irish-German descent (mostly).  That makes me Irish-American, I guess.  Or maybe German-American.  Actually, I’m just white.  I’m super white. The kind of white that burns every time I get in the sun.  Actually, I’m pink.  I’m a blue eyed, red-headed, chubby, pink white girl. (Well, I’m red-headed when I keep my salon appointment.)  No one ever asks me where my ancestors are from.  Everyone can tell just by looking at me.  Anglo. Gringo. Guera.  WHITE.

Pero, en mi corazón, siempre Tejana.

I don’t speak Spanish well.  I love the language and have adopted many Tejano words.  Like Chongo.  Chancla.  N’ombre.  It cracks my “real” Tejano friends up when I say something like “N’ombre – I had to pull my hair into a chongo and get my chanclas on real fast, because we were leaving!”  (No  man, I had to pull my hair into a ponytail and get my flip-flops on real fast because we were leaving!”)

The food.

Tejano food is AMAZING.  I guess technically its Mexican food, but I’ve lived all over the U.S. and we South Texans have different Mexican food than anywhere else.  Breakfast tacos with pillowy flour tortillas “Charlie Browned” (browned until tiny char marks are on it).  That’s Tejano.  Giant Styrofoam cups filled with a variety of melons, cucumbers, coconut, and maraschino cherries topped with salt, lime & chile colorado.  Puro Tejano. Enchiladas?  Ok – I guess enchiladas are in lots of places, but nowhere else can you get cheesy, melty, saucy enchiladas like here in South Texas.  (Have you been to Molè?  OMG.  YUM.) You can get carne asada anywhere, but only in South Texas can you get carne guisada.   If you want to get really Tejano, get a fresh flour tortilla and fill it with cabrito (goat) and nopalitos (pickled cactus).  So. Incredibly, Delicious.

And the music.

Selena – la reina.  (The queen).  But there is a lot of great Tejano music.  And it’s LOCAL.  Watch KIII’s Domingo Live on a Sunday morning to hear wonderful local bands. My favorite bands are Intocable, Michael Salgado, Bobby Pulido, La Tropa F, Emilio (God rest his soul!), Jaime y los Chamacos, La Mafia… and those are just the CDs I own.

You may wonder how an Irish-White girl from Chicago came to love all things Tejano.  Here is my story (it’s kinda long. Sorry)

In 1992, I married the love of my life.  His ancestors are Japanese.  All four of his grandparents were born in Okinawa, Japan.  They moved to Hawaii in the 1920s to work the sugar cane fields.  He grew up in Los Angeles.  East Los Angeles.  Ever hear of Cheech & Chong?  That’s where my husband is from.  He grew up surfing, saying “dude” and listening to Mexican-American bands like Los Lobos & Santana.

We lived in Arizona from 1994-1997.  One day my Los Angeleno husband turned on the cable and saw a TV show called The Johnny Canales show.  If you aren’t familiar with Johnny Canales, he is a great promoter of Tejano music.  He had a show – filmed in Corpus Christi – where he featured Tejano bands.  Husband heard the music.  Husband saw the video of people waving from the Corpus Christi Bayfront.

Husband is a beach guy.  He needs to be on the water like he needs air in his lungs.  Arizona is a great place to go to school but there is no ocean.  Husband needed to live by an ocean.  We never thought we could ever live by an ocean because in California (and Hawaii, and Florida, and pretty much anywhere there is a beach), property near the ocean is crazy expensive.  Then husband saw Johnny Canales.  He researched Corpus Christi.  Husband fell hard for Corpus Christi.

When husband told me that after he graduated, we would be moving to Texas I said “Yeah – you and your next wife.”  To me, Texas was big hair, Mary Kay eyeshadow, and shoulder pads. I watched all 14 seasons of Dallas.  I could not see myself living in Texas.  So husband went on a quest.

He started by bringing home a Tejano CD.  It was A Un Nuevo Nivel by La Tropa F. It was good.  Really good.  I love the song Juan Sabor.  Then he brought home Selena.  Then Emilio.  Bobby Pulido.  I was hooked.  Then he brought home a Texas beer:  Shiner Boch.  It was good.  Slowly, I was liking Texas.

Finally, he brought me to Corpus Christi on Valentine’s day.  We went to the beach, ate oysters at Water Street, and had a Shiner at Republic of Texas.  We saw homes near the water – affordable homes.  I agreed to try Corpus Christi.

The rest is history.  We found jobs, bought a house and had three little dark headed babies.  We have a church family.  We have friends.  Many, many friends – some are “real” Tejanos.  They think it’s hilarious that I’ve adopted so much of their culture.  We have a wonderful life.

Por que somos Tejanos.  Siempre.

He brought me here
He brought me here
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A native Chicagoan, Mary and her Los Angeleno husband moved to Corpus Christi in 1997, where they had 3 Texas boys {14, 11 and 8}. Mary is a devout Catholic, but she swears too much. She works out all the time, but she's still fat. {Her words!} She is a scrap-dork and Facebook addict. Mary works full time so she and her husband can send their boys to Catholic School. This ensures her boys get first rate educations while allowing her full guilt inducement and martyr status.


  1. I love your style my crazy friend. And I am so glad Greg decided to drag you to Corpus.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story! If I ever had to leave Corpus, I would definitely miss the food, the music, the National Seashore and the South Texas winters (among other things).

  3. You’re more “tejana” than me!……..and I was born and raised here. Lol. It’s wonderful to know you find the culture so delicious! I have to make you some of my enchiladas or menudo some time. ?

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