Y La Bamba's Luz Elena Mendoza On Valuing One's Voice

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"Because I grew up in such a strong Hispanic community, I carry that," Luz Elena Mendoza says. "I carry it whenever I go, so that's always strong."

It makes sense that Y La Bamba's latest album, Ojos Del Sol, is a bilingual journey through cultures and genres. After all, the project comes from frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza, who carries her multiple identities with pride.

Mendoza's parents are both from Michoacan, Mexico. She was born in San Francisco, but her family soon relocated to southern Oregon, where both of her parents found jobs working at sawmills. Music was a large part of her childhood.

"We were in the back of the truck while my dad would drive around and pay his bills and we would be singing — you know, if it was some Vicente Fernández song or if it was a Ramón Ayala song," Mendoza says. "And mostly, it was the jams that my father listened to."

Mendoza is grateful for those times spent with family. "It's so special to have that," she says. "Us as children, just without even realizing that we are singing and expressing the fruits of our culture."

Recently, Mendoza has been occupied with questions of identity — and labels. "My big thing lately is this: I feel like either you're Mexican, or you're Chicano, or you're 'bocho,' or you're that," she says. She's spent a lot of time feeling "in between," and says she's sure many first-generation Americans can relate.

But Mendoza has found that she doesn't have to choose. "I'm 100 percent Mexican and I'm 100 percent an American and I feel like I'm also 100 percent Chicana. And so, for me, doing my music, I value that voice and I've learned to value that voice."

Y La Bamba's latest album, Ojos Del Sol, is out now. Hear more from Mendoza at the audio link.

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