As a young girl, María Reyna González López used to sing in the hills around her town in the mountains of Oaxaca. Today, she sings in theaters in Mexico, has performed in Chile and may soon be off to New York.
González grew up in the Mixe indigenous community of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec. “I was a dreamy girl, and I always wanted to be famous despite the bad times, such as abuse in my family and a difficult economic situation. I sang and danced in the hills and mountains.”
At the age of eight she began singing in a school choir and from that point knew she wanted to be a singer.
One obstacle was that she knew no Spanish: 63% of Tlahuitoltepec residents speak only the Mixe language so one of María’s first goals was to learn Spanish in order to be able to take singing lessons.
Her primary school teachers encouraged her in her dream and by the age of 12 she had created a small musical group with one teacher, who played the keyboard. Soon they began performing in restaurants.
What she earned singing paid for finishing secondary school. Her parents had no way to pay it themselves.
As a 15-year-old, González decided she wanted to “stand out.” She didn’t want to live the same lives as the other women in Tlahuitoltepec “doing only housework.”
It was then she decided to travel to Guadalajara, Jalisco, to live with a cousin. She worked as a maid, an experience that helped her learn Spanish.
One of her singing teachers at the time took note of her talent. “She sang well, but had nowhere to focus her potential,” said Joaquín Garzón, who began teaching González to sign Italian opera, realizing she had a soprano’s voice.
González is now 26 and studying at the Diocesan Superior School of Sacred Music of Guadalajara.
She has also studied and researched her own heritage, incorporating it into her music.
Five years ago she uploaded a video to YouTube to celebrate her mother on Mother’s Day. Since her mother doesn’t speak Spanish, González sang a Mixe piece in an opera style.
The video was seen by thousands of people, including an advocate for indigenous women’s rights in the city of Oaxaca. That gave González her first opportunity to sing on a stage in her native state.
After a successful presentation in the Juárez Theater where she sang opera in Mixe and Italian, she was called “the first Mixe soprano,” a name that has stuck with her ever since.
The show opened the doors of other theaters: Gonzáleze has since performed in the capital cities of Mexico and Chile, and has received invitations to New York.
The Mixe Soprano is now recording her first album, which will include opera songs not only in the Mix language, but in Zapotec and Maya as well.
Recording music in her native tongue was the biggest of her dreams and another that is about to come true for the dreamy girl from the Oaxaca sierra.
Source: EL Universal (sp)
The Mixe Soprano’s Mother’s Day tribute, with accompanist Joaquín Garzón.