Lydia Mendoza

Lydia Mendoza (May 31, 1916 – December 20, 2007) was an American guitarist and singer of Tejano, conjunto, and traditional Mexican-American music. She is known as "La Alondra de la Frontera" (or "The Lark of the Border" in English).

Early life

Mendoza was born on May 31, 1916, in Houston, Texas. She learned to sing and play stringed instruments from her mother and grandmother.

Recording career

In 1928, as part of the family group, Cuarteto Carta Blanca, she made her first recordings for the Okeh Records label in San Antonio, Texas.

In the early 1930s, Mendoza came to the attention of Manuel J. Cortez, a pioneer of Mexican-American radio broadcasting. Her live radio performances set the stage for her 1934 recordings on the Bluebird Records label, a subsidiary of RCA Victor. Her recording, "Mal Hombre", became an overnight success and led to an intensive schedule of touring and recording.

After World War II, Mendoza recorded for many of the major Mexican-American record labels mostly located in Texas including DLB Records and Norteno Records both based in San Antonio. Mendoza sang and played her signature 12-string guitar live at the University of California - Berkeley in 1982, considered by many fans and critics as one of her most outstanding performances at 66 years old. A listening of her "bandera" (flagship or breakthrough) recording of "Mal Hombre" in 1934 followed by her 1982 live version of the song almost 50 years later showcases the maturation of her voice and soulful depth over the decades. Mendoza's 1982 concert was released in 2001 as the album "La Alondra De La Frontera - Live!," and is available on the [ Smithsonian Institute's Folkways Radio Station] and on Amazon music. She continued actively performing and recording until a stroke in 1988 slowed her schedule down. Many of her recordings are still available including those issued by DLB Records founded by Salome Gutierrez, R. a San Antonio, Texas-based label specializing in South Texas Spanish language music and Arhoolie Records, a California-based label specializing in the release of regional forms of American music.

Awards and honors

Over the years, Lydia Mendoza was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She was a recipient of a 1982 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. That year's fellowships were the first bestowed by the NEA, and Mendoza was the first Texan to receive that award. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts; in 2001, she received that year's Lifetime Achievement Award from Folk Alliance International; and in 2003, she was among the second group of recipients to be awarded the Texas Medal of Arts by the Texas Cultural Trust.


Lydia Mendoza died on December 20, 2007, in San Antonio, Texas, at the age of 91. She is interred at San Fernando Cemetery in San Antonio.

A Texas Historical Commission Marker number 16BX04 was approved for Lydia Mendoza's grave in February 2016.


Lydia Mendoza discography, on Victor label: Source: Discography of American Historical Recordings, UC Santa Barbara

;Recorded March 27, 1934: :;Vocalist and instrumental as part of Cuarteto Monterrey por la Familia Mendoza
  • "Ojitos de mi chata"
  • "Por tus amores"
  • "Ojitos negros y chinos"
  • "La china"
  • "Para que necesitas a mi amor"
  • "Castos sueños"

    :;Vocal solo, with guitar
  • "Mal hombre" (also as lyricist/composer)
  • "Al pié de tu reja"
  • "No puedo dejar de quererte"
  • "Lejos"
  • "La última copa"
  • "Lamento borincano"

    ;Recorded August 10, 1934: :;Vocal solo, with guitar
  • "Sigue adelante"
  • "Lidya"
  • "Viviré para ti"
  • "Pero hay que triste"
  • "Los besos de mi negra"
  • "Mundo engañoso"

    :;Lidya Mendoza y Cuarteto Mendoza, vocal and instrument
  • "No me anuncies"
  • "Toma este puñal"
  • "China de los ojos negros"
  • "Si estás dormida"
  • "María, María"
  • "Una rancherita"

    ;Recorded January 31, 1935: :;Solo with guitar
  • "Siempre te vás"
  • "La mujer del puerto" (playing both guitar and mandolin)
  • "As de corazones"
  • "La cumbancha"
  • "Temo"
  • "La casteñita"
  • "El lirio "
  • "Deliciosa"

    ;Recorded February 1, 1935: :;Lidya Mendoza y Familia, quartet leader, vocal and instrumental

  • "Panchita" (also songwriter)
  • "El muchacho alegre"
  • "Traje mi caballo prieto"
  • "Díos vendiga" (also songwriter)