A project sponsored by Los Tigres del Norte Fund at UCLA and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, in collaboration with the Fund for Folk Culture. Additional funding has been provided by Arhoolie Records, the UCLA Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Grammy Foundation, Lucasfilm Foundation and others.
Digitization, which began on October 15, 2001, is managed at the Arhoolie Foundation's facilities in El Cerrito, California. The production team, under the direction of Foundation Board members Tom Diamant and Chris Strachwitz, first cataloged the entire collection of over 130,000 individual recordings on cassettes and 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33 1/3 rpm long-playing (lp) records. They purchased specialized equipment to begin the initial phase of this highly technical process.
The Strachwitz Frontera Collection contains three sections, roughly divided by era.
The early-twentieth century section includes approximately twenty thousand 78 rpm recordings of Mexican vernacular music recorded from around 1905 to 1955. These performances document many types of popular lyric songs, including the first recordings of corridos (narrative ballads on topics of the day), canciones, boleros, rancheras, and sones, as well as many types of instrumental music, including the first recordings of norteño and conjunto music. This early work is the foundation for Latino music today, since the singers and musicians who made these records helped popularize and propagate a number of traditions, including regional Mexican, Tejano, Chicano, and Mexican American music. In addition, this section includes many spoken performances, such as patriotic speeches and vernacular comedy skits. Many of the recordings are one-of-a-kind because the companies that recorded them no longer exist or, if they do exist, lost or melted their metal masters, especially during World War II.
The late-twentieth century section contains approximately fourteen thousand 45 rpm recordings dating from around 1955 to the 1990s. These include recordings by a wide range of small regional firms created to serve the musical interests of the growing immigrant population in the United States, especially along the border.
The last section of the collection includes approximately three thousand 33 1/3 rpm recordings from around 1955 to 1990, demonstrating the continuity of styles and regional traditions into contemporary times.
Because of the depth and breadth of these three sections, the Strachwitz Frontera Collection is unique and irreplaceable.