UCLA unveils Mexican American music archive

UCLA is unveiling a massive digital archive of Mexican-American music recordings, some more than a century old. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story on today's event.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz collected more than 40,000 mostly Spanish-language records in 78 and 45 RPM format. They were the product of small record labels in Texas and California. Strachwitz says they're songs about love, crime, death, drinking, and immigration.

Chris Strachwitz: In these grooves of these records, this is the literature of the people. They don't write books, they don't write dissertations, but the sure compose and listen to songs.

Guzman-Lopez: He says an important group is Los Madrugadores, the "early risers" based in Los Angeles during the 1930s.

Strachwitz: They were first initiated and led by Pedro J. Gonzalez, who was an early radio star. He got radio programs going, but he was also a very strong activist for unions and he got into all kids of trouble. They actually sent him to the penitentiary, the poor guy.

["Ya Volvio Pedro J. Gonzalez" by Los Madrugadores]

Guzman-Lopez: It's the largest archive of its kind. Samples of songs UCLA's digitized so far are available online.