Lydia Mendoza (May 21, 1916 – December 20, 2007) was an American guitarist and singer of Tejano music. She is known as La Alondra de la Frontera (The Lark of the Border).
Mendoza was born into a musical family in Houston, Texas. She learned to sing and play stringed instruments from her mother and grandmother. In 1928, as part of the family group Cuarteto Carta Blanca, she made her first recordings for the OKeh company in San Antonio. In the early thirties, Mendoza came to the attention of Manuel J. Cortez, a pioneer of Mexican-American radio broadcasting. Her live radio performances set the stage for her recordings for the Blue Bird label in 1934. One of her recordings, "Mal Hombre", became an overnight success, and led to an intensive schedule of touring and recording. After World War II, Mendoza recorded for all the major Mexican-American record labels. One of the relatively few songs she personally wrote, and a personal favorite, was "Amor Bonito", dedicated to her husband. Lydia Mendoza continued performing and recording until slowed by a stroke in 1988. In 1982, she became the first Texan to receive a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, and in 2003, she was among the second group of recipients of the Texas Cultural Trust's Texas Medal of Arts.
In 2001, Oxford University Press published a 235-page-book on her by Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, entitled, Lydia Mendoza's Life in Music. From the introduction:Known as a lone artist and performer, Lydia Mendoza's voice and twelve-string guitar-playing figure prominently in her ability to both nurture and transmit the vast oral tradition of popular Mexican song with beauty and integrity. She sang the songs of the people across generations in the old tradition; all are indigenous to the Americas, and many of them to Texas. It is the music that emerged from the experiences of native peoples (on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border) within the colonial context of the nineteenth century.Mendoza's prominence and stature as a Chicana idol stems from her sustained presence and perpetual visibility within a complex network of social and cultural relations in the twentieth century. Along with being one of the earliest female recording and touring artists, she is loved as a voice of working-class sentimiento , sentiment and sentience, through song, which is one of the most cherished of Chicana/o cultural art forms. Through her vast repertoire and unmistakable interpretive skill in the shaping of songs she is a living embodiment of U.S.-Mexican culture and a participant in raza people's protracted struggles for survival.