Skip to Content

Emilio Navaira: Tejano Music Icon

Emilio Navaira recording in San Antonio, © Ramón Hernández

October 2016 - January 2017
EMILIO NAVAIRA: Tejano Music Icon

Tejano Music icon Emilio Navaira, who grew up on the south side of San Antonio and attended Texas State University, is the subject of a special exhibition at the Wittliff Collections.

Guest curated by Ramón Hernández, founder/curator of Hispanic Entertainment Archives, the display highlights the entire career of the beloved music legend, who died earlier this year. The exhibit is drawn from Hernández’s extensive personal collection, with additional items loaned courtesy of Maru Navaira, Emilio’s wife.

Emilio was “a rocker at heart,” Hernández says, and he initially resisted wearing cowboy clothing. “What is ironic is that the cowboy hat, jeans and boots he argued against...came to define his image – and earned him extra revenue as a spokesperson for Stetson hats, Wrangler jeans, and Tony Lama boots.”

Hernández’s display showcases vintage recordings and surprising early photos of Emilio prior to his branding as a cowboy, as well as a wealth of mementos and personal artifacts, including Emilio’s signature Stetson hat, wrangler jeans, boots and belt buckle.

“Emilio broke attendance records as a Tejano artist at livestock and rodeo shows,” Hernández says. “He filled arenas in Mexico, won coveted Grammy Awards and dominated the Tejano Music Awards for years. He continued his upward climb when he recorded country music and went on tour with fellow Texas State University alum George Strait and other top C&W artists.”

Emilio Hernández Navaira, III died of cardiovascular disease in May, 2016 at the age of fifty-three. His funeral in San Antonio was attended by thousands of fans who came to pay their last respects to one of the great stars of Tejano music.

Now, his legacy lives on in this special display at the Wittliff Collections, courtesy of Ramón Hernández and his Hispanic Entertainment Archives. The exhibit will be on view until December 16, 2016.

The Wittliff Collections are located on the seventh floor of the Albert B. Alkek Library at Texas State University in San Marcos. Visitor information, including hours, directions and parking details, is available on the Wittliff Collections website.

As always, exhibitions and events at the Wittliff Collections are free and open to the public.

[above] Emilio Navaira recording in San Antonio, © Ramón Hernández