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San Antonio Conjunto Star Fighting COVID-19

Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca.
Tom Pich
Courtesy of the artist
Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca.

Grammy-winning Conjunto musician Max Baca has been fighting COVID-19. He toured the world with The Texas Tornadoes, played on a Rolling Stones album, and then created his own band, Los Texmaniacs. TPR’s Arts and Culture Reporter Jack Morgan caught up with him by phone. He said he knew something was wrong right after doing a performance for what’s called the Blackpot festival.

“We just finished doing the first Blackpot virtual festival ever. Even prior to that I was feeling kind of awful and wasn't feeling myself. And then that's when I said I'll go get tested. And, you know, sure enough, I was positive. And then two days after that, I started having the breathing problems. And that's where it's very, very, very important that if you feel that any slight breathing problems--take a take a gasp of breath and it hurts--get to the emergency room, and you can possibly save your life.”

At this writing, Baca’s been in the ICU for a grueling 10 days. He says when he was admitted, his blood oxygen level was critically low. Healthy lungs keep blood at about 95%.

Max Baca: “I got here and my oxygen level was 70%. And so now due to the breathing exercises that they have me do and then they have the therapy and treatments have been able to breath 95, maybe 97 on my own.”

As a measure of how sick he got, he spent several days on a ventilator.

Max Baca: “I was on for a little bit, for three days. But thank God (now) I'm able to talk and I’m able to breathe. And you know, thank God for the medical facilities and all the doctors and nurses and everybody has some blood transfusions, things that other patients have made it (through COVID-19), was able to help me out with that a little bit.”

“And also, you know, it's kind of sad here in the E.R. You just hear people coughing and coughing all around you. And then all of a sudden they stop coughing and then they roll them out on the bed with a blanket over the face because they didn’t make it.”

Max Baca
Elisa Gonzales
Max Baca

Baca said he’s felt the well wishes and prayers of everyone who has rooted for his recovery, including Tejano superstar Flaco Jimenez.

Max Baca: “I've had so many of my musical peers, Flaco…Flaco’s really worried about me and he's been praying for me. My family, every single one of Los Lobos, who are my musical heroes. They've called and texted and they set up prayer warriors and and they've been praying for me and, you know all of my musical friends from Ozomatli and from Los Insultes and from Smithsonian Folkways, John Lohman and Nick Spitzer. And Augie Myers has called and he's concerned. Everybody. Kevin Flower, Ray Benson. Little Joe called me and just so many musicians and so many people. And it's to their prayers Jack, that that has just lifted me out of here, man.”

Given his musical inclinations, one might wonder if what he’s gone through will find its way into some new songs.
[Max Baca]“There was some awful times where I was really, really fighting for my life, you know, throwing down with the devil and his brother man, you know, and didn’t know if I was going to make out make it out or not. But thank God that I did. And, yeah, I have some ideas of some music and some songs.The time will come for that and I'll get to it.”

Baca is at the Northeast Baptist Hospital and hopes to get out in the next few days. And his counsel: Always wear the mask.

Watch: Max And Josh Baca Share What Makes That Texmaniac Sound

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Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii