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Linda Ronstadt a Soldadera for a time such as this

Created: 25 June, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

    Linda Ronstadt is an iconic international singer. Her many vocal styles, in a variety of genres, have resonated with the general public over the course of her four decade career. As a result, she has earned multiple Grammy awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy award, and an ALMA award. Her numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums have included a Tony Award and Golden Globe nominations.

    Linda Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Arizona. Her father, Gilbert, came from a pioneering Arizona ranching family and was of Mexican-American descent (with some German ancestry); a family that has contributed much to the arts and culture of the American Southwest. Her mother, Ruthmary, was of German, English, and Dutch descent.

    On January 16, 2010, Ronstadt converged with thousands of other activists in a “National Day of Action.” As a native Arizonan and coming from a law enforcement family, Ronstadt stated that her “dog in the fight” was the treatment of illegal aliens. She has serious concerns with Arizona’s enforcement of the rule of law and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration efforts. On April 29, 2010 Ronstadt began a campaign (including joining a lawsuit) against Arizona’s new illegal immigration law, SB1070, calling it, “A devastating blow to law enforcement. The police don’t protect us in a democracy with brute force.” This is something she said she learned from her brother Peter, who was the chief of police in Tucson.

    Recently Linda Ronstadt has emerged as a major arts advocate in the United States. In 2008, Ronstadt was appointed Artistic Director of the San José Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival held in San Jose, California. She continues to present the festival this year, a festival that is touted to be the biggest and best ever. Now in its 19th year, the San José Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival presents a week long schedule of music and educational events.

    To celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial in 2010, the festival has expanded to include terrific cultural programming throughout the year. The Mexican Heritage Festival has recently won an $800,000 grant to run three summer music and dance camps for children of low-income families in San Jose. This year’s theme of the Festival is (a soldadera is a female soldier). They commemorate the centennial celebration of the Mexican Revolution from 9/15 until 9/26 with a week’s worth of cultural activities consummating in a stellar concert.

 AC: We live in a post-ethnic society. Why the Mexican festival? Who is it for – us or another culture?

    LR: In our culture you can’t say that there is Mexico and there is USA. There are Mexicans in the USA but there is also this third culture. It is the conversation that is back and forth between the Americans and the Mexicans. It was hard for the guys in Los Lobos, for example, because they are in between two worlds. They are not fully Mexican, yet, they are fully American with Mexican culture and ancestry; where do they fit in?

    Culture, heritage, and tradition are great to sort out for many of us. There is this amazing root. There are all of these different regions in Mexico which, for many who live here, are a significant part of them. This is what this festival is all about.

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    AC: With this festival, then, is it your intention to integrate the Mexican culture into the American mainstream? If you look at the Italians, Irish and other immigrants who came here, they have assimilated on whatever level. Their culture becomes a part of the American fabric. So is it the goal of the festival? Do you want to say: this is Mexican culture but also American culture at the same time? Do you want to educate other Americans?

    LR: I think it does two things. First of all it brings awareness of Mexican culture to the greater Anglo, Asian, African American whatever-is-out-there population. Really the most important thing that it does is it creates a sphere for people who are of this culture and tradition. It is an experience of who we are and what we represent.

    AC: Why Soldaderas?

    LR: This year’s theme of the festival is Soldaderas. This is the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. I wondered what the women’s experience was during that time? The hindsight is that it was the men who get the glory. What were the effects on these women who stood with them and took care of them and their children? They were widowed. Their children were slaughtered or died of diseases and they followed along supporting the soldiers. There was no government to support the revolutionary armies. They had to go along with flour and lard and make tortillas. They had to go out with their rifles and shoot something like a rabbit to eat. They actually picked up rifles and started fighting as well.

    After the war the women were put right back into the kitchen and never got the credit they deserved. I am a great believer in the domestic arts. My sister is a career homemaker and she was a homemaker for many years. My God! I had to hire six people to do what she did in half a day. I have great admiration for her. She is a wonderful cook, knew how to make her house beautiful, took care of her kids, and ironed that shirt just right so that philandering husband of hers would look good. She was my example of why not to get married; I admire the fact that being a domestic is full time work but now there are a lot of things for women to choose from. My mom wanted to be a scientist. She told us to never to learn to type because then you would end up being a secretary.

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