Recently I heard that expression, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck at all.” These days I can relate, but accordionista Eva Ybarra can relate more. The undisputed, long-reigning Queen of Conjunto Accordion and San Antonio treasure has had a bad run lately. First, in late spring someone burgled her house, stealing between $15,000 - $18,000 of rare instruments, jewelry, and electrical equipment. Then she, like so many others, faced foreclosure on her home. As a final insult to injury, she recently lost her car, leaving her with no transportation to get to and from gigs. Compound this with a lack of savings, and it’s easy to see why Ybarra is up a creek.
“Eva has never made too much money on her gigs,” says close friend and Tejano Conjunto Festival organizer Juan Tejeda. “She has always struggled, it seems.” Most conjunto bands are lucky to get $40 per hour per player, said Tejeda, and Ybarra’s own group is no exception. And the gigs are few and far between, says Ybarra. “I only worked three hours last month,” she said from her (for now) house on San Antonio’s South Side. “It’s been ugly, ugly,” she continued, “but everyone has been helping me out.”
An art auction and impromptu donation box at the Tejano Conjunto Festival last May brought in $1,800. Another local benefit raised more funds this summer, but still Ybarra is struggling. On Sunday from 6-10 pm, friend and collaborator Greg Goodman of Sexto Sol will throw a benefit concert at Jovita’s Restaurant in Austin for Ybarra. (1619 S. First St., Austin, jovitas.com) The Queen herself hopes to play, if she can find a ride to the gig, as well as Sexto Sol, Joel Guzman and Sarah Fox, and members of Los Pinkys and Conjunto Aztlan. Cover is $10.
Ybarra can sympathize with San Antonians who must stick closer to home. You can still help la reina by donating to a fund administered by Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (esperanzacenter.org, (210) 228-0201) or by calling Ybarra directly to arrange gigs or private lessons, (210) 265-3977. Here’s hoping the lady sees her luck change, soon.