Luz Elena Mendoza Ramos is a Chicanx artist and musician who has been playing under the name Y La Bamba for nearly 20 years. As the child of immigrant parents, Luz Elena struggled to feel seen in the music industry, but as they’ve continued making music, they have grown into their identity as an artist.

Their parents migrated from Southern Mexico to the United States in the 1970s, and Luz Elena was born in California and raised in Southern Oregon.

“I grew up in very tight Mexican communities,” they said. “I didn’t have the privileges to go hang out with people, kids, or talk on the phone. My parents really were very conservative and super strict.”

Luz Elena eventually moved to Portland. That’s where they began recording their music, even if they felt they weren’t always understood.

“Being in Portland and then starting to assimilate in white spaces and code-switching and all this stuff, you don’t even know what’s going on,” they said. “I just allowed them to kind of define me.”

Last year, Luz Elena moved back to Mexico City to explore where they come from. That search also led to the publication of their seventh studio album —Lucha— and to Y La Bamba playing their first show ever in Mexico City.

In this episode of Latino USA, Luz Elena shares why playing that show was so important for them and reflects on their path towards becoming more themselves.

You can listen to their latest album Lucha and the rest of their music on all streaming platforms, and follow them on social media at Y La Bamba.

Photo by Jimena Zavala Lozada

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