Julieta Venegas’ Lyrics of Life and Longing

As a young girl living on the U.S-Mexico border, my family and I would often cross to Mexico to visit my grandparents. After filling ourselves with street tacos and laughter, we’d head back to the United States in my dad’s old Chevy Tahoe, and he would turn on the radio to the local Spanish music station. My sister and I would listen to the mid 2000s hits and sing along as best as we could. As a child, my favorite voice to hear was Julieta Venegas’. When Julieta’s hit Limón y Sal would come on, I would turn to look at my sister in the passenger seat and sing,“Yo te quiero con limón y sal, yo te quiero tal y como estas (I love you with lemon and salt, I love you just the way you are)."

Like me, Julieta was born in a border town. According to Venegas, growing up in the border influenced both her identity and her music. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Venegas revealed, “I grew up speaking two languages, listening to music from two very different countries. This gave me a very wide view of the world.... It also influences the way that I make music, because I don't consider myself to be either from here or from there.", opens a new window

Once referred to as the “Frida Kahlo of rock and roll, opens a new window,” Venegas’ musical career started in high school when she formed part of the bands Chantaje and Tijuana No!. When she was 22 years old, she moved to Mexico City, and her undeniable talent eventually landed her a record deal. Her first solo album, Aquí, was released in 1997. Her big break, however, came in 2003, with the release of Sí. The album went triple platinum in Mexico, and it received a Latin Grammy. Three years later, Limón y Sal made waves throughout Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Central America, and in 2007, her music once again won various awards including the coveted Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. 

Venegas’ music is often personal and heartfelt, touching on universal experiences like love, heartbreak and growing up. In the Los Angeles Times, Ernesto Lechner writes, “Her lyrics of wounded idealism and wrecked love affairs extend a rich Mexican tradition of popular music, opens a new window,” and her music is reminiscent of Mexican music greats like Agustín Lara, Lola Beltrán, Juan Gabriel and José José.

Now, as an adult, her music takes on a whole new meaning in my life. In her 2015 album, Algo Sucede, Venegas explores growing up in her single Ese Camino. In the song, Venegas sings, “Cambié de piel tantas veces, temores y sueños también, el tiempo pasa dejando huella en mi corazón (I changed my skin so many times, my fears and my dreams too, time passes, leaving footprints on my heart)." Venegas authentically articulates what it’s like to get older; even as adults, our emotions and experiences as children determine who we are. Like Venegas, I’m growing older, but all the people I’ve been throughout my life, the library blogger now and the child singing in the backseat of her dad’s Chevy, will be with me wherever I go.

If you’re curious about Juliet Venegas’ music, check out this playlist on Freegal, opens a new window that features some of her best songs and other popular music by Mexican artists!

This blog was written by Doris G. and first appeared March 2021.