Afro-Mexican María Antonia del Carmen Peregrino known to the world as Toña ‘La Negra was born in 1912 in Veracruz, Mexico, a place where alongside Costa Chica you find the most amount of black people in Mexico. Toña ‘La Negra’ began singing at social events, music competitions and carnivals at an early age.
In 1932, when she was 20, she moved with her husband and child to Mexico City and started singing in a place called El Retiro. It wasn’t long before she was discovered by the star-maker of the day, radio station XEW.
Soon after, Toña La Negra met one of Mexico’s biggest songwriters, Agustin Lara, and her career took off. Legend has it that Lara was the one who named her Toña La Negra.
Writer Rafael Figueroa says Lara found his muse in Toña La Negra. And she became the vehicle for his musical exploration of the black contribution to Mexican culture.
Agustin Lara composed Bolero music for Toña La Negra to sing which Like the mambo, danzón, and other song types originated in Cuba, The Mexico City film and music boom of the 40s and 50s drew many of the Cuba’s great artists across the Gulf with their music “And according to writer Rafael Figueroa, Lara wanted to show his appreciation to black music and it’s roots by not only writing songs to black music, but by having a black singer from Mexico sing them.
From the early 1930s to the mid-50s,Toña La Negra focused on performing, making records and radio shows and first became famous by her interpretation of Lara’s song “Enamorada”, he also wrote “Lamento Jarocho” specially for her to sing. She also sang for the famous Sonora Matancera, recording two numbers in the studio with this musical institution. The alley where she was born in the old barrio of “La Huaca” in the city of Veracruz, México, carries her name.
Toña ‘La Negra’ died in 1982, but she remains a national musical icon, after her death the municipality of Veracruz has erected a statue of Toña la Negra within sight of the old church of Cristo del Buen Viaje (1609) bordering on the La Huaca barrio. The German film director Christian Baudissin made a documentary about Toña la Negra for television in 1993 that included interviews with her ex-husband the musician “Vittillo” Victor Ruiz Pazos, singer Tania Libertad and others who knew her.