Q & A: Sylvia Ayala 

When did your mother marry Ram? Did they ever get divorced and then remarried?

My parents have always been married; they’ve been married for over 50 years. Well, actually, when my father passed away, I guess they were nearing their 50th anniversary. They got married in ’56, I believe.


Did you ever go to Taco Land?

We went there every once in a while, it wasn’t really an environment that we were to be at. We used to go there quite a bit when it was a restaurant, and when it started changing into a bar it just wasn’t a place where we would normally hang out. My mom was a housewife, and she raised her children, she didn’t work and there really wasn’t any reason for us to be at the bar. You know, my father had his bartenders and waitresses and such that helped him and it just wasn’t an environment for children, so we never really went there even as we grew up. We would go there once in a while but it wasn’t somewhere we were always, always at, you know. It was a bar, we really had no business in there. You understand what I’m saying?


Did you know about the existence of Eddie and Mark [Ram’s sons with Tina]?

We did find out at a later time, yes.


When?

It’s been a few years since we knew about them.


You do understand that, for many people who went to Taco Land on a regular basis, as far they were concerned Tina was the wife.

Unfortunately, she was never married to my father. Right. I guess she was more comfortable with that title because she had those two children, but unfortunately it wasn’t true [that she was married to Ram]. A lot of people found that out once my father passed away. Unfortunately it is the situation that he got himself into, and my mother forgave him, and it just stayed that way, you know. It’s just like anybody else when a situation happens like that; you can choose to forgive him or not forgive him, and my mother chose to forgive him and, you know, move on with her life.


Do you remember the last time you spoke with your father?

I spoke to him on the day he passed away.


Can you tell me what you talked about, when, and where?

He just said that he wasn’t sure if he was going to open that night because of the Spurs’ game and my mother and I told him, why doesn’t he just stay and rest? He said he’d think about it. At about 10-10:30 he decided to go and open up Taco Land unfortunately, and that’s the night he passed away.


When did your side of the family go to the hospital [after the shootings]?

My sister called me and told me something happened to my father, and that she would call my brother to let him know so that he she could see what was going on. I was at home with my children and my husband, and then my brother called me and said my father had been shot. He said, “You need to go to mom’s and let her know what happened.” So me and my sister were on the way to my mother’s house to let her know that my father had been shot. At that time I still did not know that he had passed away.


And what time was this, approximately? Do you remember?

I don’t know, between two to three o’clock in the morning, maybe? Somewhere in that area, I don’t really specifically know what time but I know it was between that time that we were on the way to my mother’s house to be there with her to, you know, for whatever might happen. And then at that point my brother called me and said, “You need to come down to the hospital; we have a situation here.” And I said, “Fine.” I’m the oldest, so I said “I’ll be there.” And when I got there …


Who was that? Manuel?

Yes, he’s the oldest of the three boys that my mother and my father had together. And he was the one who was at the hospital and he informed me that I needed to be at the hospital so I met my sister at my mother’s house. She stayed with my mother, and I went to the hospital and that’s when he told me that my father passed away. Let me ask you something, because I’m getting a little uncomfortable with all the questions and I know you’re probably uncomfortable asking them …


Yes, I am.

Nobody really knows the minute-by-minute details of who told who what or whatever. The only thing that I can say is that, you know, it’s just one of those situations that happens, and there’s nothing that we could do about it, you know? We’re very private people and when all this happened with my father, you know Ms. Cruz and the two boys were out there, you know, very publicly talking about everything that happened and, you know, how they knew my dad and how much time they spent with him, and was unfortunately going around telling people …


Telling who?

Everybody, you know, the media, and people that were —


Tina said she never spoke to anybody. Was it Eddie? When? Where?

Different places. They were having, uh, what do you call them? Like vigils for my father. [Tina] held a blood drive in his name, they were having like, uh, benefit concerts for Denise [Koger] and such, and [Tina] and the boys were at most of those events. And we didn’t show up to any of those because that’s just not us, you know. We were just trying to be very private about everything that happened.


But were you aware of what Taco Land, Ram and, eventually, the Ram Jam meant to the music scene in San Antonio?

Right. Initially, the way that my father explained it to me, was that it kind of started off with his birthday and it kind of just evolved into this Ram Jam type of thing. When my father celebrated his birthday he celebrated it for several days. You know, my father was very popular, he had a lot of friends, so they would celebrate his birthday at Taco Land and wherever else they could find to celebrate. Eddie told me that’s how the Ram Jam evolved. We weren’t involved in that stuff because it was my father’s business. But [Eddie] explained to me that it just became a big celebration and then it turned into this big charity-type situation called the Ram Jam. We went to a few of the places that they had it at, but it wasn’t something that we were there all the time …


What happened to the body? It is my understanding that he was cremated?

