Lourdes Pérez
Political poet and nuevo canción artist Lourdes Pérez performs at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

I saw my companion moved to tears midway through Lourdes Pérez' set at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center last summer. As I glanced around me, I realized that she was not alone: The emotional power and energy of Pérez' lyrics surged through all of us, women and men, young and old.

Backed by musicians on the piano and violin, and joined by guests including accordion legend Eva Ybarra, Pérez shared cuentos about the music and the artists. There were no strangers here: To members of the audience, Pérez' performance felt like an intimate gathering around a campfire or coffee table - shared with 200 friends and family members.

Pérez has been a fixture at the Esperanza Center since the first Mujer Canto (a festival of women musicians) more than a decade ago. A prolific political poet, she is grounded in the tradition of nueva canción, the cross-continental folk music popularized by Chilean artists Violeta Parra and Victor Jara in the '60s and '70s. Contemporary nueva canción artists comparable to Pérez include the world-renowned Argentinean vocalist Mercedes Sosa, as well as Venezuelana Irene Farrera, both of whom have previously shared the stage with Pérez. In contrast, Gloria Ramirez, editor of La Voz de Esperanza, also likens Pérez to the somewhat bluesy voice of 20th-century French singer Edith Piaf. Others have suggested Lila Downs (of Frida soundtrack fame), whose indigenous-Mexican-folkloric-roots musical melange mirrors Pérez' sonido more in spirit than in style.

"As an activist, artist, Puerto Rican, and lesbiana, Pérez brings the different aspects of her life to her music, which enables her to carry messages from different people."
— Marissa Ramirez, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
Musically, Pérez counts both the jibara (mountain) roots of her native Puerto Rico and the sounds of her adopted home in rural México as influences; lyrically, she finds inspiration from her travels to sites of struggle around the globe: Vieques, Puerto Rico; Chiapas, Mexico; Palestine.

As Marissa Ramirez of the Esperanza Center explains, all three locations are places of resistance where people struggle with cultural, artistic, and political expression. "These issues should resonate with us in San Antonio, as well as a colonized city," says Ramirez. "It's important for people here to make connections to different struggles around the world, in order to see how the work around preserving historical spaces like La Gloria or the conservation efforts to protect the aquifer are related to people's right to live a more dignified life.

8pm Saturday, July 12
$8 adults, $6 seniors, youth
Sliding scale admission available
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
922 San Pedro
"As an activist, artist, Puerto Rican, and lesbiana, Pérez brings the different aspects of her life to her music, which enables her to carry messages from different people," Ramirez continues. "I think what's so significant about Lourdes' voice is she believes there's a deep interconnection between people struggling around the world. As long as one group of people are still struggling, we all are."

Pérez plays at the Esperanza on Saturday, July 12 at 8 p.m. Arrive early for the best seats - the Center typically fills to capacity when she performs. And unless you have a heart of stone, bring some Kleenex and a hand to hold for comfort. •

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