Though small and slight in stature, Eva Nuánez was a giant to the men and women with whom she crossed paths.
“At 4’5” and all of 85 pounds, the had a tenderness and an acceptance for all that crossed her path,” wrote her nephew Dr. Lorenzo Trujillo in her eulogy. “She left a legacy of love of family, God and her music.”
Born in 1921 in the mining town of Berwind, Colorado - just west of Trinidad - Genoveva Nuánez née Trujillo endured a male-dominate world, cancer and the passing of her siblings, parents and husband, Henry Nuánez, before passing away on February 18th at 97 years of age.
According to Dr. Trujillo, himself an accomplished musician, hers was a story of unconditional love for her family, God and music. Having moved to Denver while in elementary school, Nuánez took a liking to the violin. She began taking lessons at 13, but eventually studied on her own.
“Eva was not interested in classical music, but wanted to learn the Spanish music,” Trujillo wrote. “She would listen to the local radio DJ - Paco Sánchez - Mexican Music programs on the radio, where she would practice the Mexican music on her own and write the words to the songs in Spanish.”
Mixing her mother’s love of traditional polkas, her infatuation with Mexican music and the current American music of the time, Nuánez developed an eclectic style.
“Her music style was universal,” Trujillo said in an interview with La Voz. “She could play a western tune or a traditional New Mexico waltz or polka. Then, she would play a popular Hollywood piece like ‘Begin the Beguine’ by Cole Porter. She was adept at most music styles of her time.”
That style also helped Dr. Trujillo gain his own passion for music. Now an affiliate professor of music at Metropolitan State University of Denver as well as the director of the mariachi ensemble “Los Correcaminos de MSU Denver” Trujillo added that without his aunt Eva, he may not have found his sound.
“She was my greatest influence as a musician and vocalist,” he said. “I would watch her play with her group when I was a child and would love to mimic her songs even to this day. My style of music is profoundly rooted in the pieces and music I learned from her.”
Trujillo also had the unique pleasure of performing with his aunt in public arenas.
“I loved the many times over many decades that we performed together for television, radio and in concerts, as well as for family and community events,” he said. “She taught me my deep sense of musicality and love of bringing love, joy and happiness to other through the music we performed.”
Though music was her passion, Nuánez always put family first. Even at the cusp of her career, she set music aside to focus on starting and raising a family with her husband, Henry. She was able to officially launch her professional career in 1948 and began playing at Denver clubs like CIO Club, the Pioneer bar, Joe’s Buffet, Larimer Grill and Duke’s Place in the 1950s and 60s.
Outside of live performances, Nuánez recorded several times. According to Trujillo, “it was not unusual for her to carry around her little suitcase selling her cassettes.”
She chose to officially retire from singing and playing on December 31, 2002, after 53 years.
“Her legacy is lauded as one of the pioneers of traditional music of the Southwest,” Trujillo said. “A legacy of recording that stands among the greatest treasures of the music of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.”