“Allá en el rancho grande,
allá donde vivía,
había una rancherita,
que alegre me decía,
que alegre me decía…”
(“Out there on the big ranch,
Out there where I was living;
There was a little rancher gal,
Who cheerfully she told me,
Who cheerfully she told me…”)
If the people north of the Rio Grande had their singing cowboys such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, those south of the Rio Bravo had singing vaqueros such as Tito Guízar and Pedro Infante.
And therein lies my story, and how the people of these adjoining geographical regions traditionally have more in common than what will ever set them apart.
Including their love for their music and western cinema.
‘Allá En El Rancho Grande’ was first written sometime in the mid-1920s, but did not hit its stride until the release of the Mexican movie by the same name in 1936. The movie in turn owed its basic story plot to a novel written by Luz Guzmán Aguilera de Arellano.
The main character role was played by Tito Guízar. Guízar was trained as an opera singer and achieved his first recognition in New York City. He also worked with American singing cowboy legend Leonard Slye, better known as Roy Rogers.
The movie was directed by Fernando de Fuentes and is seen by many as the beginning of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. He was considered a Mexican version of John Ford and much like Ford’s film trilogy about the American frontier cavalry, Fernando de Fuentes did the same about the Mexican Revolution. My personal favorite is ‘Vámonos Con Pancho Villa,’ a realistic, even brutal depiction of both Villa and likewise the revolution.
‘Allá En El Rancho Grande’ became so popular both in film and song it was redone again in 1948. This time Pedro Infante had the lead role instead of Tito Guízar and once again both enjoyed huge successes. So much so, that the song crossed over the border and became very popular here, though with mostly different lyrics.
Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Dean Martin and even Elvis Presley all did versions of the tune.
Yet for me, my favourite performer of all was my grandfather Ben English, Jr. In my years of growing up around that man, it was one of only two songs I can remember him singing. The other was Eddy Arnold’s ‘Cattle Call.’
‘Allá En El Rancho Grande’ was also a hands down favorite in the old jukebox at the Lajitas Trading Post, which my family used as a headquarters for our operations. Most of the selections contained therein were Mexican in nature, and were played far more frequently than any of the Anglo songs.
I suppose that was one of the reasons I was teased somewhat for speaking English with a Mexican accent after we left the lower Big Bend.
A habit I occasionally still lapse into.
But that’s okay, too. It was all part of my raising and I feel blessed to have experienced such a different childhood and time. It shaped me greatly into who I am today.
With all this as background, ‘Allá En El Rancho Grande’ was an easy choice for the song playlist involving my second book ‘Destiny’s Way.’ Thanks to the book blog tour done by Lone Star Literary Life, it helps link that era in the lower Big Bend with the one described in ‘Destiny’s Way.’
As for myself?
This photograph was taken below Hot Springs in Big Bend National Park. At one time my great-great Aunt Mag English Smith lived in this immediate area and ran the Hot Springs before there even was a national park. Her favorite nephew happened to be my grandfather, who as a younger man prowled this land same as I now do.
You can see the river coursing its way between Texas and Coahuila, in its perpetual role of not only a divider but also a uniter. The mighty Sierra del Carmen of Mexico rises majestically on the horizon.
Sometimes when I am alone on one of my journeys through this desert, when the evening is starting to cool and the wind wafts along in a certain manner, my ears and my memories like to play tricks on me.
For out there in the distance, somewhere along that river I can still hear my grandfather singing about his ‘Rancho Grande.’
And I smile…
Ben H. English
A link to the original Tito Guízar version of ‘Allá En El Rancho Grande’:
Creative Texts Publishers
Front Street Books
Old Town Books
The Twig Book Shop
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
Lone Star Literary Life
Marta Powell Stafford