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South Texas Living

Music for the ages

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
July 18, 2012 | 2,319 views | Post a comment

I attended the golden wedding anniversary celebration last month of Henry’s cousin, Rebecca Castro Rocha and her husband Daniel. It was a beautiful celebration. The downside to it was that Henry was unable to go with me. He missed out on visiting with a lot of cousins.

After a beautiful church ceremony, we moved to the hall where the reception was to be held. After the delicious meal and presentations by the celebrants, the DJ began playing oldies. After a while, he announced that he had a special guest to introduce. A distinguished-looking older gentleman stepped out onto the floor. The DJ introduced him as René René. There were a lot of oooohs. Except for the very young, I think the rest of us all had heard of René René.

He told us a little bit about his humble beginning in his music career, adding humor to his story. (He has been a very successful singer-songwriter-composer for many decades.) Then he started belting out one of the first songs that earned him worldwide recognition -- “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero.” It is one of my very favorite songs. He said that all of his compositions are love songs. He followed up with “Angelito,” his other international bilingual song.

He sang other popular songs before he switched to Christian songs, which he has also composed, in English. He had us clapping and singing along with him. He said that he now sings for the Lord and gave a testimonial on that. After he went back to join his wife at their table, I knew I had to go talk with him. He stirred up a very pleasant memory for me, and I had to share it with him.

It was April of 1962. The Falstaff Brewing Corporation was having a convention in Corpus Christi and all the distributors and their wives were invited. We knew about it way ahead of time, but then I had an emergency appendectomy. (I wrote about it in my series on Dr. Blake.) I was four months into my pregnancy with our seventh child, and after the surgery, I wasn’t sure I would get to go.

Mamá told me it was a “tonter’a” (foolishness) to even think of going. But Dr. Blake removed the staples a few days before we were to go and I felt much better. Dr. Blake just cautioned me about not picking up anything heavy. I convinced Mamá that I would be better off going on the trip than staying home with the kids. So we left them with our faithful babysitter, Lilly De La Fuente (Lilly Bo to her family and friends).

On the second day of the convention, the men were tied up in business meetings, so the wives were taken for a plane ride over the city and then driven to a hotel where we were to attend a luncheon. It was a ritzy-looking place. For our entertainment, they had a band that featured two male vocalists. They called themselves René y René.

They sang several songs, but the one that stuck with me was “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero.” The English part goes, “Believe Me When I Say How Much I Love You.” It has been a favorite of mine since then. So I shared that with this incredibly talented artist, and he thanked me. (His real name is René Victor Ornelas.) His singing partner and collaborator passed away not too long ago.

When I returned to my table, I told my son, Marshall, and daughter-in-law, Letty, about something else that happened at that luncheon. We were served wine with our meal. I liked wine, so I didn’t have trouble drinking the first glass, slowly of course. But then the waiter came and filled it up again. I made that one last even longer, but before I could finish it, he came and filled it a third time. I whispered to the lady sitting next to me that I really didn’t want anymore. That’s when she told me that I should have turned my glass upside down to indicate I didn’t want anymore. Like I was supposed to know that! I had never been to anything like that before. In fact, I was the youngest wife there. The others were all seasoned veterans.

Because René René’s songs are love songs, they appeal to people of all ages. Our daughter Lia chose “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero” for the dollar dance at Gilbert’s and her wedding reception 19 years ago. Even someone who can’t dance can sway to the music. We enjoy watching the video every now and then because we see Lia dancing with her late brothers, Larry and Louie. Bittersweet memories.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email address is

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