Singing the Struggle: Agustín Lira & Patricia Wells
Singing the Struggle: Agustín Lira & Patricia Wells
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 @ 3 pm
Community Music Center: 544 Capp Street San Francisco
Agustín Lira was the musical voice of the farmworkers’ movement in the 1960’s. Join us for a rare opportunity to hear this national treasure perform and share historical background about music that shaped California history.
Learn more about Agustín Lira
Watch a performance by Agustín Lira and Patricia Wells
About the Performers:
Agustín Lira: Born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, in 1945, Agustin Lira (NEA National Heritage Fellow, 2007) emigrated first to Lordsburg, New Mexico and then shortly after to California with his mother, brothers, sister, and a cousin at the age of seven. The family wandered through small, farmworker towns and labor camps, following the crops up and down the San Joaquin Valley, finally settling in Selma.
In 1965, at the age of 19, he cofounded El Teatro Campesino with Luis Valdez during the Delano Grape Strike headed by Cesar Chavez. The company created songs and plays, performed on picket lines, at rallies and toured throughout the United States, giving voice to the farmworkers’ plight and demonstrating the power of artistic expression in uniting and inspiring the farmworker communities.
Campesino received the New York Off Broadway Award, the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle Award, appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and was the subject of feature articles in Time, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. Lira’s powerful singing and socially relevant lyrics were at the heart of El Teatro Campesino and established his role as the preeminent musical voice of the early Chicano Movement. Lira blended Mexican song traditions with Anglo folk and popular musical forms to create a new kind of folk music that continues to evolve.
After leaving Campesino in 1969, Agustin resumed his work in music and theater, forming several theater groups notably El Teatro de la Tierra which dramatized the urban Chicano experience. He also taught drama, music, and creative writing at universities, schools, and community organizations throughout California. With musical group Alma (formed in 1979 by Lira and Patricia Wells Solorzano), he has performed at national and international festivals in the United States, Mexico and Cuba.
Lira has produced numerous recordings over the years and was recently highlighted prominently on the Smithsonian Folkways retrospective Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement. His music has appeared in theatrical productions, film and has himself been the subject of two award-winning NPR and Latino USA radio documentaries by journalist Jon Beaupre. Previous recognition of Lira’s work includes the California Latino Legislative Caucus Award, 2007; Organizational Way of Peace Award, 2007, from the Fresno Center for Nonviolence; Local Hero Award, 2006 from Valley Public Television, Channel 18 and Union Bank.
“A dazzling voice with an inner strength that warms the hearts of her listeners.” Juan Gonzalez, El Tecolote, San Francisco
Patricia Wells Solórzano was born in Brawley, California 25 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and spent her early childhood immersed in two different and distinct cultures. Playing various instruments in grade school, she was attracted to drama and Mexican folkloric dance in high school. While a college student at CSU Northridge in 1975, she participated in the Los Angeles Gallo boycott spearheaded by the United Farm Worker’s Union. Working together with UFW organizers, many of them farmworkers themselves, deeply impacted her. Patricia joined El Teatro de la Tierra, a non-profit arts organization and taught Spanish to children, studying drama and music with Agustin Lira (cofounder of El Teatro Campesino).
In 1976 she moved to Mexico City to study Mexican and World History at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico returning to Fresno 2 years later. She began an intensive study of singing and lead guitar gaining control of both disciplines within 6 months. She cofounded musical group Alma in 1979 becoming the manager, touring nationally and internationally at festivals such as the Smithsonian Institute’s American Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.; the Cervantino International Arts Festival, Mexico; the U.S.-Cuba Friendship Concert in Havana Cuba and so on.Patricia has recorded music for various labels and for film: Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement, Smithsonian-Folkways; The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworker’s Struggle, PBS/Paradigm film. For more than 30 years she has taught music to all age groups in her community, California schools, correctional institutions. She produced concerts of Latin American Folklore and Nuevo Canto at local venues from 1993 to 2003, as well as recitals by her student chorus throughout the community. In defense of immigrants, Wells cofounded Teatro Inmigrante (Immigrant Theater) in 2001 creating, codirecting and producing new plays such as:
- Regeneración: Ricardo Flores Magón and the Mexican Revolution of 1910, (2010);
- The Life and Times of Candelaria Arroyo (2004);
- Esperanza and Luz: A Tale of Two Immigrant Women (2001); and others.
In the Spring of 2010 Patricia received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Goddard College in Vermont. She is the recipient of many awards among them the most recent are the Horizon Artist Award (2010) from the Fresno Arts Council and the Non-Violence and Peace Studies Award from University of Rhode Island. She is one of 72 women chosen to appear in Victoria Alvarado’s book, Mujeres de Consciencia/Women of Conscience (Floricanto Press, 2009), “A tribute to Latinas who have made a definite and long standing contribution to the Hispanic community and country at large.”