The music mentor: Nacha Mendez supports New Mexico's female youth

Nacha Mendez; photo Kerry Gallagher

When musician Margarita Cordero, who performs as Nacha Mendez, won the prestigious New Mexico Platinum Music Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, her brother took her out to lunch to celebrate. “This is a big honor, a big deal,” he told her. “Now you need to start a scholarship.”

As a child growing up in Southern New Mexico, Cordero’s parents were committed to fostering her music education. For a working-class family, that meant sacrifices. When the aspiring musician severed part of a finger at the age of seven, her parents worked hard to save for her lessons and a brand new guitar, all while paying off medical expenses.

In July, Cordero announced the establishment of a music scholarship for economically disadvantaged New Mexico youth: The Nacha Mendez Music Scholarship for New Mexican Girls of Color. Two recipients between age 8 and 15 will be awarded the scholarships in January.

“It’s my wish to contribute financially and as a mentor in inspiring a young musician who has the passion and dedication to continue and to discover the richness that a music education or career can provide in whatever capacity,” she says. “It is my wish that this scholarship will also address the gender and racial imbalance within the music world and help overcome socioeconomic barriers.”

Cordero’s Scholarship Committee is composed of musicians and music industry professionals, including Raven Chacon, Rafael Herrera, and Carla Kountoupes. The committee plans to grow the program next year by expanding eligibility and increasing the number of scholarships awarded and award amounts.

Join Cordero and Maestra of Ceremonies Anna Gallegos y Reinhardt for the launch party at Weldon’s Museum Hill Cafe (710 Camino Lejo) at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27. Participants receive a prix fixe dinner prepared by owner Weldon Fulton, and the evening features a lineup of guest performers and speakers, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Ohkay Owingeh hip-hop artist G Precious, and guitarist and vocalist Lorraine Valdez. Cordero also performs as Nacha Mendez.

Ticket are $85 (available at and the costs support the scholarship fund. To donate to the scholarship fund and for updates on how to apply visit Scholarship applications will be available this fall. — Michael Abatemarco

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