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Lydia Motion

Lydia Mendoza
Photo: courtesy of the Arhoolie Foundation
Anglo America, so long oblivious to the first ever Chicano icon, began offering recognition. Lydia was invited to sing for President Carter. In 1982 she was awarded The National Heritage Award. President Clinton also honoured her. A play was written about her life and toured Texas. The border songbird, the songstress of the poor, a tiny woman with no economic or educational benefits whose phenomenal musical ability was shaped by absolute poverty, extreme discrimination, vicious farmers and exploitative record companies, finally found herself honoured by the highest sectors of US society.

"It was a great experience to get the award from Clinton," says Yolanda. "I went along with her and she was very proud to be honoured."

"I was touring, playing Lubbock, Texas, when President Kennedy was killed," adds Lydia, alert to the conversation. "They cancelled the concerts and I remember they quoted me saying how terrible it was in the local newspaper."

And here I am, 41 years on, quoting her. "I'm proud of that fact that people still like my music and know who I am," says the remarkable Lydia Mendoza.

Lydia Mendoza CDs, A Family Autobiography and the Chulas Fronteras DVD are all available from Arhoolie Records.

Many thanks to Chris Strachwitz and Yolanda Hernandez for their help in setting up the interview.

This feature first appeared in fRoots 261, March 2005


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