Pioneer of Mexicana women in theater
This literary ofrenda by Deborah Vargas published in La Voz de Esperanza in November, 2006 observes the passing of “una hija del Westside de San Antonio.”
On one research trip to Mexico City, I sat at the Cineteca Nacional, waiting for the archived film Bolero Inmortal (1958) to begin. Playing the character “Lucha Medina,” Eva Garza came to life. I was able to screen several movies there that Eva appeared in. I recalled Rita Vidaurri’s profound words during my interview with her, “Eva Garza, she and I, were International Tejanas.”
Eva Garza was born May 11, 1917, on Montezuma St. on the Westside of San Antonio. The third oldest of 7 children, she graduated from Lanier High School in 1934. Influenced by the musical talents of her mother and grandmother, her sister, Tina, recalled that one of the first women Eva saw perform was Rosita Fernández, singing with her sister Berta as “Las Dinámicas Estrellas.” Eva’s entrance into public performance occurred in singing contests popular in the 1930s and 1940s. She was 16 when she won a second place prize of $500 for her rendition of “I’m in the Mood for Love” at the Texas Theatre. Soon after, Eva would appear on “La Hora Anáhauc,” a popular radio program. Although in high school, Eva appeared on radio and popular venues like El Teatro Nacional. Her parents became quite protective. What helped was that their father worked as a barber nearby where Eva often performed. Eva’s first recording sessions were held at the Texas Hotel for the Bluebird Records label. Rumbas, sons, and boleros such as “La Jaibera” and “Calientito" were among her first songs recorded in 1936. Her recordings would eventually include well-known composers such as Luis Alcaraz and Chucho Monje.
Eva’s most significant career transition came when she auditioned at the local Majestic Theatre for the Sally Rand Dance Revue in 1937. Rand assured Eva’s parents that the dancers would be chaperoned. Eva traveled with the revue for 6 months touring from Texas to Florida and north into Canada. Joining the dance revue changed Eva’s life forever. After touring with Sally Rand, Eva gained popularity, playing some of the most famous nightspots along the Southwest and West Coast, including the Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles. On one of these tours she met Felipe “el Charro” Gil (of Charro Gil y Sus Corporales) at a radio show in Juarez, Mexico. Charro, with brother Alfredo Gil, would later form Trío Los Panchos. Charro and Eva married in 1939 and settled in New York where she recorded for Columbia Records and sang for CBS radio shows, including the “Sweetheart of the Americas” programs that were aired for the U.S. troops during World War II.