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Ana Lila Downs Sánchez (born 1968 September 9) is a Mexican singer-songwriter and actress.
- The border still doesn't make much sense in my mind. It's a place that has so many things going on, a lot of sad stories, a lot of positive ones, a lot of people who are looking to break the rules and I identify a lot with that. I like to break the rules.
- On how the border between the U.S. and Mexico influenced her work in “Mex factor” in The Guardian (2003 Feb 10)
- I thought it was very important to remind us that we have all been migrants and to give credit to the people who are putting the oranges in our orange juice and the strawberries in our cakes.
- On her inclusion of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” in a musical set to reflect the migrant experience in “Mex factor” in The Guardian (2003 Feb 10)
- We [as Latinxs] got to be there representing, explaining, and translating…It’s the only way we are going to have people come together.
- On Downs’ ongoing quest to learn and incorporate indigenous languages in her music in “Lila Downs Explores Mexican Heritage Through the Pepper in New LP, ‘Al Chile’” in Rolling Stone (29 May 2019)
- I think that I have influenced several generations of performers in Mexico. I’m proud of that because it isn’t easy in these scenes. But then it is easy because it’s what you love to do, and it’s your passion. Even in your down times, you are always accompanied by your music.
- On being a folk musician in “Lila Downs Explores Mexican Heritage Through the Pepper in New LP, ‘Al Chile’” in Rolling Stone (29 May 2019)
“Q&A: Lila Downs, A Sin and A Miracle” (2011)
“Q&A: Lila Downs, A Sin and A Miracle” in Remezcla (c. 2011)
- Oh it’s very beautiful to have a very rich heritage from my Indian ancestors. My mother is Mixtec [a native tribe of Oaxaca], and my father was Scottish American. Growing up with those cultures has been enriching. Though, at first very difficult because I was rejected by one culture — in the Mexican Nation there is a lot of discrimination towards the Indian groups. So I struggled with that and with being discriminated as a Mexican. But I think music has been able to erase those boundaries. I think it’s easier to stop talking about those borders, and talk more about the music — to make music so that those borders are erased in a poetic way.
- On her racial heritage
- I consider myself a border person, even though I grew up in the south of Mexico and very north of the U.S., in Minneapolis. I hold many of the same realities with the people who have grown up around these borders. We share the languages, they have a very kind of open identity of who we are, they are constantly growing and learning from different cultures, and also absorb what comes from other cultures to make it our own.
- On her affinity with those who were raised or reside on the U.S.-Mexico border
- The sin is about our notion of what is right and what is wrong, and how we bend the truth based on we want and I think. In Catholicism, we tend to do this a lot, and I think it’s very interesting and very beautiful yet very disturbing at the same time. A miracle is about believing and having faith. I think that it these times, and in Mexico, we have been to the point where we have been loosing [sic] faith. It’s really important for me to remind myself that I must continue on having faith, in my people, in my nation, in the woman, and in all the beautiful things that my country represents.
- On the notion of faith and how it might apply to Mexico and its peoples
“Lila Downs Reminds Us of the Strength Women Bring to Latin America and its History” (2018)
“Lila Downs Reminds Us of the Strength Women Bring to Latin America and its History” in She Shreds (2018 May 3)
- When I was in college, I wanted to know more about my Native American past because I come from one of the 64 Native groups that are very much alive [in Mexico]. But there was nothing like that. So I ended up designing my own major that included women’s studies, philosophy, and anthropology.
- On shaping her higher education in order to learn more about her heritage
- My mother would really make me notice the world of women, and in Latin America they have a kind of magic in that they make society function in every kind of intimate way, as well as in the bigger picture.
- On the lessons that Downs’ mother instilled in her
- I also come from a matriarchal family. My grandmother was left alone, not by choice. And then my mother as well. We lost my father when I was 16; he died. I was an adolescent figuring out that you’re not really worth much when you’re all women'
- On how her village shunned Downs’ solely female household
- I feel a spiritual sense, and that sense is a connection between generations. Some of the lyrics are about connecting intuitively with Mother Earth, sometimes with our evil nature, sometimes with our goodness. I love to connect with my ancestors. Also, I need to express these concerns that are a part of my generation.
- On striking a balance between traditional and contemporary issues
- I remember as a child holding these long notes, so there’s something that’s already there. But I do think it’s a constant question of knowing and taking care of yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a tequila or a mezcal once in a while…In my case, it’s very important to have it because through that you express the emotion you have from within. Sometimes that gives you some more secrets about how to handle your instruments.
- On her vocal style