Finding History on a Store Sticker

By Juan Antonio Cuéllar,
Frontera Collection Curator

Throughout my 20 years of digitizing the Frontera Collection, I was always intrigued by the store stickers found on many 78s. A predecessor to the “hype” stickers found on records today, the store stickers of the Frontera Collection form a mental map of where Mexican culture was bought, sold, and treasured by immigrants in the U.S. More often than not, store stickers were also one of their only visual ties to the places they left behind in Mexico. 

Mexican record stores were home to not just records but all sorts of Mexican products, from books to food. The stickers from these stores usually contained the store name, address, and sometimes the proprietor’s name as well. These stickers would have reminded record owners how far the 78 had traveled before it ever made it to their record player. Stickers would have also been potent reminders of the time and place where they bought the record. For those who emigrated, those reminders were especially important. 

A selection of record store stickers from Frontera Collection 78 rpm records

I love finding store stickers on 78s. I love searching for the store’s location in Google Maps and wondering what life was like back then for Raza looking to cop the latest 78 by the hottest dueto. Inadvertently, store stickers on 78s have become primary sources which tell us about Mexican American migration, communities, neighborhoods, musical tastes, and buying habits. For such a small thing, store stickers hold important clues to our history and the history of Mexican American music.  

One name that I came across consistently on store stickers was Ignacio M. Valle. Valle owned and operated El Arte Mexicano, a store on Halsted Street in Chicago, where he distributed Vocalion 78s. Upon further research, I discovered that Valle not only sold Mexican music at his store but also Mexican art, rugs, hats, and furniture. And as if running the store didn’t keep him busy enough, Valle also managed to pen over 50 songs, including many historically significant two-part corridos. 

Sticker for Ignacio Valle’s El Arte Mexicano store

Now, there is not much written about Ignacio Valle. In fact, all if not most online queries revert back to the Frontera Collection and the discographic information on the UCLA website. His contributions to the Mexican American experience should be celebrated with much more than a store sticker on a 78, but for now the store sticker gives us a place to begin recovering his story. 

What other places, cities, states, and names have you found on your 78s, 45s, and LPs? I’d love to hear from you. Thank you for reading and as always, I appreciate your love for the música and cultura that these “hype stickers” represent. 

To explore more hidden gems from the Frontera Collection, check out our YouTube channel. And stay tuned to the blog for more stories from the archive!

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.