Norteno star denies knowledge of playing for gang
Latin Grammy winner Ramon Ayala wipes his eyes as a video about his career plays during a news conference at Poncho's Restaurant in McAllen, Texas, Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Ayala and his band, Los Bravos del Norte, were detained by Mexican soldiers while playing at a private party in Mexico in December 2009.
Latin Grammy winner Ramon Ayala said the lights went out, people started running and he and his band hit the floor when the Mexican military raided a drug cartel's holiday party in December.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the raid and his arrest, the renowned norteno accordion player said Tuesday that he had no idea he'd been booked to play at a private home — much less a drug gang's holiday party — before the raid near Mexico City. He and members of his band, Los Bravos del Norte, were detained.
Ayala, flanked by band members at a packed news conference in McAllen, said Mexican authorities recently said he was no longer under investigation for ties to drug trafficking. But a spokeswoman for Mexico's federal attorney general's office, Viviana Macias, said the investigation continues into Ayala's possible links to drug traffickers.
Latin Grammy winner Ramon Ayala pauses as he talks about his detention by Mexican soldiers during a news conference in McAllen, Texas, Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Ayala and his band Los Bravos del Norte were performing at a private party in Mexico in December 2009 when it was raided by the Mexican Navy, they were later released on Dec. 23
"We're completely clean," Ayala said. "We don't have anything pending."
A representative for Ayala's attorney said they had a document in Mexico City proving that Ayala was no longer part of that investigation. The musician has not been charged with any crimes.
Tuesday's gathering at a Mexican restaurant drew media from Mexico, Houston and San Antonio. A Spanish-language entertainment show broadcast live as Ayala recounted how his band was booked to perform and what happened during the raid. The Mexican military has said three gunmen were killed and 11 people suspected of working for the Beltran Leyva drug cartel were detained.
Ayala said he and his band were home in south Texas when a booking agent called about a job Dec. 10 near Mexico City. Ayala said they initially thought they couldn't get to the event, because of a commitment in Odessa, in western Texas. But the clients offered to send a plane to Reynosa, a Mexican border town, to fly the band to Mexico City.
Jose Luis Ayala, center, Ramon Ayala's brother and member of Los Bravos del Norte, listens to Ramon talk about details surrounding the band's detention while playing at a private party in Mexico during a news conference in McAllen, Texas, Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Ayala said he thought they were going to play in a casino or event hall for a birthday until they arrived at a private home south of the city. Inside, they set up in a small room with other bands and performed with just two microphones.
"We couldn't do anything else but follow through with our deal," Ayala said.
The raid began in the pre-dawn hours Dec. 11. The band made it into a bedroom as the gunfire broke out and waited there until troops found them.
Ayala said they yelled, "We're musicians. Don't shoot. Don't shoot." Eventually, the marines recognized them. As they were led out of the house, Ayala said he saw vehicles shot full of holes but no bodies. The military has said the cartel's chief, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in another raid a few days later.
Ayala said he never would have gone to Mexico had he known who was involved. He said his band had played several special events previously but never asked about the hosts or expected audience.
In the future, he said, he would be more careful.
"We weren't tricked," Ayala said. "It was the situation, really, that took us there."
Before Ayala spoke about the raid, he played a short video titled, "The Man and his Music," that traced his career. During segments detailing his charitable works, especially for children, Ayala wiped tears from his eyes with a handkerchief. Nearby, three of his Latin Grammys were being displayed on a table.
Ayala was released from jail for health reasons two days before Christmas. He said Tuesday that he had been suffering emotionally and was having problems with his blood-sugar level and blood pressure while jailed.
Big Mexican acts have been known to play at private parties for the narcos. It is mostly the norteno bands that play the narco corridos that are preferred by the capos. Sometimes the capos even pay them to write a corrido about them. Here is an axample of Eliseo Robles and the Barbaros del Norte playing at a private party. Not to say this is an actual narco's home or that Robles plays for narcos, this is just to give you an idea of the music. Robles was a lead singer for Ramon Ayala at one time.