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Tejano legend Emilio Navaira focus of new Wittliff Collections exhibit

Emilio Navaira at Texas State University, 1994.
Emilio Navaira (right) with Texas State President Jerry Supple in 1994. (The Wittliff Collections)

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
Office of Media Relations
September 13, 2016

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 said, 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 said.

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 53. 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.

About the Wittliff Collections

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 at www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/. Exhibitions and events at the Wittliff Collections are free and open to the public.