Corridos: Bringing New Perspectives

Class: MAS 410 Narcocorrido and Mexican Folk Culture

Taught by: Jonathan Alcantar, Ph.D., Hispanic Studies

Course Description: This course examines Mexican and Mexican-American Popular Folk culture in the context of historical and contemporary issues.

READING MATERIAL: Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change by Norma E. Cantú and Olga Nájera-Ramírez; Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas by Elijah Wald.

Every culture has a song. Assistant Professor Jonathan Alcantar, Ph.D., explores a very specific subgenre of cultural music called the Narcocorrido in his Mexican-American Studies class: MAS 410, Narcocorrido and Mexican Folk Culture.

The Corrido has been a cultural staple in the lives of Mexican-Americans for more than 100 years. “For some, Corridos resist an official history,” Alcantar says. “They provide an alternative perspective from the bottom to the top.”

Usually, Corridos focus on a significant historical event or person. They are written about deeds, people and life changing events from the perspective of the common folk and shared with the population.

Culturally significant, Corridos follow the ages and flow with events. Starting with early Corridos like The Ballad of Joaquin Murrieta, written for the Mexican-American War, focusing on battles, leaders and cultural conflict; the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, singing about certain protests and actions; and current issues with the most recent of the subgenres: the Narcocorrido.

As the name suggests, the Narcocorrido deals with drug trading. It’s a sensitive subject, with songs that may both praise drug lords’ deeds and criticize the violence and deaths that occurs. “We don’t try to glamorize this, because a lot of people have died,” Alcantar said. “This is a real, critical issue that involves both countries. When I teach this class, I want (my students) to know how to look critically at these issues.”

Professor Alcantar’s Selected List of Most Notorious Corridos

  1. Los Madrugadores, “El Corrido de Joaquín Murrieta” (Corrido of California Gold Rush Era)
  2. Los Alegres de Terán, “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortés” (Corrido of South Texas-Mexico Border)
  3. Trío Nava, “El Corrido de Heraclio Bernal” (Corrido of the Pre-Revolutionary Period in Mexico 1870-1910)
  4. Hernández y Sifuentes, “La Punitiva” (The Punitive Expedition)(Corrido of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920)
  5. Los Hermanos Bañuelos, “El Lavaplatos” (The Dishwasher) (Corrido of the Mexican Immigrant Experience 1920-1930)
  6. Los Mascarones y los Alacranes Mojados, “El Corrido del Bracero” (The Bracero Program 1942-1964)
  7. Rumel Fuentes y Los Pingüinos del Norte, “México-Americano” (Corrido of the Chicano Movement)
  8. Daniel Valdez, “El Corrido de César Chávez” (Corrido of the Chicano Movement)
  9. Los Tigres del Norte “Los Hijos de Hernández” (Corrido Dedicated to Mexican Immigrants and Chicanos who served in the U.S. Military) (1986)
  10. Los Tigres del Norte “Tres Veces Mojado” (Three Times Wetback) (1998)

Alcantar wants his students to engage the issues head-on. He doesn’t expect his students to have simple solutions to the problems inherent in drug trafficking, but he does want them to think and reflect on them. He encourages them to ask questions and share concerns, often during his free, in-office “coffee hour,” giving them the opportunity to explore, discuss and engage in tough, contemporary issues.

“(The class) is always evolving, obviously,” he says. “As new policies are implemented, the Corridos are evolving, because now Corridistas are pondering how the cartels and the countries are dealing with this social problem.”

–Austin Huber