Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza offers her story as the closing chapter in Marmoset’s Our Artists, Their Stories series.
As a first generation Mexican-American, Mendoza exudes profound appreciation and honor for her culture throughout her music — her work is an extension of her heritage, a call to openly celebrate her people’s language, history and journeys.
Read on to learn more about the woman behind Y La Bamba.
Marmoset: How do you think your culture shapes who you are — not only as an artist but wholly as a person?
Mendoza: I can answer this in so many different ways. When I think of my culture, I think of my parents, I think of my family. The food I eat, the deities and saints we worshiped, the art that was and continue to form out of necessity to express trauma. A way to celebrate life. My mom and dad continue to work hard… they would say “como burros” meaning “like a donkeys” It kills me. It just destroys me.
My blood screaming the name of survival. Therefore who I am as a person today has been influenced by my ancestral knowledge. That has allowed me to create as much as I can out of nothing which becomes everything.
M: As a first generation American, how do you think this impacts your life in present?
Mendoza: It has given me the privilege to come closer to a deeper understanding of myself in this reality we call life.
M: Has your family encouraged your pursuit of music?
Mendoza: In a few ways yes, in a lot of ways no. My parents were strict out of generational and conservative habits. Having dreams as a girl was truly hard to achieve due to misogyny. My friends, family, mother and brothers are always there in their own ways.
M: Have there ever been moments you’ve considered quitting music — what kind of wisdom would you pass along to those facing similar challenges?
Mendoza: Yes every other day. Nurture your loved ones, those who lift you up and hold you accountable. Those are your people.
M: Where does that desire to put yourself and your music out there come from?
Luz: My family, immigrants who are fighting for there lives, to support Queer POC communities — for those who have gone through domestic violence, for the missing and murdered indigenous women, for the children who are dying in the dentention centers, my family and my friends. To heal.
M: Could you share what community means in your life?
Mendoza: Family is everything.