Alert
Close

AARP hosts National Caregiving Forum on Wednesday, July 8, at 11:30 a.m. ET. Watch here

Highlights

Open
Caucasian couple looking at a laptop computer together

Horoscope

Cancer - AARP Horoscope

Look at what your future holds if your birthday is between June 22 & July 22

Contests & Sweeps

Enter the $50K Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes. Ends 8/31/15. No purchase necessary. Enter for Official Rules.

AARP REALPAD

The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

Most Popular

Viewed

Tejana Legends

A look at Tejana music pioneers – radical in their time – and the path they paved for Selena and others

"La Cancionera de los Pobres"

Lydia Mendoza learned to play the guitar on an instrument she fashioned from rubber bands and plywood. She memorized song lyrics, which at that time were printed on gum wrappers, then picked up the tunes from itinerant street musicians. Born in Houston in 1916, "La Cancionera de los Pobres" (singer of the poor) traveled with her parents between Monterrey, Mexico, and the fields of the Midwest. But they soon found they earned more playing music than picking beets.

A radio host discovered Mendoza when she was 18 and singing for tips with her family in San Antonio's lively Plaza del Zacate. She went on to cut the records that made her internationally famous — "El Tango Negro" and "Amor Bonito" among them — and lived long enough to perform at President Jimmy Carter's inauguration and receive the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1999.

"I saw Lydia when I was a little girl, in 1953," says Rosa Canales Pérez, 62, who left teaching at 51 and started a band that plays South Texas classics as well as her own compositions. "She stood in front of the red curtains and played solo. She played the 12-string guitar, which is my instrument. My middle name is Lydia, so I was fascinated by her."

The women of those times were pioneers, says Canales Pérez. "Tejano music to this day is pretty much a man's world."

Mendoza's husband, who repaired shoes for $7 a week in the 1940s, wanted her to end her career — until he realized the money she made would allow them to buy a car. Her in-laws never approved of her singing in public, Mendoza said during the taping of an oral history.

The popular Tejano songs of Mendoza's day were written and sung from a man's point of view and were often about women who cheated on their men, recalls Austin's Clemencia Zapata, 56, a singer and drummer in the band Conjunto Aztlan. "And then Lydia came out with ´Mal Hombre´ (bad man)," she says, strumming an imaginary guitar and singing the first few lines. "She took a man's industry and grabbed it by the balls. She said, 'I have a life too. My experiences are worth talking about.' She spoke the truth, from her heart."

Next: Consuelo "Chelo" Silva as "La Reina de Tejano." >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Advertisement

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save 15-30% on tickets to live Cirque du Soleil shows.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $8 for Regal ePremiere tickets purchased online. Conditions apply.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Advertisement