Ruben H. Vazquez: 1930-2015, a mariachi with a heart of gold

In the 1950s Ruben H. Vazquez joined some of the first mariachi bands in Chicago, Mariachi Jalisco and Mariachi Potosino.

Mariachi Potosino went on to play for President Johnson, Nixon, and Kennedy as well as for both Mayor Daleys.

Photos of Vazquez and his mariachi band are in the book “Mexican Chicago” and also have been shown in the National Museum of Mexican Art.

“They are my brothers,” Vazquez told Telemundo 10 years ago in an interview about Mariachi Potosino. “We are a family.”

Mariachi Potosino also played with famous Mexican artists, Lola Beltran and Agustin Lara.

Vazquez began playing music at the age of 12 in a small town in Michoacan, Mexico, where he was born.

His father, Miguel Vazquez, also was a musician. But it was a childhood friend who gave him his first guitar.

He filled in for him at a party and earned 25 pesos, the equivalent of a quarter, for his first gig.

He migrated to Chicago area at the age of 26. He always held two jobs, one as a factory worker and the other as a mariachi musician.

He raised his family in the western suburbs.

After he retired, he moved to the San Antonio area in 2001.

He played weekends at local Mexican restaurants. He continued to play music until weeks before his death at the age of 85 on Aug. 11. 2015.

His last event was a wedding that he played with new trio he formed a year ago called “Mariachi Los Diferentes.”

In the group, he mentored Carlos Chavez, 17, a young guitarist.

“He taught me to play, and now I can play on my own,” Chavez, a pallbearer, said after at Mass held for Vazquez in Texas Friday.

Also in his trio was retiree Eleverio Dominguez. He gave him one of his mariachi suits so they could play in style.

“He even gave me these mariachi boots,” said Dominguez, also a pallbearer.

Vazquez did not have a formal education in music but he shared his passion with all he met.

In the San Antonio area, he also became active with various church organizations and a cursillo group. He was a member of the Divine Mercy ministry and also volunteered at a food bank with St. Vincent de Paul. He visited nursing homes to administer the Eucharist and also played music for the elderly.

“Ruben was a very humble and faithful man and cared more for others than himself,” said his friend Joe Castro at the Mass Friday. “Most of all he wanted to be a very good example for his children.”

He was preceded in death by his wife Maria and a son Hector.

Ruben is survived by his wife of 16 years Santa Ortiz Vaquez; five children Patricia Vazquez-Kurian, Michael Vazquez, Ruben Vazquez Jr., Art Vazquez and Albert Vazquez; five stepchildren, Sylvia Puente, Victor Puente, Daniel Puente, Teresa Puente and Cecilia Puente-Freitag; four sisters, Esperanza Vazquez de Herrera, Lola Vazquez de Cardenas, Maria Vazquez, Concha Salazar, and one brother, Miguel Vazquez; 18 grandchildren and stepgrandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A funeral Mass was held for Vazquez Friday at St. Monica Catholic Church in Converse, Texas.

Visitation will be Wednesday Aug. 19 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Cypress Funeral Home, 1698 N. Bloomingdale Rd, Glendale Heights, Illinois. Funeral mass will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday Aug. 20 at St. Isidore Catholic Church, 427 W Army Trail Rd., Bloomingdale, Illinois.

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