Nacha Mendez grew up in the tiny border town of La Union, in southern New Mexico. She is Chiricahua Apache and Mexican. She began singing and playing the guitar at an early age. She learned traditional Ranchera canción from her grandmother and performed in border towns near El Paso with her cousins, the Black Brothers, sons of ex-Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black.
In the early ’90s, she was a principal singer in Robert Ashley’s opera company, touring Europe and Japan and translated the libretto for Ashley’s opera Now Eleanor’s Idea. She performed trouser roles in three of his operas throughout Japan, at the Avignon Music Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Strasbourg, France, Graz, Austria, and Berlin.
Nacha has also collaborated with celebrated composer Steve Peters, who produced “Bodega de Amor” and “Volando.” “My Burning Skin to Sleep,” a song on the 2004 CD release Shelter by Steve Peters and distributed by the Cold Blue Label features the voice of Nacha Mendez. She has also collaborated with composer and Pulitzer Prize recipient Raven Chacon. Her recordings include “Slowly Rising” (as Dueto Le Momo), and “Blue Silence,” “Bodega de Amor,” and “Volando” (as Nacha Mendez). Since 1990, she has worked on several projects with Steve Peters, Raven Chacon, and has collaborated with writer Melody Sumner Carnahan, visual artist Harmony Hammond, and filmmakers Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi who directed and produced the documentary Chavela.
Mendez/Cordero received a National Endowment for the Arts Award and a fellowship from Mutable Music in New York. In February 2011, she was honored by the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women Artists. She was voted Best Female vocalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico in both 2009 and 2010. Voted Best Family Friendly Entertainer Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance 2012 Award and in 2013 she was awarded the Best Latin Music Production at the New Mexico Music Awards. In 2018, Ms. Mendez received the prestigious New Mexico Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award. She performs under her grandmother’s name, Nacha Mendez. She is Founder and Executive Director of the Nacha Mendez Music Scholarship Fund for New Mexican Girls of Color.