Rita Vidaurri, "La Calandria"

(1924-2019)

Pioneer of Mexicana women in music

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Arte y Corazon

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Rita Vidaurri “La Calandria” was an incredibly successful performer in Mexico and throughout Central and South America in the 1940s. She broke barriers for women and was inducted into the National Hispanic Music Hall of Fame in 2004.


Vidaurri was born in a small house in the 600 block of Montezuma Street on May 22, 1924. She was the oldest of three children born to Juan and Jesusita “Susie” Vidaurri. Her father operated a gasoline station, boxing ring and cantina; her mother worked as a housekeeper. Susie Vidaurri encouraged her shy daughter and paid a neighbor to teach her to play the guitar, but she didn’t live to see her success. She died of tuberculosis when Rita was 15. Rita focused on raising her siblings, picking cotton, helping as a mechanic in her father’s garage, and she got a job as a weapons inspector in a military arsenal. She also played softball and took up boxing. She went to night school at Lanier High School. Her father initially discouraged her from singing, but eventually encouraged her career.


In the late 1930s, she performed with her sister Henrietta as Las Hermanitas Vidaurri. Vidaurri’s first record was with the duo. “Alma Angelina” and “Atotonilco” were recorded at Tomás Acuña’s garage studio. In 1942, the year Rita turned 18, she was among the first artists to perform at the new Guadalupe Theater, built on the site of her father’s gas station. She sang at carpas, the traveling Mexican vaudeville tent shows. Her catalog includes the songs “San Antonio Hermoso,” “Por Qué Señor,” “Sacrificio,” “Así Pago Yo,” “Tonto,” “El Dinero Vale Nada,” “La Mula Bronca” and “La Esposa Del Caminante.” She toured Cuba with legends Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot. Over the years, Rita performed with famous artists including Tin Tán, Pedro Vargas, Trío Tariácuri, Lalo ‘El Piporro’ González, Cantinflas, Nat King Cole and many more. In 1957, she was selected as the Jax Beer Poster model.

"El corazón recuerda los años después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el crecimiento de San Antonio como una cuidad de la modernidad, con una bien establecida colonia mexicana. Durante esos años de los '40s y '50s... Doña Rita Vidaurri triunfaba en giras artísticas por todo México y através de América del Sur.
Algunos recuerdan sus actuaciones en las tardes de las variedades del Teatro Nacional y después en el fabuloso y elegante Teatro Alameda donde Rita Vidaurri fue la gran consentida del público, una grande e inolvidable diva y estrella."

— Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, La Voz de Esperanza, July/August 2014

 

"Their lyrics revealed our stories, contained our dreams, sang our sorrows, and healed our spirits.
We came from the same place as they, our parents told us — de la misma mata, not only from South Tejas and San Antonio but from the same poverty. They taught by example — that if they could survive and thrive, so could we."

— "The Enduring Influence of Rita Vidaurri," Antonia Castañeda, La Voz de Esperanza, July/August 2014