TACO LAND

John H. Slate

TACO LAND. Taco Land was a bar and nightclub located at 103 West Grayson Street in San Antonio. Ramiro "Ram" Ayala (1933– 2005) opened Taco Land (where he sold ten-cent tacos) in 1965 and in 1969 purchased the property for $21,000. Overlooking an undeveloped portion of the San Antonio River, the club featured a spare patio that included a very old live oak tree that nearly blocked one of the two entrances. Located in the same block as the Pearl Brewery, it catered to blue collar workers, North Side San Antonio residents, and gained a reputation as a biker hangout in the 1970s.

Music was not a central feature of the club until the early 1980s, when local punk rockers approached Ayala about playing at the venue. Booking a mix of local rock, country, and punk rock acts, Ayala became a godfather to the local alternative music scene and his club a home to bands that often were not accepted in mainstream clubs.

Among the local bands that played Taco Land were Los #3 Dinners, Hickoids, Boxcar Satan, the Country Giants, the Bang Gang, the Marching Plague, the Flaming Hellcats, the Sons of Hercules, and many others. Bands from around the state also appeared. Many nationally-known touring punk and rock acts played Taco Land, including Yo La Tengo, L7, the Fleshtones, the Minutemen, the Cramps, GWAR, and the Dead Milkmen. Ram Ayala’s generosity often went far beyond the opportunity to play and sometimes included gas money, food, and drink to struggling traveling bands.

A number of recordings reference Taco Land, including the Dead Milkmen’s "Tacoland," Kevin & the Black Tears’ "Taco Land Shuffle," Boxcar Satan’s "Boxcardo's Hideaway," Geronimo Treviño’s "Macho Man From Taco Land," Little Neesie’s "Stop It, You're Killing Me," and Suzy Bravo & Hammered’s "Face Down, Ass Up."

Taco Land closed permanently after Ram Ayala was murdered during a robbery on June 24, 2005, while tending bar. He was survived by a wife and five children. Former patrons and musicians of Taco Land organized a tribute to Ayala in the form of an annual music festival, Ram Jam. A 1999 documentary on Taco Land captured Ayala’s philosophy of the music business and of Taco Land itself in an interview: "You might not make no money, but you'll have a good time. You can't buy a good time. And a good time is here."

In 2011 television star and San Antonio native Ricardo Chavira and local real estate developer David Adelman purchased the property and formed Tacoland Studios LLC. In May 2013 Chris Erck finalized a twenty-year lease on the property and made plans to renovate the club which would be renamed as one word—Tacoland. In 2015 the venue, called TacoLand, under Erck’s management, offered a full bar, an open-air patio, dining options, and some live music. Erck commented, “Think of it as TacoLand 2.0.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

San Antonio Express-News, June 24, 27, 30, 2005; May 31, 2013; August 7, 2013. San Antonio Current, April 7, 2010. Shea Shackelford, “Silenced By Violence, Texas Club Nurtured Misfit Music” [transcript] National Public Radio, October 18, 2009. VIVA TACOLAND! (www.vivatacoland.com), accessed August 26, 2015.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John H. Slate , "TACO LAND," accessed November 14, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xdt05.

Uploaded on April 26, 2015. Modified on August 26, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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