Texas music pioneer earns historical marker

Lydia Mendoza, 'first Latina superstar,' had 60-year career

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Long before Selena, there was Lydia Mendoza, who was known as “La Alondra de la Frontera,” meaning the meadowlark of the border, who began by singing to farmworkers in the fields as a child.

Performing solo with only her 12-string guitar, Mendoza’s 60-year career from the 1920s to the 1980s earned her worldwide accolades. 

“La Alondra de la Frontera,”The latest accolade, a Texas historical marker at her gravesite, will be dedicated at a service from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at San Fernando Cemetery No. 2, located on 746 Castroville Road.

Picture courtesy of Rudy Guitierrez

“If we don’t try to save our heritage, no one else will,” said Rudy Gutierrez, who applied to the Texas Historical Commission to have a marker dedicated to Mendoza.

Gutierrez is the co-owner of San Antonio Music Publishers, which was started by his late father, Salome, a composer who published Mendoza’s songs. He said, in a sense, the marker also is a tribute to his father’s vital role in her career.

Salome Gutierrez and Lydia Mendoza

“We are just so proud,” said Jessica Davila, one of Mendoza’s granddaughters. “I wish Grandma was here. I really do.”

Davila said the woman who came from humble origins remained that way throughout her life.

For example, if Mendoza had lived to see the U.S. Postal Service dedicate one of its Forever stamps to her, Davila said, her grandmother would have asked: "Why? Why me?”

“It was because of her voice, her music,” Davila said.

Courtesy of Lydia Mendoza Family

Ann Hernandez McKinney, Mendoza's granddaughter, said she remembers her “being Grandma, but she was Lydia Mendoza.”

Her granddaughters said Mendoza's three biggest loves were her music, her family and cooking. They said her tamales were among their favorite foods.

After the dedication ceremony by the Texas Historical Commission, there will be a celebration for what would have been Mendoza’s 103rd birthday, which is on May 31. The event will be held from 5-8 p.m. Saturday at El Rinconcito de Esperanza, on 816 S. Colorado St., just off Guadalupe Street on the West Side.  

Courtesy of the Lydia Mendoza Family

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