Beatriz Llamas
"La Paloma del Norte"

(1938-present)

Pioneer of Mexicana women in music

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Arte y Corazon

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Beatriz Llamas, also known as “La Paloma del Norte,” is a nationally-recognized ranchera singer who performs across the United States and Mexico. She has been honored by the Texas Music Museum, the Tejano Music Hall of Fame, and in 2019 was honored as a National Heritage Fellow of the National Endowment of the Arts.


Llamas was born on August 5, 1938, in Aguascalientes, México. In 1951, the Llamas family moved to San Antonio. When Beatriz was 13 she entered her first talent contest. While Eva Ybarra bested her in that particular competition, she entered another contest and won, beginning her career singing on radio shows, and touring with different musical acts. As the years passed, she gained attention from the owners of Sombrero Records and began recording singles such as “La Paloma del Norte.” She also is known for her recordings with Rio Grande accordionist Paulino Bernal. She toured with Mariachi Chapultepec and Conjunto Bernal, and she worked with KCOR—one the country’s first full-time, Spanish-language radio stations—sharing the stage with Alberto and Arturo López, the latter to whom she later married. In 1967, she became the first Tejana to perform at New York’s Madison Square Garden. After a tour in California she felt she had reached her peak and decided to attend cosmetology school to provide financial support for her four children. In 1990, the Texas Music Museum honored Beatríz Llamas, along with Lydia Mendoza and Rita Vidaurri with an exhibit at the Texas State Capitol Rotunda. In 1995, she was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame, followed by induction into the Tejano Conjunto Hall of Fame early in 1999.


At the urging of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, she joined other legendary Ranchera singers Rita “La Calandria” Vidaurri, Blanca “Blanca Rosa” Rodríguez and Anita Janet “Perla Tapatía” Cortez to form the group Las Tesoros de San Antonio in 2008. They issued a CD in 2017, Qué Cosa Es el Amor, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Esperanza Center, which engineered their comeback. Their story was also featured in a 2016 documentary by filmmaker Jorge Sandoval, Las Tesoros de San Antonio: A Westside Story, which debuted at the Mission Marquee Plaza, site of the old Mission Drive-In Theatre in south San Antonio. In 2018, the group was honored with an exhibit at Texas State University. In 2019, the surviving members Blanca and Beatriz were honored as NEA National Heritage Fellows, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Subsequently, Las Tesoros were back home in San Antonio being recognized by the San Antonio Arts Commission and the City of San Antonio, in a ceremony at the Tobin Center, as 2019 Distinction in the Arts Honorees, for providing “enduring and effective cultural leadership” and “exceptional artistic accomplishments” in the San Antonio arts community. After suffering a mild stroke, Beatriz is back on her feet and continues to perform at local venues and functions as well as with Las Tesoros de San Antonio.

"When my husband died my daughter was nine, one son was five, another was three, and my youngest was three months old. It was hard for me to raise four children alone. But look, here I am, like a rose."

— Beatriz Llamas, interview with Texas Public Radio, Nov. 1, 2019

 

"En la noche llegamos, cansados y todos...fuimos a rentar un motel, y nos van diciendo 'No Mexicans Allowed'...Ok, nos fuimos, dormimos en el parque." (We went to a motel in the evening. They told us 'No Mexicans Allowed." Ok...we went and slept in the park.

— Beatriz Llamas, interviewed in "Las Tesoros de San Antonio" by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center