20 | ENE | 2019

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The first Mixe soprano

Mexico City
Cristina Hernández
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Maria wants to rescue the indigenous languages with her music, especially the Mixe, Nahuatl and Maya, which are included in her project, and thus, take them to all Mexico, Europe and the United States

Up to the stage of the Manuel M. Ponce Hall of the Palace of Fine Arts, came up a woman wearing a wide skirt dressed in a handmade huipil, the embroidery represents the way in which Mixes of Tlahuitoltepec live their relationship with nature. There she was in her gala suit, huaraches, a braid and flowers in her hair; standing by the piano, waiting for the people to finish finding their seats. When she heard the first notes, she closed her eyes to concentrate and pronounced the first word in Mixe language: tääkunk, which means "madrecita" (mommy). The voice of María Reyna González López was then heard, the first Mixe female soprano, who with this song expresses all the love she feels for her mother and the greatest of her passions: singing.

Maria applies the technique of opera in songs of Mixe language. "With each song, I seek to spread the cultural richness of the place where I was born: Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, in Oaxaca, and of my country", says María.

When she was 8 years old she began to sing in the choir of the elementary school she attended, since then she knew that she wanted to become a singer. Now she is fulfilling her biggest dream: to record an album with Mixe songs, her native language.

The first obstacle to reaching her goal was learning how to speak Spanish well in order to take singing lessons, educate her voice and be able to try songs in another language, such as Italian.

Now María is 26 years old and studies the degree in singing at the Diocesan School of Sacred Music in Guadalajara. The singing and music career is one of the most demanded, according to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Of every three aspiring students, only one enters.

Maria began singing ballads, "rancheras" and other popular melodies; but she had never tried to sing opera. "That's where a light begins to take place in that part of my life. There is always something or someone that pushes you, that tells you it's possible", says the singer.

They were many months of hard work to educate herself in the cultural scope of the music of her people and delving into opera and its origin, thus she decided to merge both worlds to be able to create something new and not to join the 21% of the unemployed graduates who did, according to UNAM figures.

On May 10, 2012, Maria uploaded a video to YouTube for her mom. Since her mother does not speak Spanish, she decided to sing in Mixe so she would know how much she loves her. The video was watched by many people who were admired by her voice, including a person in Oaxaca who works in the state defending the rights of indigenous women. Thanks to this, she had the opportunity to give her first concert in the Juárez Theater of her home state in which she sang in Mixe and Italian.

In the album that she is currently recording, there will be typical songs of Oaxaca in Mixe, mainly, but also in Zapotec and Mayan. As soon as it is finished, it will be presented live in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Guadalajara.

Specialists in music from UNAM and the National Council for Culture and Arts (Conaculta) say that traditional music from Oaxaca could be lost in the coming years due to the advanced age of musicians, singers and the lack of attention in the care and maintenance of the instruments.

Maria has other goals to fulfill besides recording her first album; she wants to rescue the indigenous languages with her music, especially the Mixe, Náhuatl and Maya, which are included in this project, and thus, take them to all Mexico, Europe and the United States where she already received an invitation to perform in New York in the coming months.

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