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Corridos North of the Border

06 Jul 07 - 11:29 AM (#2095659)
Subject: Folklore: Corridos
From: GUEST,Alba

today's New York Times July 6, 2007

Far From Home, Mexicans Sing Age-Old Ballads of a New Life
NAMPA, Idaho

Watching television coverage of immigration marches, Jose F. Garcia got mad. He got frustrated. He got his button accordion.

In short order, Mr. Garcia squeezed out the beginnings of a corrido, a kind of Mexican folk ballad that tells a story, often with a moral, and sang out the lyrics that came to him.
    Now they are putting up barriers in front of us so we don't return;
    but that is not going to block us from crossing into the United States,
    We leap them like deer, we go under them like moles.
Mr. Garcia, accompanied by his young son Benjamin on a snare drum, recently belted out the song, "Latinos Unidos," in an onion field for the benefit of researchers from the Western Folklife Center, a nonprofit cultural organization in Elko, Nev., that has begun a project to document Mexican influences and folklore in the ranching West.

Corridos have long telegraphed the melancholy of Mexico's northern frontier. Heroes die. Lovers are crossed. And, in the controversial narco-corrido form, drug dealers are celebrated.

But as migrants moved north, modern corridos have also been inspired by everyday occurrences and current events, with some written about the Kennedys, crops, floods and truck stops.

Mr. Garcia has recorded a corrido about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "Tragedia en Nueva York," complete with a jet sound whining through the guitars, horns and accordion.
    It was Sept. 11 when the world woke up
    in the year 2001 when it was reported
    that in the twin towers two airplanes crashed
(In Spanish, the lyrics rhyme.)

The Western Folklife Center intends to build an archive of such material, recording for posterity the Mexican presence far from the border and turning some of it into segments for public television and radio.

Although the project was conceived before the immigration debate intensified, Hal Cannon, the founding director of the center and its popular offshoot, the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, said it could serve as a reminder that, come what may, the Latino influence has already taken root.

"I think that's an important song," Mr. Cannon told his colleagues after listening to a few verses of Mr. Garcia's corrido, which Mr. Garcia plans to perform with his band and may play as part of a corrido competition the folklife center is organizing here on July 15 month.

Through the project, Mr. Cannon said later, "Relationships will be built, understanding will be built and we will be documenting something that is quite ephemeral."

Musicians and scholars debate what qualifies as a corrido. To purists, Mr. Garcia's immigration song, though sung in the style of a corrido and with instruments common to the form, does not make the cut.

"I believe somebody has to die," said Juan Dies, an ethnomusicologist who is based in Chicago and is working with the center on the project. "But some people don't feel that way."

"The community defines what a corrido is, not a scholar from Chicago," added Mr. Dies, who specializes in Mexican music. "It is, basically, a musical news story."

Mr. Garcia's repertory, apart from immigration and terrorism, includes songs of desperate lovers and other more traditional corrido themes, which he and other musicians have found the crowds here, ever nostalgic, tend to favor.

"To me, a corrido is a song with a message," said Mr. Garcia, who recently opened a dance club but is hoping for a big break some day for his band. "I don't like the ones about drug traffickers that are popular on the radio and that the young kids these days like. But as long as it is telling a story with a message to me it is a corrido."

Some of the older corridos here speak of the beauty of the valley one, a romantic ballad called "Nampa," extols the virtues of its women and "silvery moon nights" or bar fights long forgotten. But the longing for home, and the difficulty of going back, are more popular themes among the current crop of local musicians.

"If I write one about my friend over there the people would say, hey, who wants to hear about him?" said Gerardo Barca, a musician known by his nickname, Lalo. "People want to be transported home, to time and events there."

So Mr. Barca wrote the bittersweet "Lindos Recuerdos," or "Beautiful Memories," about the loss of his family's ranch in Michoacan to development after he left 15 years ago and his inability to ever return.
    "These are just beautiful memories of times that won't come back;
    Since the times have changed,
    and where there was that little ranch now there is a city."
"Everybody here can relate to that, to that idea of wanting to go home but never really making it," he said.

Latino immigrants, primarily from Mexico and Texas, came to the Treasure Valley here in three waves. The first arrived in the 1800s to work in mines and build railroads, another came to work in agriculture in the postwar boom of the 1940s and 1950s and a third in the past couple of decades as Boise and its suburbs have swollen over farmland.

From 1990 to 2000, the Hispanic population of Idaho grew 92 percent, to 101,690, with most of that growth in the Treasure Valley.

Alfredo Paz, a local musician, laments that the younger generation prefers narco-corridos, a rough equivalent to gangsta rap and something he and his band members refuse to perform.

"We don't want to sing about drugs or rape or anything like that," said Mr. Paz, who does perform corridos about double-crossed lovers and his signature, "Le Quedan Plumas Al Gallo," or "The Rooster Still Has His Feathers." The song is about a man defeated in love but still the cock of the walk.

Mr. Garcia, who has been in the United States for more than 20 years, said he was carrying on a musical tradition handed down from his father and practiced in the small village where he grew up.

"I always wanted to be somebody so I composed music," he said.

While watching the immigration marches that day, Mr. Garcia said he felt compelled to put "our story" to music, scratching out the words over several weeks, right up to the day the folklife center researchers came calling.

"I feel we need to write out stories and this was a big part of our story here," he said. "Corridos used to be like newspapers. Well, maybe, they still should be."

06 Jul 07 - 02:06 PM (#2095774)
Subject: Corridos North of the Border
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Corridos have long been a part of the folk music of the American Southwest, Texas to California. Now they are spreading throughout the U. S. and into British Columbia. A small sample:

Hope that works. If not, try the New York Times online, Friday, July 6, 2007; Audio Slide Show, Corridos North of the Border.

Also look for the new cd of American corridos by Jose F. Garcia.

06 Jul 07 - 03:03 PM (#2095818)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

See post Corridos by guest Alba, where I should have put my Link to the video, but I didn't see it.
Listen to the video while reading Alba's post.

06 Jul 07 - 03:24 PM (#2095836)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: Joe Offer

I combined the two threads - this is interesting stuff.

06 Jul 07 - 03:32 PM (#2095841)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: katlaughing

Very interesting!! Thanks, Alba and Q! Will read this one first thing when I check the MUdcat.

14 May 09 - 04:54 PM (#2631975)

Can someone please post LA LLORONA?

14 May 09 - 04:59 PM (#2631981)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: Midchuck

Tom Russell's Gallo del Cielo was, I believe, an intentional attempt to write a Corrido in English. I think he came pretty close. Even though nobody dies but a chicken. Lots of people seem to have agreed, anyway. It more or less kick-started his career as a songwriter.


14 May 09 - 05:09 PM (#2631987)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

La Llorona- several versions posted, thread 12887:

La Llorona

Not a corrido.

14 May 09 - 05:12 PM (#2631989)
Subject: RE: Corridos North of the Border
From: Joe Offer

Hi - You will find songs about La Llorona in this thread (click), and Google will take you to many stories about her. The Wikipedia article is particularly interesting. I found one at

    La Llorona
    retold by
    S. E. Schlosser

    Version I

    Once there was a widow who wished to marry a rich nobleman. However, the nobleman did not want to raise another man's children and he dismissed her. The widow was determined to have the nobleman for her own, so the widow drowned her children to be free of them. When she told the nobleman what she had done, he was horrified and would have nothing more to do with her. As she left him, the widow was overcome by the terrible crime she had committed and went to the river, looking for her children. But they were gone. She drowned herself and her spirit was condemned to wander the waterways, weeping and searching for her children until the end of time.