Tejano Music’s Lark and Queen

LydiaMendoza-Single-slideshowWith her 12-string guitar and unmistakable, soulful voice, Lydia Mendoza (1916–2007)—whose career spanned seven decades—was one of the first and greatest stars of Tejano music. As a pioneer in this primarily Spanish-language genre of the Texas-Mexico borderlands, she gave a voice to Latinos throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Mendoza is not the first Tejano icon to appear on a U.S. postage stamp. In 2011, the Latin Music Legends Forever® stamps featured Selena (1971–1995), the wildly popular “Queen of Tejano.” Like Mendoza, Selena got her musical start at a young age, singing in a family band before breaking out as a solo performer. Her charisma and strong voice made her a dynamic entertainer.

Selena-Forever-single-v5Mendoza helped define the distinctive Tejano style—a combination of Mexican ranchera-style music mixed with German polka sounds—and Selena transformed it, integrating techno-hip-hop beats and disco-influenced dance moves. While most of her songs were sung in Spanish, Selena recorded a crossover album released after her death that was meant to appeal to new English-language audiences. Shortly after its release in 1995, Dreaming of You hit number 1 on the Billboard 200, immortalizing the singer as an international sensation.

Though their songs vary in sound and style, Lydia Mendoza and Selena were both important representatives of Latino culture in America. Their legacies live on in the musicians who continue to play in a genre that Selena modernized and Mendoza helped create.