Student Success Stories - Meet Lilo Gonzalez

DSCF0198Lilo Gonzalez is a musician and songwriter based in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood in Washington, DC. He came to the US from El Salvador in the 1980s as a refugee of the civil war. Looking to improve his son’s quality of life, he started working as soon as he arrived. “I got here on a Sunday and on Monday I was already washing dishes,” he said. But with no knowledge of the English language, he found it difficult to obtain a well-paying job and to access certain services.

In 1982, he started studying at the Carlos Rosario School, then called Gordon Center. Immediately his job prospects brightened. He was given the chance to work helping the bartender. “I earned more in one night than I earned in a week,” said Lilo. “It was because I could now say basic things like lemon or cherry.”

His big break in music happened in 1989, when he won the local version of the Iberoamerican Television Organization (OTI, by its Spanish acronym)’s music festival for his song “Amor Sin Papeles.” A year later, he won three grants from the DC Commission for the Arts to record his first album. It was released with his band, Los de la Mount Pleasant, in 1994.

Today, Lilo is able to make a living doing what he loves. He continues composing music that talks about his experience as an immigrant, and hopes to come out with a new album next year. He also dedicates his time to teaching music to children.