A Source of Inspiration

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Wednesday May 03, 2017

From 98.7 wfmt

Just TRY Not to Weep Listening to Lila Downs Sing This Classic Canción Ranchera, ‘La Cruz de Olvido’
By: Stephen Raskauskas

Grammy Award-winning musician Lila Downs was born in Oaxaca to a British-American father and a mother with Native-American roots. Later, she grew up in Minnesota where she formed happy childhood memories, though also experienced shame and discrimination for the first time.

‘I grew up in a wonderful community that was very plural, though there weren’t too many Latinos,’ she said when visiting Chicago to receive an honorary doctorate from DePaul University. ‘I remembered feeling uncomfortable because of the color of my skin and hair. Most people in Minnesota are of European descent.’ But, she added, ‘the real discrimination happens when you cross the border. The way the agents look at you and treat you is a unique experience.’ In Mexico, Downs also felt discrimination because of her background. ‘In Oaxaca they called me ‘la hija de la india y el yanqui,’ which means ‘the daughter of the indigenous woman and the Yankee man.’‘

Her music, like her heritage, blends elements from many different cultures to create a sound that is all her own. She uses her gift for languages to perform and record songs in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and indigenous languages such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatl, and Purépecha. By lending her voice to share Mexico’s diverse cultures, Downs has become an inspiration to many people.

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