National Endowment for the Arts Names Californians as 2021 National Heritage Fellows

SACRAMENTO, CA – The National Endowment for the Arts announced on Tuesday the recipients of its 2021 National Heritage Fellowships, including two California-based musicians, Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon of Burbank and Los Lobos of Los Angeles. These lifetime honor awards of $25,000 are given in recognition of both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations. In addition to their artistic value, each of the Heritage Fellows’ art forms also reflects the community they come from and the history of the tradition.

Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon is a master teacher and performer of rondalla from Burbank. De Leon uses both the classroom space and the performance stage to steward rondalla, a traditional Spanish-influenced form of music from the Philippines, and transmit this rich heritage to the Filipinx diasporic community. Originally from Nueva Ecija, Republic of the Philippines, De Leon has contributed integrity and deep cultural knowledge to communities in Los Angeles, Southern California, and beyond for five decades. Click here for 2021 National Heritage Fellow Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon’s full biography. 

Los Lobos is a Mexican-American band from Los Angeles. The band has defined the East Los Angeles sonic landscape for nearly a half-century. Formed in 1973 by guitarist/accordionist David Hidalgo and percussionist and lyricist Louie Perez, their joint eclectic musical interests led them to recruit two other students from Garfield High School. Guitarist Cesar Rosas and bassist Conrad Lozano joined and they decided to call themselves Los Lobos del Este. As young, music-loving Chicanos from the barrio, they were a product of their surroundings, applying African-American influences such as the blues, rock n roll, jazz, and doo–wop, as a natural complement to the deep and soulful Mexican and Latin American sounds they had grown up with, such as the bolero, rancheras, music Norteña, son jarocho, son huasteco, and cumbias, to give birth to their unique sound. The wildly successful soundtrack of “La Bamba” (1985) catapulted Los Lobos into international stardom, earning them industry recognition and a Grammy Award. Los Lobos has carried the torch of Chicano music into the present and has amassed a body of work that will be cherished, studied, and emulated for many years to come. Click here for 2021 National Heritage Fellow Los Lobos’s full biography.

“This year’s California’s National Heritage Fellows celebrate the sounds of California culture through their musical gifts,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, California Arts Council Director. “We are proud to congratulate Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon and Los Lobos as agents of the traditions of yesterday, champions of their craft today, and messengers for tomorrow.”

“We are thrilled to see the unique legacies of Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon and Los Lobos recognized as National Heritage Fellows by the NEA,” said Amy Kitchener, Executive Director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, a California Arts Council Statewide and Regional Networks grantee and a statewide and national leader dedicated to supporting cultural practitioners and their communities. “These California awardees have made seminal contributions in their musical genres of Filipinx Rondalla and Chicanx Rock—to interpret, innovate and expand the traditional musical heritage of California and the nation.”

For the second year, the National Endowment for the Arts will commemorate the NEA National Heritage Fellows with a film that visits with the fellows where they live and practice these traditional art forms. On November 17, 2021, the virtual presentation will be webcast free to the public at More information will follow.

“The diverse art forms of the National Heritage Fellows allow us to experience and appreciate the rich cultural traditions that make up America,” said Ann Eilers, acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts. “It is inspiring how these artistic practices continue the legacy of generations past, while blending contemporary elements as they continue into the future.”

Fifty California artists and culture bearers have been recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship since its start in 1982. Click here for the full list.

To read the full announcement from the National Endowment for the Arts, including the list of all 2021 National Heritage Fellows, click here.

About the National Heritage Fellowships

The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Including the 2021 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 458 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, including Japanese classical dancer Gertrude Yukie Tsutsumi, Tejano musician and singer Manuel “Cowboy” Donley, Passamaquoddy basketmaker Molly Neptune Parker, leatherworker James F. Jackson, oud player and composer Rahim AlHaj, and quilting community advocate Carolyn Mazloomi. More information about the National Heritage Fellows is available on the Arts Endowment’s website.

Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. The panel’s recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the Arts Endowment chairman, who makes the final decision. The deadline to submit a nomination for the 2022 class of National Heritage Fellows is July 30, 2021. Visit the National Endowment for the Arts website for more information and to submit a nomination.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

Media Inquiries:
Allison Hill
(202) 682-5037

# # #

The California Arts Council is a state agency with a mission of strengthening arts, culture, and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. It supports local arts infrastructure and programming statewide through grants, initiatives, and services. The California Arts Council envisions a California where all people flourish with universal access to and participation in the arts.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, Vice Chair Kathleen Gallegos, Jodie Evans, Jaime Galli, Stanlee Gatti, Donn K. Harris, Alex Israel, Consuelo Montoya, and Jonathan Moscone. Learn more at

The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit

Subscribe to the California ArtBeat weekly newsletter

Skip to content