21st Century Corridistas

The corrido is a ballad, or narrative song, native to Mexico. Considered the foremost folk expression of Mexico’s rural working class, corridos were introduced to the United States by post–Mexican Revolution migrants.

Gustavo Arellano explores the history of corridos in “Song of El Sur.”

Corridos have helped define what it means to be Mexican in the twentieth (and twenty-first) century, touching on topics from the Mexican Revolution to the Gulf War in Iraq, from the assassination of Pancho Villa to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Corridos have focused on the Korean War and the terrorist attacks of September 11, on farm labor leader César Chávez and President Barack Obama.

Activism and social justice underpin the music of La Victoria, a mariachi band composed of Vaneza Mari Calderón, Mary Alfaro Velasco, and Rosalie Rodriguez, which brings a modern sound to a traditional genre. For the SFA’s 2017 Fall Symposium, they composed three original corridos set in the US South. Two of these songs follow, with lyrics in the original Spanish and in English.

Geno Lee, owner of Big Apple Inn in Jackson, Miss. makes his own hot tamales. His great grandfather moved to Mississippi from Mexico City and started the business. Courtesy photo from Big Apple Inn, August 2004.
Watch Smokes & Ears to discover the history of the Big Apple Inn.
Get to know Geno Lee in this SFA oral history interview.

“El Corrido del Big Apple Inn”

Vaneza Mari Calderón

Pido permiso y buenas tardes
Cruzo el país para contar
Una historia, de un sabor
Que nadie, nunca podrá igualar.

Juan Mora, ahora Big John
Llegó a Mississippi para trabajar
Y por toda la calle Farish
Vendía tamales, receta familiar.

En mil novecientos treinta y nueve,
Abrió sus puertas el Big Apple Inn
Y sigue guardando el mismo sabor
Que llevó de Mexico a Jackson en tren.

Big John siempre fue el rey
Y amable con la manada
Si no tenían para pagar
Tras una tiznada, comida les regalaba.

En los años sesenta,
con sus sándwiches de orejas,
Saciaba el hambre de todo Jackson,
Y luchaba contra la violencia.

Quien pudiera pensar, que iba a saborear
un tamal pasando el bayou
Pero aunque cambie de apellido,
Lo “Mora” lo lleva en el alma.

Yo por ahora me despido,
y esta historia que nunca termine
Continuará en el Big Apple Inn,
En Jackson, Mississippi.

“The Corrido of The Big Apple Inn”

Vaneza Mari Calderón

Excuse me and good evening
I cross the country to tell
A tale of a flavor
That no one can ever match

Juan Mora, now Big John
Arrived in Mississippi to work
And all along Farish Street
He sold tamales, from a family recipe.

In nineteen thirty-nine
The Big Apple Inn opened its doors
It has kept the same flavors
That on a train he took from Mexico to Jackson

Big John was always the king
And very kind to the crowd
If they didn’t have money to pay for food
He would give it to them free, but not without a scolding

In the ’60s
with its ‘Ear sandwiches’
He satiated hunger in Jackson
And fought against violence.

Who would have thought that they would
taste a tamale, passing the bayou
And although last names change,
The Mora spirit stays in the soul.

For now I say ‘goodbye,’
may this story never end
It will continue at the Big Apple Inn,
In Jackson, Mississippi.

“Los Fields de Calzones”

Rosalie Rodríguez

Quisiera no fuera cierto
lo que les vengo a entonar
La historia de una mujer
acabada de llegar

Con deudas y sin papeles
buscó trabajo en el campo
Sin protección de las leyes
no evitará los daños

Pizcó melones en Georgia,
y el tabaco en Michigan,
Camotes en Mississippi,
tomates en Florida

Se le acercó el mayordomo
con arma en sus pantalones
Que lo acompañara al campo
para tener relaciones
Pa’ no perder su trabajo
entró a los fields de calzones.

Con el correr de los días
nunca paró de llorar
La situación imposible
que ella tuvo que aguantar

El patrón de los panzones
no dejó de amenazar
Cansada de tanto abuso
se decidió reaccionar

Un día acabando en el campo
abrochándose los botones
Sonaron cuatro balazos
avisando a los patrones
De aquí se acaba el abuso
allá en los fields de calzones.

“The Underwear Fields”

Rosalie Rodríguez

I wish it were not true
What I have come to sing for you
The story of a woman
Who had just arrived

Undocumented and in debt (to a coyote)
She looked for work in the fields
Without legal protection
She could not avoid the dangers

She picked melons in Georgia
Also, tobacco in Michigan
Sweet potatoes in Mississippi,
Tomatoes in Florida

A supervisor approached her
With pistol in his pants
Telling her to accompany him to the field
To have relations
In order to not lose her job
She went to the Underwear Fields

As days went by
She wouldn’t stop crying
About this impossible situation
That she had to deal with
The boss of the big-bellied men
Would not stop the threats
Tired of all the abuse,
She decided to react

One day, after the assault in the field
while fastening his pant buttons
Four gun shots were heard
notifying the bosses
That the abuse was to end there
in the underwear fields.

Watch La Victoria perform corridos at SFA’s 2018 Winter Symposium

La Victoria returned to the SFA stage for our Winter Symposium in Birmingham, AL, on February 24, 2018. To learn more about corridos, read Gravy columnist Gustavo Arellano’s “Song of El Sur” in our summer 2017 issue.

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