That was my father’s wish, yes.


Did you invite the other side of the family to the disposal of the ashes? Was there a funeral?

There was no funeral. I am the oldest daughter, and I was very close to my father. When he had his bypass surgery and he thought he was going to pass away, he took me aside and said, “If something happens to me, I want my body cremated. I do not want a funeral, I don’t want a service, I don’t want any public service or anything.” He goes, “I just want to be cremated,” he goes, “and my ashes thrown into the river by my bar. That’s all I want. But I do not want a funeral.” And I said, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.” And that was the agreement that we had. That was my father. He didn’t want anybody to be there, he didn’t want any public display or anything along those lines and I catered to my father and those were the wishes, you know, he just wanted to be cremated with no fanfare and his ashes thrown into the river.

 

When did he tell you that?

When he was in the hospital. You have to be in our place. My father was a very complex man; sometimes he could be very good and sometimes he could be not very good and, you know, he put us as a priority in front of everything. Whenever I confronted him about anything, all he would ever tell me [was], “Y’all are my family. Y’all are the only family I have.” This is not something that I’d want to say to anybody because, like I’ve said, you know I’ve come to terms with the fact that Eddy and Mark exist, and me and Eddy have a good relationship, we talk to each other and text and email each other. We have gotten past all of that [bad stuff]. You know, all of that is in the past. Him and I have agreed that we have a legacy to take care of when it comes to my dad’s name, and that’s the agreement we have now. We’ve gotten to a good place in our relationship. The past is the past and you know, unfortunately, when everything was happening, everybody … was very, very bitter and angry.


Did you ever apologize to Eddie and Mark?

Me and Eddie had that conversation. As I mentioned before, me and him have come to terms with everything that has happened. I think he found out a lot of things that he didn’t know that I had to enlighten him about. We’ve gotten to a good place in our relationship to where you know he understands that it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t our fault, we were all just part of the situation. When it comes to parents and I’m sure you know, you only have a certain amount of control, you know? And we can’t control what happens between our parents. And he and I know that my mom and his mom will never be friends, it’s never going to happen, and I told him all we can do is just move forward and hope that the future is better than what is has been. He and I have had many, many conversations. We’ve worked everything out.

Who sold the ’77 Datsun, and when?

If it’s the one that I think it is, it’s a vehicle my mother sold.


When did she sell it?

Actually my father had sold it before he passed away and, after he passed away, the individual who he had talked to about selling it, came and said that, you know, he wanted to buy the vehicle after all, and my mother sold it to him because she needed money to pay the taxes and the upkeep of Taco Land.


I don’t understand.

When my father passed away, the debts with Taco Land were still there, we still had to pay the taxes on it, we still had to pay the debts that it had, and my mother didn’t work and my father didn’t have insurance. He had that vehicle that had been sitting in my mother’s garage for many, many months, and my father had been speaking to somebody about selling it. That individual had come by the house several times. And, in fact, my father had even told my mom, “When that kid comes he’s gonna come look at the Datsun ’cause he wants to buy it, so just to let you know,” and my mom said, “Fine.” And when my father passed away, that same person came back and said, “Is it okay if I still buy the car?” And she said, “Fine,” because it was an agreement that he had with my father, and that’s what my mother understood, so she sold it to him. Any property that we had, vehicles and such, became part of the estate. As a family we had to sell some of those items so that we could keep Taco Land so that it didn’t go to the city. If you don’t pay the taxes, and if you don’t pay the maintenance and the City ordinances and all the stuff that goes with it, you lose the property, so that’s what we did. And that’s probably what Eddie bought [Eddie bought the car back from the buyer, after finding the car for sale on Craigslist].


So, when Eddie turned over the keys to you, there was no agreement about keeping Taco Land intact until the Cruzes could prove their case in court?

The keys for what?


Taco Land.

No, they never handed keys over to us. They had keys to the property, but they never gave them to us.


Didn’t they lose access to Taco Land?

We had to change the locks because my father had keys that were hanging inside of Taco Land, and those keys were missing. We didn’t know if someone had walked in and took them, we didn’t know if the people who had robbed him took them, we didn’t know where they were, so we changed the locks because we didn’t know where the other set of keys were.


But you just told me that you knew that Eddie had the keys.

Well, we knew that they had keys, but we didn’t know if they were given to them or were the same ones hanging. I don’t know how they got into Taco Land, but from my conversation with Eddie I believe he said he had keys, at least that’s what I understood. My only concern for changing the locks was because those keys were missing.


Was there a verbal agreement that you directly, or with Manuel, wouldn’t get rid of anything from inside the bar until the Cruz brothers could prove that they were sons of Ram?

