Mexican soprano Edith Ortiz. Mexican soprano Edith Ortiz.

The Mixtec Skylark: opera in 5 languages

Oaxaca-born soprano sings opera in five indigenous tongues

A list of Mexican opera singers would not be a long one, but a list of those who can sing opera in five indigenous languages would probably bear a single name.

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Soprano Edith Ortiz is known as the Mixtec Skylark and has earned a name for herself as a successful opera singer and a promoter of the preservation of indigenous languages.

Ortiz started singing at an early age, both at school and accompanied by her father’s string ensemble in the village where was born, Villa Guadalupe, in the Oaxaca municipality of San Miguel el Grande.

Later she traveled to the state capital where she formalized her music studies at the Miguel Cabrera Artistic Education Center before traveling to Mexico City and enrolling at the National Music School of the National Autonomous university (UNAM).

“Music has always been part of my family, a tradition. My grandfather played the violin, as did my father. This tradition has been encouraged in my family and I am fortunate enough to carry it on,” Ortiz told the news agency Notimex in a recent interview.

She is also grateful to her parents for teaching her both Spanish and Mixtec.

“I feel very proud to speak my language because it has opened so many doors for me. I’ve had the chance to sing in my country and abroad . . . because I speak my language, sing in my language, I’ve gotten to know very beautiful places on this earth,” she said.

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Ortiz finds inspiration in the music of her native Mixtec culture, which she sings not just in Mixtec but in four other indigenous languages as well: Maya, Nahuatl, Zapotec and Mazatec.

Ortiz has performed at Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional and the Palacio de Bellas Artes, at other venues throughout the country and abroad, introducing Mexico’s cultural diversity to audiences in the United States, New Zealand and Spain.

Ortiz says an important lesson she has learned over the years is that indigenous peoples should not be ashamed to speak their own language.

VIDEO: Edith Ortiz

“It is very important to continue promoting our mother tongue . . . . Through music, through song, we must make it known . . . we must give it the importance [it deserves],” she said, adding that love for her people is love for her language and gratitude to her elders, “who have passed on this tradition.”

Ortiz believes Mexico is very fortunate to have a vast cultural diversity which should be “valued and encouraged among youths and children.”

Promoting native languages motivates her to travel throughout Mexico, where she has visited indigenous communities in her native Oaxaca and in the states of México and Baja California, where she teaches the importance of local languages through song.

The singer has recorded six albums and is currently working on her seventh.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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