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Linda Ronstadt on Music and Culture

A pop performer discusses the San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival.

Linda Ronstadt performs at a 2007 concert, image
Photo caption
Linda Ronstadt sings from the heart at a 2007 concert.

Singer Linda Ronstadt is a musical groundbreaker, an early blender of country and rock who has also excelled with pop standards and light opera—even Cajun music. In recent years she has championed mariachi as artistic director of the annual San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival, now in its 19th year. September 15 to 26.

Q Your connection?
My grandfather was a German-Mexican rancher and engineer who settled in Tucson, Ariz. He had a mariachi band that played in town. My 1987 album, Canciones de Mi Padre, celebrates those musical roots.

Q So you’re passionate about mariachi?
I love the music; there’s nothing like it. It’s folk orchestra with deep roots in tradition that has projected itself into a pop form, just as rock and roll has.

Q How’d you get to be artistic director?
I played in the festival for a couple of years, and they asked if I could come up with ideas for the gala concerts. The first was with Los Lobos and the story of “La Bamba,” originally a song of rebellion. Second was a tribute to three divas of ranchera music. And the third was Mariachi Goes to the Movies.

Q And this year’s gala?
The theme is Adelita! The Women of the Mexican Revolution.

Q Why is the festival crucial right now?
Mexicans are making such enormous economic and cultural contributions, and for second- and third-generation Mexican Americans it’s important to connect them back to their heritage. You have to have the roots, and then the branches will take care of themselves.

Photography by Kevin Martin

This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.