No. We didn’t have access to Taco Land the first few days [after] my father passed away. We had access to it, but we did not go there because the Cruzes were there. When we got there Tina was in the place and my mother was outside. We were with the police, and my mother was upset because [Tina] was in there. We didn’t allow my mother to go in because we didn’t want a confrontation, and [Tina] wouldn’t come out, so eventually we just said, “You know what? Let’s go home.” I sent my mother home, I stayed there with my brothers waiting for [Tina] to come out, and she finally did. At that point Taco Land was closed but, again, they still had keys to the place. If I’m not mistaken, they were there for a few days afterwards. I think they even had some type of get together with I don’t know who, because we were not there, of course. And after that, we finally had a chance to go in there, and that’s when my brother, Ramiro Jr., said, “The keys to dad’s place are missing. He had an extra set of keys that would hang on this nail, and they’re not there.” So we didn’t know if they were stolen or just taken, or they disappeared, or one of the people that was there at my dad’s place took them. We really didn’t know where they were. We didn’t accuse anybody of taking them, we just didn’t know where they were. So that’s when we agreed to change the locks so we [could] be sure that people [weren’t] coming in and out, because there were a lot of pictures in there and boxes that could be stolen, so we changed the locks.


Do you know Jerry Clayworth?

I know of him, yes.


What’s your position on the Ram Jam?

When my father passed away there was a lot of turmoil, you know … these were things that were happening when my dad was alive. You know they had the Ram Jam, they had, whatever it was they had, like I said we weren’t a big part of that because again, those were all tied to his business.


Are you talking about his birthday parties? They used to call them Ram Jams?

According to what I understood, that’s how the Ram Jam evolved. The Ram Jams were held on April 10, which is my father’s birthday. And my understanding is that they kind of evolved from the fact that every time my father’s birthday rolled around, they would have this big weekend, three-day party of nothing but partying and having a good time and a bunch of bands would come. My understanding —and again, this is just my understanding — is that it kind of evolved from that. So when the Ram Jam started a few years before my dad passed away, it was just kind of like, okay well, it’s dad’s birthday and they’re having a Ram Jam, and that’s what it is. Like I said, we didn’t really get too involved with that because that was his business, you know. And when he passed away it became more of an issue because at that point it was kind of like, well now what are we going to do? And Jerry Clayworth, from my understanding, was the one that was more interested in doing that more than anyone else. And again, because me and the Cruz family were in turmoil because of legal issues and things like that, he primarily kind of took over the Ram Jam and started conducting it and saying it was a charity event.


With your blessings? Or on his own?

The only conversation I had with him was during the trials, when he said, “Do you mind if I still conduct the Ram Jams in your father’s honor?” And I said, “For right now, that’s fine.”


When?

This was a little bit after my father passed away.


So this was the very beginning?

Pretty much. This was a few months after my father passed away that [Clayworth] said, “Do you mind if we still hold the Ram Jam?” I asked my mom’s permission and said, “Do you mind if they still hold the Ram Jam?” And she said it didn’t matter to her at that point. She really wasn’t in a position of mind to even really think about anything like that, and she said, “Well, if that’s what they’ve been doing all this time, that’s fine.” We just thought it was an event and that was it. And for the last few years we’ve been going back and forth in court, so they’ve been holding the Ram Jam and doing it as a charity event. But now I think Jerry wants to take more control over it, so that’s how it’s going to probably be from now on, depending on how they want to conduct it or what agreement they come to.


You and Eddie were declared executors of the Ram’s estate, right?

Right.


So you couldn’t sell Taco Land without Eddie and Mark’s authorization, and vice versa?

Right. Because my father did not leave a will, they made Eddie an executor and I was an executor for our family.


Did Eddie put any condition to sign the agreement to sell?

No, there wasn’t anything really like that. All he ever said was that he wanted to have control of the Ram Jam. He felt that it wasn’t being distributed properly; it wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We wanted Ram Jam to be a total charity event. We wanted to try to see about setting up scholarships in my father’s name, and it just wasn’t working that way. Again, I wasn’t that involved in the Ram Jam, Eddie was probably more involved with it than I was, and he said, “It’s just not doing what I wanted it to do,” he goes, “I wanted it to be more of a charity,” he goes, and we talked about setting up scholarships and such. The past few years they’ve conducted the Ram Jam, I guess, they’ve been donating the money to different people and different situations which, again, I don’t have much knowledge of, but Eddie has more knowledge of it than I do. He just felt that, you know, it needed to come back to being handled by the families so that we could be sure that it was being done for the charity work that we would hope for it to be done.


So you’re on the same page as Eddie as far as the Ram Jam; you think it belongs to the family and should be done by the families.

