The two surviving members of Las Tesoros de San Antonio recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.
Blanquita “Blanca Rosa” Rodriguez and Beatriz “La Paloma del Norte” Llamas were honored as 2019 NEA National Heritage Fellows and the two show no signs of slowing down.
Las Tesoros came together over a decade ago under the auspices of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio. All four artists grew up in the West Side of San Antonio and are locally and internationally renowned performers.
Janet Cortez “La Perla Tapatia (The Pearl of Guadalajara)” and Rita Vidaurri “La Calandria (The Lark)” were also part of the group. Cortez died in 2014, and most recently, Vidaurri in Jan. 2019. Rodriguez and Llamas are now in their 80s and continue to perform as Las Tesoros.
For years, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center lobbied to get Las Tesoros recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, and their efforts paid off when Rodriguez and Llamas received their award Sept. 20, 2019.
More than 440 artists have been honored with National Heritage Fellowships since its inception in 1982. Past honorees include fellow South Texas musicians Lydia Mendoza, Flaco Jimenéz and Eva Ybarra, as well as bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, bluesman John Lee Hooker.
Blanca Rodriguez had her first performance at age 13 at the Teatro Guadalupe. She eventually began touring the United States and Mexico, performing with groups like Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Mariachi de Ramón Palomar, and Los Reyes de Jalisco; with singing stars like Charro Avita, Vicente Fernández and Juan Mendoza.
Beatriz Llamas was born in Aguascalientes, MX and moved to San Antonio’s West Side with her parents at age 13. She soon began touring with Mariachi Chapultepec and Conjunto Bernal, and in 1967, she became the first Tejana to perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Beatriz was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 1995, and into the Tejano Conjunto Hall of Fame just four years later.