Lila Downs gave a heartbreaking, Lila-esque rendition of Juan Gabriel’s classic ballad “Hasta Que Te Conoci” at a special concert celebrating 85 years of autonomy for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
The binational diva performed alongside cultural icon Eugenia León, tenor Fernando de la Mora and Carla Dirlikov in what was billed as a “journey through the musical geography of Mexico.” The artists were accompanied by UNAM’s student orchestra in the first of three unique celebrations to mark the anniversary.
The public university, a symbol of national pride, was granted autonomy in 1929, giving UNAM control over its own curriculum and budget without government interference–something students have fiercely protected. UNAM’s long history of student activism includes the tragic 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. The university is also known as the epicenter of Mexican arts and culture; its main campus, with murals from Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, is listed as a World Heritage site. UNAM is the only Mexican university with alumni recognized as Nobel Laureates, including Octavio Paz, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990.