August 19, 2003 American Folklife Center Presents Heritage Winners in Concert September 18

Roberto and Lorenzo Martinez and Family Received 2003 National Heritage Award

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: (202) 707-5510
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The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress presents Roberto and Lorenzo Martinez and Family at noon, Thursday, Sept. 18, on Neptune Plaza in front of the Thomas Jefferson Building, First Street and Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. The concert will feature the National Endowment for the Arts 2003 National Heritage award winners in a program of Hispanic music from New Mexico. New Mexico state folklorist Claude Stephenson will introduce the concert, which is free of charge and open to the public.

This outdoor concert is the sixth in the series “Homegrown 2003: The Music of America,” monthly (April to November) presentations of traditional music and dance, which are drawn from communities across the United States and arranged with the help of state folklorists. Co-sponsors of the concert are the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington.

The American Folklife Center’s “Homegrown” series is the grassroots component of “I Hear America Singing,” a Library of Congress project celebrating America’s music.

Roberto Martinez was born and raised in the farming village of Chacon in the mountains of northern New Mexico, a region that is a stronghold of New Mexican Hispanic (sometimes called “Spanish colonial”) culture. His musical odyssey began at the age of 6, when his uncle fashioned him a guitar from a gallon gasoline container, with wire for strings. In 1951 Roberto Martinez and his wife, Ramona, moved to Denver, where he began playing New Mexico-style music with his wife’s uncle Jesús Ulibarri.

In 1960 Martinez and his wife moved to the Albuquerque area, and a year later he founded Los Reyes de Albuquerque, a group that played a wide range of Mexican music favored by New Mexicans; it soon became a mainstay of Albuquerque’s Hispanic musical life. During this period Martinez began composing corridos, or ballads, on contemporary topics, including a regional hit memorializing Daniel Fernandez, a local hero and casualty of the Vietnam war, and “El Corrido de los Astronautas” about the NASA Challenger tragedy. He also founded two record labels dedicated to the dissemination of New Mexican Hispanic music.

The Martinezes raised five children, all of whom took up music. In particular, their son, Lorenzo, showed an interest in the old melodies of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

Born in 1954, Lorenzo Martinez studied violin and guitar as a youth and decided to become a professional musician. At the age of 15, he recorded an album of New Mexican dance music titled “El Redondo Largo,” and a few years later he recorded “Ambos,” an album of New Mexican wedding music, which was based on his family’s songs and on his research in the New Mexican music tradition. A third album, “Música Antigua,” followed. The three albums were pioneering efforts in documenting and disseminating the regional Hispanic musical tradition of New Mexico.

In 1978-79 the younger Martinez went to Mexico City to immerse himself in the Mariachi scene. He later returned to Albuquerque and rejoined his father in Los Reyes de Albuquerque. He also played in Mariachi Tenampa, one of New Mexico’s premier ensembles.

In 1982 Roberto and Lorenzo were chosen to represent their culture on the landmark “Raices Musicales” tour produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and they participated in two subsequent tours in 1988 and 1990. In his retirement Roberto Martinez continues to perform at senior citizen centers and social service agencies throughout northern New Mexico. In 1999 he received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Lorenzo Martinez continues to perform and compose songs and instrumental music.

Daniel Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkways recordings, sums up the Martinezes’ importance to their community: “Roberto and Lorenzo Martinez are firmly rooted in New Mexican Hispanic culture and are among a handful of activists who have worked to keep their heritage alive. Roberto’s uncompromising cultural activism combined with Lorenzo’s musical talent and creativity makes for a whole that is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

The inclement weather location for the concert is Madison Hall, on the first floor of the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress. The Jefferson and Madison buildings are located near Metro stops at Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line).

Forthcoming concerts in the Homegrown 2003 series are:

Oct. 8, Wylie and the Wild West: cowboy and country music from Washington state
Nov. 12, Chuna McIntyre and the Nunumpta Yup’ik Dancers: music and dance from Alaska

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center’s mission to make performing arts widely accessible. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. These free, 6 p.m., performances are offered 365 days a year; tickets are never required. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center Web site at

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) was founded in 1964 to further the understanding, investigation, appreciation, and performance of the traditional folk music and folklore of the American people. The FSGW presents more than 200 folk events in the Washington area each year. Learn more about the society at


PR 03-145
ISSN 0731-3527