the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center,
the Arhoolie Foundation,
and the UCLA Digital Library
Lydia Mendoza (1916-2007) was one the most enduring and highly honored female artists to hail from the immigrant Mexican-American communities of the Southwest United States. Nicknamed “La Alondra De La Frontera” (The Meadowlark of the Borderlands) and “La Cancionera De Los Pobres” (The Songstress of the Poor), the singer-guitarist enjoyed a career that spanned well over half a century, hundreds of recordings, and thousands of personal appearances.
Starting humbly as a child singing with her impoverished family for tips, Mendoza quickly emerged as a pioneer in the field of Mexican-American popular music. She became the genre’s first female superstar at a time when the business of vernacular music was still in its infancy, and dominated by men. For decades she served as a role model and inspiration for other female artists.
When Mendoza died at age 91, major papers on both coasts ran obituaries, an honor not always granted to deserving Latino artists by English-language media. The Los Angeles Times eulogized her as a trailblazer “whose passionate, despairing songs about working-class life” connected with audiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
-- Agustín Gurza