Amor Eterno


by Marcela Davison Aviles

Recently, I posted on face book that singers are angels sent to earth to tell us the stories we need to hear in our hearts. Their gifts are intangible and profound – they must sing on pitch by finding the notes in their head, while remembering the story they share will be for the first time, even if they have sung it a million times.

At the Grammy Awards, the nation held its breath as Jennifer Hudson commenced her pitch perfect tribute to Whitney Houston in front of millions. Such an act requires not only the talent that comes through years of hard work and practice, but courage: the courage to believe in oneself in order to become vulnerable enough to give.

Ms. Hudson’s tribute was heartbreaking because it was heartfelt. Her technical virtuosity and public exposure was an afterthought.  What matters was what she achieved – the gift of a personal farewell to a fallen friend. And while her farewell was broadcast before a worldwide audience, it was deeply intimate as well. Only Ms. Hudson and Ms. Houston know what was really communicated between them that night.

The language of music achieves this catalytic intimacy – the inspirational meaning behind the word – and more. From our own community these singular angels have led armies, broken new ground in the halls of troubadours and chorus girls; and delivered the identity of a greatest generation which fought for the right to acculturate – only to realize that the bonds of family and heritage need not take a back seat to citizenship.

Some of these Latina cantantes are Grammy winners– but most of our pioneering “girl singers” are recognized not through framed certificates of sales but through their impact on multiple generations who listened then – and hear today — because the cadence of their unique interpretation got them through a war, or an economic depression, or the new rules of a society seemingly taken over by a younger generation.

These Latina singers defined leadership through the innovation of musicianship – Lucha Reyes was the first woman to sing in front of a mariachi ensemble – Rocio Ducal used her Spanish roots to imbue her interpretation of Mexican music with the unique harmonic tragedy of her country’s Moorish heritage – Lola Beltran was the first singer to perform rancheras at the Grand Opera House inMexico City. She was also the muse of an American rock star — and that American rock star, through her own journey of discovery – delivered a Mexican cultural identity to millions in a way so profound that it informed, for many, the awakening of the conscience of their cultural heritage.

After thousands of years of human imperfection one is tempted to say the world is not worthy of the incantations of artists. Yet without them, we are incapable of the innovation so valued today – because we would not have the heart it takes to be vulnerable enough to risk.

Here then, is a hit parade of Latina courage and leadership – for your listening inspiration and self-discovery:

Lucha Reyes

Lola Beltran

Linda Ronstadt

Rocio Durcal

Marcela Davison Aviles is an author, lawyer and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and Executive Producer of VivaFest, a leading Latino cultural festival of Latino music, theatre, education, film, new media and the visual arts.