Olga's Story


Long before I became a professional storyteller, I was a professional listener. I have always loved stories. My paternal grandmother, Grandma Loya, was a very good storyteller. She was a tiny, fragile woman with high cheekbones, deep–set eyes, and thick eyebrows. She pulled her hair back in a bun. She wore dark, long dresses with buttons in the front and shoes with little heels that tied in the front. I would go to see her as often as I could because I was madly in love with her and her stories. She would sit with me and tell stories about going to the mercado and visiting with friends. Sometimes she told me folktales—not very often but once in a while. Mostly, I liked to hear the stories about her life.

My father was also a very good storyteller. His stories always started out to be five minutes long but soon grew to be fifteen to thirty. He loved people—and people loved him in return. So I come by my storytelling naturally.

I grew up in East Los Angeles, California. I have always told stories and, in 1980, I went to my first storytelling conference. It was like a thunderbolt to my heart. I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. I knew I had to pursue the art of storytelling. At first I told stories from books from many different cultures, and then I discovered the stories from Latin America. A little at a time all the stories of my childhood started coming back to me and brought me back to the beauty of my family, my ancestors. They brought me back to the beauty of the place where I grew up—East Los Angeles. They brought me back to my culture, my roots. Stories are and were that powerful for me. Soon I started remembering my family stories, and that just added another dimension to my evolution as a storyteller. Now I am doing theater pieces, which may embody an entire theme. Some of the pieces like “Dancing Through La Vida” are done with music. Others are done with an installation, like the “Day of the Dead” shows, which have an altar as part of the performance. Another new dimension is doing a chautauqua piece on Juana Briones, a 19th-century California woman. I do her in costume and in her own voice.

In my performances, the audience is able to see different styles of telling because I perform personal tales, folklore, and do improvisation, where I enjoy involving the audience in a number of surprising ways.

Stories are told everywhere in the world. There is a definite resurgence of storytelling. As a result, storytellers have opportunities to do many different types of work. Over the course of a month I worked in a Hispanic festival, I presented a theater piece at the University of Michigan, I am storytelling at a museum, I am telling stories in a junior high and elementary school, and am also telling stories to teenagers at a vision quest.

I have always wanted to do something with a passion and now it's come true!


“I like to tell stories because they have a way of entertaining, teaching and giving people strength. Through stories, people see how other people live, how they think and they could live. Stories are good for the mind and heart.”
Olga Loya

“A great storyteller, such as you, empowers children and adults to use their imagination.”
Jim Johnson, Dean, Arts, Humanities & Communications Division, Modest Junior College

“Olga Loya is a masterful storyteller, who has been dedicated to developing her art over the arc of a long and illustrious career outside the purview of our Anglo-dominant storytelling community. Her maturity is revealed by the uniqueness of her style, the depth and breadth of her material, and her singular point of view. In Hawaii they say older women are the best dancers, because of all they know and can communicate with every fiber of their bodies and souls. That is how I think of Olga.”
Storyteller, Carol Birch


The Latina teller of tales, from San Jose, CA, is also an author, performance artist, keynote speaker, and teacher, who has performed and taught workshops throughout the United States and Mexico. Loya performs a large repertoire of family and personal stories with the goal of exploring the struggles and complexity of being bicultural—a Mexican–American in the United States. Loya also tells bilingual Latin-American folklore and colorful and sometimes magical stories from Africa, India, Asia, the Antilles, and Europe. Loya uses stories as a way of examining themes like healing, racism, and multiculturalism. She incorporates a variety of performance styles, including improvisation, movement and dance, song, and instruments. Olga Loya performs in theaters, universities, festivals, conferences, museums, libraries, and schools.

She has been a keynote speaker for CABE (California Assoc. for Bilingual Education), the Glendale School District in Phoenix, AZ, The Consortium for Children Abuse in San Jose, CA, the Tucson School District, AZ, and the Multicultural Conference in Eugene, Oregon, among many others.

Loya has three picture books/DVD's, including a collection called “More Ready to Tell Tales from Around the World”. Loya has written a book called “Momentos Mágicos”, Magic Moments, which won a 1998 Aesop Accolade, the International Reading Association award for young adults, and an America's commendation for young adults. In 2000, a story called “The Belly Button Monster” was part of a collection called “More Ready to Tell Tales from Around the World”. Loya also has a story named “Evita” published by August House.

In addition to performing for children and families, Loya presents the following one-woman shows: “Dancing through La Vida,” “Love and Ghost stories from South of the Border,” “Surprises of the Heart,” which are stories of redemption and forgiveness, featuring a short story about a mother who takes in the boy who killed her son and Nepantla a theater piece about being between worlds. She has also been touring a Chautauqua piece on a Californio settler named Juana Briones.

Loya leads workshops and residencies and has completed a three-year California Arts Residence for k–8 schools. She has been on The California Arts Tourist Roster. She has also performed a three-year residency with teen moms sponsored by the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Olga Loya has been a featured teller at the First Latin-American Storytelling Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico. She has appeared at the Ghost Tales in 2001 at the National Storytelling Festival. She is on the roster of many arts councils, some of which include Los Angeles Music Center Education Division, Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo Children's Creative Project, and Santa Cruz Cultural Center – Spectra.

Loya is the National Storytelling Network recipient of the 2013 Oracle Award, a circle of excellence award.


“Olga Loya is a committed, hard working professional with an ability to bring her heart into the work. A powerful voice and presence, her stories engage, educate, entertain and help reflect on the spiritual side of our ancestral memories.”
Felix J. Alvarez, Teatro de Los Pobres, San Jose, CA

“Thank you for the outstanding performances you offered throughout the weekend, and for your role in making our festival a success.”
Susan C. O'Connor, National Storytelling Association

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