History of Corridos
Historically, music has been used as a tool for preserving and recounting stories without having to learn how to read or write. In the early 1900s, Mexican revolutionists produced a new genre of music that would serve as a tool for story telling known as Corridos.
The translation of Corridos means, “to run,” in Spanish from the conjugate,“correr.” Corridos are a sort of ballad consisting of a salutation, an introduction to the story, a moral, and a farewell. This genre reflects on the experiences of Mexican oppression and adversity for both men and women. Corridos have taken off since the 1920s and have forever preserved the stories of revolutionists like, Emiliano Zapata, Pascual Orozco, and Pancho Villa. This genre told the stories of men and also women. For example, Cecilia Rascon told the story of the Soldaderas, the women who joined with revolutionaries like the Zapatistas in the fight for education and land.
The Art of Creating a Corrido
The rhythm of these songs relates to the contents of the story. Tijana Ilich describes the structure and rhythm of the genre, “for tragic stories, Corridos use a waltz rhythm, and for hopeful/optimistic stories corridos use march and polka tempos.” Structured like a Ballad, this genre of music is diverse and reflects different regions throughout Latin America. Corrido groups categorize themselves as norteno, banda, and duranguense, among others.
Corridos continue to be a popular genre in many parts of Mexico today. These post-revolution Corridos have taken on a new identity and began preserving the experiences and stories of immigrant workers and fathers. One artist located in Athens, GA has adapted the term “Undocu-Corridos” to reflect on the genre’s reorientation to the immigrant experience and the feelings that come with being undocumented.
Who is Beto Cacao
Beto Mendoza who goes by Beto Cacao is a Mexican musician and activist living in Athens, GA. The artist comes from a musical family with uncles and brothers who play guitar, the flute, and pan-pipes. Cacao’s music focuses on how immigration laws have shaped the Mexican identity, and the status of “dreamers.” In his album Undocorridos, Mendoza writes, “Mexican culture is an oral tradition, [ corridos] have been the perfect medium to preserve those stories and highlight the popular culture and keep alive people’s voice, “la voz del pueblo.”
Some songs Mendoza has written include Somos Corridos (We’re Pushed Out), Los Inmigrantes de Stillmore (The Immigrants of Stillmore), DWH (Driving While Hispanic), Dicen Que la Migra (They say “ICE” is-), El Corrido de Pedro Gorosquieta, and El Dolor que Bebo (The Pain I Drink). Each song holds a significant meaning and story to the immigrants in the state of Georgia.
Los Inmigrantes de Stillmore refers to a roundup of undocumented immigrants in the Georgia town of Stillmore. This song depicts imagery of immigrants hiding in the woods, and the pain of families that have been broken up, “There is no justice for the poultry workers. [It does] Not matter they pays taxes; they are treated as criminals.” Cacao’s song DWH (Driving While Hispanic) makes commentary about how all 50 states have yet to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
As of 2021, only 16 US states allow for undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license. In the Corrido, officers arrest immigrants for “driving while hispanic” by asking one simple question, “Can I see your driver’s license?” One of Cacao’s most important message is his Corrido, Dicen Que la Migra (They Say “ICE” is- ).
This song combines the storytelling of Corridos with advice for immigrants everywhere, “If they come for your home and knock on your door, don’t open, silly, or the beast would take you along with them, and if they request papers, you have rights, make sure to assert them.”
Flor Chavez Barriga is an undergraduate student at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA studying History and Sociology with a focus on research. She was born in Michoacan, Mexico, and grew up in Atlanta surrounded by the rich history of Martin Luther King’s legacy. She previously attended Freedom University where she was given the opportunity to achieve higher education, while also learning about collective action and human rights. Flor is passionate about the south’s reaction to immigration with its restrictive policies and infamous detention centers. She hopes to highlight the voices of communities in the south that have helped combat all the hurdles that continue making immigrant lives harder.