It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m stuck on the 91 freeway trying to get back home. I had just spent my afternoon at my boss’ house making sausages. Yes, that’s right, making sausages! I can’t refuse an invitation to a sausage fest! So when I found out that the sausage making party was on the same day as the Lila Downs concert, I had no choice but to maneuver my way from Anaheim Hills back to LA. There was no way I was going to miss any part of her performance. The traffic gods must have been watching over me because I made it home just in time to get ready. We decided to stop for drinks at HMS Bounty on Wilshire. A few captains’ specials later we were on our way to the Wiltern Theatre. It was my first time in the venue so I was not sure what to expect. We grabbed some beers and sat down. We didn’t have the best seats in the house but the Wiltern is small so the view was good enough. I took a minute to look around and check out the audience. In front of me were two older women who apparently did not appreciate us yelling out, “Lila! Lila! Lila”. What were they expecting? It’s a concert not the movie theatre. I often wonder what kind of people get annoyed by the yelling and dancing at a music concert. We didn’t care, after all its Lila Downs and she will make you scream, yell and most important of all, dance.

Agua de Rosas

Lila came out dressed in her usual attire. She wore a colorful dress with interchangeable rebozos. She stood on the stage with her big smile and long black braids. For me it was love at first sight. Physically she embodies the image of a beautiful Mexican woman, and her voice, that deep and captivating voice so haunting and enchanting filled the theatre with joy. There are no words to describe her presence. She portrays sincerity and humbleness. She is a performer of the people, always remined us of the importance of community, family and our roots.

After she finished her first song, she caught her breath and grabed a bottle of mezcal sitting on top of a stool behind her. She took a big drink and poured some on the floor for our difuntos. Personally, I am not a big fan of mezcal(alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant), the after taste is too much for me to handle, but I’m sure the late homies appreciated it.

Lila’s music is very different from your average “Latin” performer. Her lyrics and rhythms pay tribute to her indigenous roots. She sings of moles (delicious Mexican dish), women, the earth, love, nature and everything that makes us human. She is a proud oaxaqueña, and her lyrics portray that. One of her best songs is “La Cumbia del Mole” which speaks of mole and the love of a man for a woman. The song is happy and lively, makes you want to get up and dance and annoy the two ladies sitting in front of you. But the lack of leg space put a stop to that feeling.

 La Cumbia del Mole

 Mi querida Soledad,

(My dear Soledad)

Me va a guisar un molito.

(You will prepare me a mole)

Por el cielo de Montealban,
(Under the skies of Montealban)
De noche sueño contigo.

(At night I dream of you)










The whole night I kept waiting for her to sing one of my favorite song she covers, “Paloma Negra”. This song is by far one of the most painful yet beautiful songs I have ever heard. It provokes feelings in me I had forgotten existed. A love so deep, you wish you can erase from your mind. To say this song is passionate would be an understatement. For most of us Mexicanos, love is as painful as it is wonderful. The lyrics to this song are simple yet so strong you can feel the pain in Lila’s voice.

“ Tengo miedo de buscarte y encontrarte…” (I am afraid of looking for you because I might find you). This line says it all, I want to love you but I don’t want to love you. I don’t want to see you, but I need to see you. The ongoing love struggle we all encounter at some point in our lives.

Paloma Negra


She didn’t sing this song at the concert, but as soon as we got back in the car, “Paloma Negra” made her appearance.

The show was amazing. I left the venue more than satisfied, Lila’s performance was one of a kind. It was truly love at first sight. She makes me proud of being a Mexican woman! I can’t wait to hear her sing live again!


About ocbarrios

Professor for Cal State Fullerton's Barrio Studies class for Fall 2011 semester

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