Mexican composer. She began studying music in Mexico with Lavista (1982–4) and in the composition workshop of the National Music Research, Documentation and Information Centre, where she had classes with Daniel Catán, Julio Estrada and Federico Ibarra. Later, she studied at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with Lukas Foss, Leonardo Balada and Robert Page. There she won the first prizes for composition (1989) and orchestral composition (1985). She has also had scholarships from the Rockefeller Foundation (1995) and from the Mexican government (1993, 1996).
Her output, still quite small, represents a synthesis of various elements which converge to form a style both eclectic and personal. Starting from a careful use of intervallic developments and of complex rhythmic configurations which link her to Mexican composers such as Revueltas, Villanueva's works tend, in her own words, to reflect ‘that gigantic force, magnificent and supreme, which nourishes all living creatures’, an image which has inspired works such as Anabacoa, Ritual, Prometeo and Anamnésis, and which situates Villanueva alongside other Mexican composers wishing to convey in their music the existential dilemmas of the fin de siècle.