For many local musicians, it’s hard to keep a roof overhead. For Juan Santana, it’s no problem. When he’s not singing with the Mexican folk group Mariachi Orgullo de America or performing his own songs as a solo artist, he’s actually roofing houses.
“He’s an amazing guy. He’s done a lot to grow Hispanic music in Oklahoma,” said Robert Ruiz, owner of Énye Music, Santana’s record label.
Santana was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, in 1962, but moved to Lubbock, Texas, at 13. There he began playing guitar in mariachi and tropical bands, eventually deciding to come to Oklahoma.
“I came here to work, not to steal,” Santana said. “In Mexico, it’s hard. I was illegal, too, but I got my green card.”
He quickly hooked up with the group Conjunto Regional Hermanos Rios, in what was then a pretty small market for Hispanic music.
“At that time, there were no Mexican stores, not many restaurants … maybe Chelinos,” he said.
But Santana stuck around and waited for the demographics to catch up.
“Oklahoma has been so good to me,” he said.
His new disc, “El Rufero” (“The Roofer”) is a traditional statement of purpose, as well as an all-inclusive fun spin.
“White people like to dance to it as much as anyone else,” Santana said. “Tory Troutman