That is what we would like to do, and like I said, we just want to make sure that the money isn’t going into other people’s pockets. I don’t know where the money’s been going. You know, I’ve been told that it’s going to people in need and such and that’s fine, but I don’t have paper work or anything like that to tell me how much they’ve ever made, or where it’s gone, or who it’s been going to, because again I wasn’t involved with it.


Eddie’s very vocal about the fact that he wants Clayworth out of it. Are you as enthusiastic as him? Do you have a problem with him?

The most that I can tell you is that, you know, I don’t know Jerry Clayworth that well. When my father passed away I met a lot of people who knew my dad that I have never met before, and they said, “Oh, I used to go to your dad’s place all the time and we used to hang out.” … And when he passed away a lot of these people came forward and said, “Oh I knew your dad,” a lot of people didn’t even know who we were because they just thought my dad was Ram Ayala and that was it.


Or a lot of people thought it was Ram Ayala, and Tina was his wife and Mark and Eddie the sons.

Well, I mean, I don’t know. When he passed away that’s when all that came about, that people started saying, “This lady’s running around saying she’s your dad’s wife,” and I’m like, “No, she’s not.” … We aren’t very public. You know, we don’t get out there and start saying this or that. We try to keep everything on a low key and unfortunately, when all of this came about, my mother was upset and it was kind of upsetting for her you know; we had to tell people, “I’m sorry but she’s not married to him and she never was.” …


At the very least, he did have a relationship with the boys.

My father was not going to abandon these two boys. That was not my father. My father takes responsibility for what he has to do. [Agnes] knew about them, she knew he was going to give them money, because that was something he had to do. … These were two boys that belonged to him so I’m sure they came to Taco Land too, you know? We can’t stop that. We can’t cut him off from them.


Let me ask you this, and correct me if I’m wrong. When Ram died, Clayworth stuck to Tina and then, when Tina couldn’t prove she was the wife of Ram, but Agnes did, he switched sides and got close to Agnes.

Yes, it kind of looked that way, yes.


So your mother is not very fond of Clayworth?

She doesn’t really have an opinion. I mean, you know, it is what it is, you know? It’s like we don’t really have any animosity towards anybody, to be honest. He chooses what he wants to and I know that Ed was real upset because of that, you know, but it’s like I told him, I have no contact with him. I said I’ve had maybe two conversations with him and that’s it. I haven’t talked to him in maybe three years.


Okay. This is the last question that have. Do you know about the Rammy Awards? It’s not a charity, it’s just a way to recognize local bands, it’s a reader’s poll. And we have the image of Ram. He was loved by a lot of people, and he was like an icon. And that’s why we named it the Rammy Awards.

Right. I heard of them but I really didn’t know what they were, and I actually haven’t had a conversation with Eddie about [the Rammy Awards]. I don’t really have a problem with that. The whole idea of the conversation I had with Eddie [about the new Ram Jam] was that he just wanted to be sure that it was paying a tribute to my father and it wasn’t going into a different direction. I’m all about education, kids going to school, I have two kids in college, I know it’s very difficult to pay those college bills and such like, that I said I‘d really like to see whatever profits of the Ram Jam come to go to a scholarship. If it is a charity event, that’s what I would like to see. The Rammy Awards like I said, I’ve heard of them, but I just never really knew what they were, and with the way you’re describing them I don’t really have a problem with that and I really don’t think [Eddie] would either because it’s keeping my dad’s memory alive. Eddie’s got a bigger opinion or is a little bit more vocal than what we are because he says what he says and he lets you know what he‘s thinking. He said, “I think Ram Jam should stay in the family,” so we could, you know, turn it around and turn it into something bigger than it is now.

 

Email sent after the interview:

Mr. Lopetegui, I am getting back to you as I said I would. As I thought, my mother will not comment on Ms. Cruz’s comments or anyone for that matter, concerning my father, nor will we be providing any photographs. All of this has been "verified" in court and just do not feel we need to revisit that painful past. My mother is a very private person and does not feel she needs to legitimize any information concerning any comments from anyone. Eddie and I both agree we want to move forward and not rehash the past. We have come a long way to a comfortable relationship and I do not want to jeopardize that by dwelling on the past. I am sure there will be some people who will not be happy with how the Ram Jam will be changing, but I do believe it will be for the better. I am disappointed that our conversation was not about how we want the Ram Jam to evolve into a scholarship opportunity for students who want to make music their future. Unfortunately, I felt your questions and comments were a little too personal and felt on the defense. I hope your story will be how we hope the Ram Jam will evolve and not about a family that shared a painful past and personal tragedy when we lost our father.  My father was not perfect but he was a great father and provider and I am proud of what he brought to the music industry in San Antonio, I hope that is what he will be remembered for and not the mistakes he may have made in life.

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