Born in Colombia’s Pacific coastal region, Leonor González Mina is a singer quite unlike any other of her time period. In the male-dominated world of cumbia, her strident voice drew from the strong vocal tradition of Afro-Colombian women of the Pacific corridor. Her rise to fame coincided with the “Golden Age” of Colombian cumbia, and she simultaneously embraced the movement towards the orchestral ensembles typical of the time period and passionately championed her roots. A master of both form and content, she drew heavily from Afro-Colombian folklore and created glorious renditions of the most popular styles of the day, including bolero, pasillo, bambuco, and of course, cumbia.

Her songs take listeners back to her home region of Valle de Cauca, which is known for both its lush coastal lowlands and mountainous mining towns. When the Spanish brought slaves from the Caribbean coast to develop the mining industry in the south, it initiated a complex relationship between the Pacific Afro-Colombians and the mines, which brought both economic opportunities and terrible hardship. In “A la Mina,” Leonor sings of her community’s dread of the mines with which she was all too familiar as the wife of a miner. This playlist is a tribute to the indomitable Leonor González Mina, whose ability to paint such a vivid picture of the conditions of her people, as well as her love for her verdant homeland, earns her a place as one Colombia’s most iconic musicians.