Lydia Mendoza

Boleros, Corridos, and Rancheras singer and musician from Houston, Texas


Lydia Mendoza.1982 National Heritage Fellowship Concert. Washington, D.C. Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts. Copyright 2012 Documentary Arts, Inc.

Excerpt from: "The Devil's Swing." Directed by Alan Govenar. Produced by Documentary Arts, Inc. 1999. Copyright 2012 Documentary Arts, Inc.

Lydia Mendoza. 'Mal Hombre.' Mal Hombre. Arhoolie CD 7002.

Yolanda Hernandez talks about growing up with Lydia Mendoza for her mother. Interview with Alan Govenar. Recorded by Alan Govenar. Houston, Texas, 2011.

Yolanda Hernandez talks about her daughter playing "Mal Hombre" for Lydia Mendoza's 90th birthday. Interview with Alan Govenar. Recorded by Alan Govenar. Houston, Texas, 2011.

Yolanda Hernandez recalls a stand-out memory of her mother Lydia Mendoza. Interview with Alan Govenar. Recorded by Alan Govenar. Houston, Texas, 2011.



The power of the young Lydia Mendoza as a popular culture icon during the early years of mass media provides a platform for students to consider the relationship of media and fame. Saturated by popular culture and music through many forms of media, young people need to be able to decode media and analyze point of view of both artists and media producers. They can also consider the attributes of a hero and how fame does not necessarily translate into heroics. 

Representatives of the early recording industry researched pockets of regional music across the United States to record traditional musicians and market music to diverse audiences, thus popularizing genres from blues to polka, hillbilly to klezmer. Lydia Mendoza’s voice, beauty, repertoire, and virtuosity made her an important artist who fluidly combined popular and traditional culture and reached a large audience of devoted fans over several decades. She appealed to thousands of Mexican Americans throughout the United States, and Mexicans of the US-Mexico border region hailed Lydia Mendoza as “the Lark of the Border.”

Students will be intrigued that another form of mass media, advertising, propelled Lydia to fame. She found the words for “Mal Hombre” on a bubble gum wrapper and put them to music. She recorded this corrido in 1934 on a 78-rpm, and it became her first big hit. The Mexican ballad genre of corridos dates to around 1800.

The earliest corridos were adapted versions of Spanish romances or European tales, mainly about disgraced or idealized love or religious topics. The European tradition of story songs known as ballads accompanied Spanish settlers to Mexico and developed into corridos, dramatic songs that tell of conflicts of everyday people, heroes, villains, horses, injustices, and historical events. Corridos remain very popular today, especially along the US-Mexico border. Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in 1982, Lydia Mendoza gave a voice to thousands of everyday people.

The story of Lydia Mendoza will encourage students to reflect on fame, heroism, and history and provide them an opportunity to write of their own heroes or Texas history in corridos


Students may:

Big Ideas

Family Music Traditions

Border Culture

Technology, Mass Media, and Traditional Culture

Innovation and Tradition


Lydia’s story and photos
Radio clip
Film clip from Masters of Traditional Arts DVD-ROM
Music clips from Arhoolie CDs
Everyday Music Field Notes
Traditions Venn Diagram
Everyday Music Interview Worksheet
Everyday Music Songwriting Worksheet
Everyday Music Listening Log

Time Required

1-2 class periods


Texas history, social studies, English language arts, music, Spanish


Review Lydia Mendoza’s story and media clips. Choose Big Ideas that you find relevant to your curriculum and your students. Copy Everyday Music Field Notes and other worksheets students will need and cue the audio and clips. 

Class Discussion

Students may read the story and listen to the audio story independently, in groups, or as a class. Using the Everyday Music Field Notes worksheet will help them focus more closely. In a class discussion, raise some of the Big Ideas above, depending upon your curriculum and students’ needs and grade level. Here are questions to spark discussion:

Suggested Activities

Students may work independently or collaboratively to:

Use the Everyday Music Songwriting Worksheet and other resources to help you write and illustrate a corrido about an event in Texas history (see Resources). You may choose to write in English or Spanish.

Use the Everyday Music Interview Worksheet to interview a family member and then write a corrido to tell a story about this person (see Resources). The Everyday Music Songwriting Worksheet will also be helpful.

Write corridos expressing opposing points of view about a historical event (see Resources). You may use the Everyday Music Songwriting Worksheet.

Brainstorm family music traditions and share to compile a class list. Use the Traditions Venn Diagram to compare and contrast students’ music traditions with those of Lydia Mendoza and her family in a class discussion.

Design a cover for a CD compilation of Lydia Mendoza’s songs. 

Document and analyze the types of music and names of musicians played on local radio stations using the Everyday Music Listening Log. Bonus points for finding a corrido!

Assessment Strategies

Field notes
Lists of family music traditions
Venn diagrams
CD covers
Radio listening logs


historical event
point of view
popular culture
traditional culture
twelve-string guitar
78-rpm records


Analyze information
Use and create primary sources
Immigration and migration
Point of view
Spanish and Mexican influences




Corridos sin Fronteras Smithsonian Institution educational website provides musical and historical context of corridos and includes a timeline and student guide for writing corridos.

Form and Theme in the Traditional Mexican Corrido: Understanding Corridos Throughout History

Louisiana Voices Unit VI Lesson 3 Generational Music Communities

Words and Music Teacher’s Guide, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum 


Broyles-González, Yolanda. My Life in Music (Mi Vida en la Musica); Lydia Mendoza: Norteño Tejano Legacies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Mendoza, Lydia, Chris Strachwitz, and James Nicolopolus. Lydia Mendoza: A Family Autobiography. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1993.


Lydia Mendoza. The First Queen of Tejano Music. Arhoolie CD 392.

______. La Alondra De La Frontera Con Orqusta Falcon. Arhoolie CD 513.

______. Mal Hombre and Other Original Hits from the 1930s. Arhoolie CD 7002.

______. Vida Mía. Arhoolie CD 7008.

______. The Best of Lydia Mendoza. Arhoolie CD 536.

Order from Arhoolie Records at 


Chulas Fronteras. Directed by Les Blank, 58 min., 1976. A documentary of the Mexican American experience told through musicians, including Lydia Mendoza. Available in libraries and from