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Subject: Singer Rita Vidaurri (La Calandria)

Dies at 94
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Date Posted: Thursday, January 17, 07:32:33am

Beloved San Antonio ranchera singer La Calandria dies at 94

One of San Antonios most beloved and colorful native songbirds has taken her final bow.

Rita Vidaurri, the Golden Age ranchera singer known as La Calandria (the Lark) who achieved fame throughout Latin America in the 1940s and 50 and was rediscovered by a new generation in the 21st century, died Wednesday evening after a brief illness.

Vidaurri was 94.

The deep-voiced singer and songwriter the first Tejana to sing at Madison Square Garden is remembered for her fierce spirit, deep religious faith, indomitable personality, love of family and risqu humor.

Media: San Antonio Express-News
She was the Beyonc and Selena of her day, said daughter Linda Alvarado about a mom who was indeed bigger than life.

Many local musicians knew her simply as Mom, one who enjoyed a bawdy joke, the occasional glass of Mexican beer and her turquoise jewelry.

Vidaurris last public performance was November 1, 2018 at an Esperanza Peace and Justice Center event on the West Side.

She sang with her group, Las Tesoros de San Antonio, with equally cherished and powerful singers Blanca Rodriguez and Beatriz Llamas.

She was still belting songs, entertaining the crowd, said Graciela Sanchez, Esperanza executive director. They dont make performers like that anymore.

Together, the three divas in the winter of their lives often joked that they were The Golden Girls of ranchera and bolero music.

Tejano music historian and collector Ramon Hernandez calls Vidaurri a true pioneer and musical giant, not a novelty.

Performing was always the best medicine for Rita, Hernandez said about her longevity. She ranks with the all-time greats and still hasnt received all the recognition she deserves.

At the height of her solo career, Vidaurri shared stages with Nat King Cole, Eydie Gorm & Los Panchos, Celia Cruz and Mexican superstars Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Cantinflas, Tin Tan, as well as legends Lydia Mendoza, Eva Garza and Rosita Fernandez. She was once a calendar poster girl for Jax Beer.

But her roots were humble, and Vidaurri experienced tragedy, depression and hardships in her sometimes tumultuous personal life.

Named for Saint Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of the impossible, for those in mourning and for the lonely, Vidaurri said the name suited her. Ive suffered since I was a little girl, she told the Express-News in 2013.

The San Antonio native was born in a small house in the 600 block of Montezuma Street on the West Side on May 22, 1924.

She was the oldest of three children born to Juan and Maria Susie Vidaurri. Her father operated a gasoline station and boxing ring; her mother worked as a housekeeper.

The singer told the Express-News in 2015 that one of her earliest memories was of eating an apple on the steps of a church while her mother cleaned Our Lady of the Lake University.

Susie encouraged her shy daughter and paid a neighbor to teach her to play the guitar but she didnt live to see her success. She died of tuberculosis when Rita was 15.

It fell to the girl to raise her siblings and work as a mechanic for her father, who didnt want her to sing, at first. To please him, she boxed and played baseball. She went to night school at Lanier High School.

Vidaurris early singing career is weaved into the rich, if forgotten, music history of the West Side.

In the late 1930s, she performed with her sister, Henrietta, as Las Hermanitas Vidaurri. Vidaurris first record was with the duo. Alma Angelina and Atotonilco was done at Tomas Acuas garage studio.

As a gangly teen, she helped christen the Guadalupe Theater in 1942. She sang at carpas, the traveling Mexican vaudeville tent shows. Soon, she was a radio star.

She broke barriers for women. She often wore pants when she performed.

Rodriguez recounted how after Vidaurri became an international star, shed give the teenager her hand-me-down charro outfits.

I wanted to be just like Rita, said Rodriguez. I posed just like her in my first publicity photos.

Filmmaker Jorge Sandoval explored her life in the 2016 documentary Las Tesoros de San Antonio: A Westside Story.

Vidaurri, the mother of four children with three different men, was twice married and twice divorced. Her second husband, Hillman Eden, was also her manager.

Since 1968, shed lived alone at her modest home on Texas Avenue. She survived three heart attacks and struggled with diabetes.

Read more at: https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/La-Calandria-Rita-Vidaurri-has-died-13540158.php

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