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Corrido and the History of Mexican Life in Song

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  • Category: Mexican

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The Mexican corrido has become a global genre compared to when it first was born. Many will say that corridos tell stories of everyday life of the Mexican folk, however, a lot of people will also say that this type of music not only talks about violence but also fuels it. Before I conclude about this idea, I will explain the history and development of the “corrido”. To say corrido is to evoke the Mexican Revolution. The main function of the Mexican corrido in its origins was to spread news about important events. This function has not changed much. The current corridos continue conveying but they are very far from the impact that they had then. All these events were told in great detail by artists.

Achievements of the revolutionary heroes and family tragedies were aired before the rejoicing, the admiration or the indignation of the people, as much in the small rancherías as in the big cities. First of all, you could define the narcocorrido as an updated corrido. Truth is that there is no more Mexican tradition that of the corridos, those heroic ballads that celebrate those from the lower society, to the fugitive gunmen of the Revolution. The corridos have been for the poor a way to exalt their heroes. The narcocorrido is, therefore, a musical genre inherited from the Revolution and is now the vehicle of groups to spread the life and work of drug traffickers and their followers. It is, indeed, in those areas, in the northwest region of Mexico, where the murder of police officers and criminals is common, in which narcocorridos have greater acceptance. The corrido is the crucible of the formation of the Mexican nation and the narcocorrido reveals a 2 musical tradition full of vitality, showing the place that drug trafficking occupies in contemporary Mexican culture.

Also, in the same way that the corrido formed a good part of the music folklore in nineteenth-century Mexico, presently, the narcocorrido has turned to one of the main elements of the narcoculture in places like Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa. In the same way, just as the corrido told historical revolutionaries events, the narcocorrido recounts the exploits of drug bosses. In Mexico, drug production and trafficking became new sources of wealth. In fact, they are activities that are developing from considerable way since the end of the last century. The population tends to go to the informal sectors to escape the lack of money. Mexico is a country where labor overflows, but unemployment reaches a large part of the working-age population.

Faced with the situation of apparent poverty without exit, the unemployed get involved in contraband. The development of transit activities towards United States and treaties such as the NAFTA, have therefore, resulted in the abandonment of less lucrative economic sectors. That is why the heroes of the new corridos have changed. Now they are famous drug traffickers. The issues of drugs and trafficking in narcotics became widespread in the corrido around the year 1990. Drug trafficking is a social reality that has its impact. For this reason, popular composers, have taken this criminal activity as a theme for their songs. Twenty years ago, the music groups from the north started to include contraband in their repertoires. At the same time, the gradual penetration of organized crime in the Mexican society has given place to a full-fledged narco-culture.

The narcocorrido reflects the economic crisis and the progressive fall of the government system. Today the small farmer cannot find an outlet and prefers to replace corn with marijuana, thus clearly increasing the value of the land cultivated and the crop itself. Sociologists agree that narcocorridos represent a show of rebellion against a 3 political system that does not only offers no outlets but has made corruption the pillar of their survival. The corridos originated in the Mexican Revolution. They were popular songs with rhythms based on polka and waltz, played with instruments typical of northern music and ranch, such as guitar, accordion, bajo sexto, tololoche and requinto. The songs told stories of brave fugitives, gunmen and horses who painted the generals as mythical heroes and told each of their battles in detail. From there came the Villista corridos, dedicated to the exploits of Pancho Villa.

An example is like ‘Catarino y los rurales’, which tells a battle between a single man, called Catarino, against a hundred-rural people. Catarino healed his battle wounds with saliva. In the 1970s, after half a century of drug trafficking shaping the culture in Sinaloa, they began to make the corridos, which speak of the bosses as aspirational and their illegal businesses as great exploits of adventure. A good example is the legendary mega hit ‘Contrabando y traición’, popularized by Los Tigres del Norte. This corrido tells the story of the lack of love of a couple of drug traffickers, Emilio Varela and Camelia La Tejana. Both carry a load of marijuana from Tijuana to Los Angeles hidden in the tires of their car. After collecting the money for the delivery of the cargo, Emilio confesses to Camelia that he plans to meet with true love in San Francisco.

Camelia, feeling betrayed, murders him. This type of corridos, more rooted in the daily lives of people, became popular with Los Tigres del Norte in the 70s, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, in the 80s, and Chalino Sánchez, in the 90s. Certain corridos deal with the origins of the drug trafficker, and others express the economic causes that push the ordinary Mexican to become drug trafficker. The narcocorrido trend continued throughout the nineties. While Mexico was enjoying a period of relative peace, so were the corridos. All that seemed to change when Felipe Calderón 4 took office in 2006. Soon after Operation Michoacán in December of the same year, the country turned violent and so did the corridos, and with that came the birth of the Movimiento Alterado. Although now used as a generic term, Movimiento Alterado (“altered” movement, as in the altered state of your brain, supposedly) was a product of Adolfo and Omar Valenzuela, owners of Twiins Music Group who produced a lot of corridos alterados through their subsidiary La Disco Music.

Unlike narcocorridos before them, this new breed of corridos was hyper violent, with lyrics about blowing people’s heads off and killing those who deserved it. Even though there is a clear difference between older corridos and new corridos “alterados”, artists from this new movement seem to disagree with critics who say their songs promote violence. Singer-songwriter El Komander has said during interviews his songs are about partying and about having a good time, not about promoting violence. But the truth is that the festive corridos El Komander describes have been around since the nineties and it is very difficult to find any songs from that decade that match the level of violence contained in the new corridos. The narcocorrido, as we have already seen, has changed the heroes of the old run and praise his own heroes, like Jesús Malverde, for example, the saint of drug traffickers.

In narcocorridos, the crime committed is not hidden; the songs relate the adventures of the Drug bosses. Among other topics, the lyrics of the narcocorridos speak of loves and betrayals, deaths and account adjustments between distributors and sowers of marijuana and cocaine. Corridos also mention the enemies, which are the judicial, federal and road police. The narcocorrido is locked in a thematic framework from which it does not escape, success being impressive. It covers all the topics that concern the suffering people, be it the sierra, or life in the countryside, be the rules of drug trafficking, etc. This way of visualizing the narco-life in the 5 narcocorridos makes a large sector of those who hear them see in the bosses something of honesty and heroic character, even with esteem. Thus, the narcocorridos meet, indirectly, the function of making that activity a yearning, to present it as a viable alternative to excel in life, whether in the economic, in the courage or invulnerability before the law.

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