Mexican Folk Music: El Corrido Essay

1830 words - 7 pages

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, a form of Mexican folk music called the corrido gained popularity along the Mexico-Texan border (Saldívar). Growing from the Spanish romance tradition, the corrido is a border ballad “that arose chronicling the history of border conflicts and its effects on Mexican-Mexican culture” (Saldívar). A sort of “oral folk history,” the corrido was studied intensely by Américo Paredes, who then constructed his masterpiece, George Washington Gomez, around the “context and theme” of the corrido (Mendoza 146). But the novel is not a traditional corrido, in which the legendary hero defends his people and dies for his honor. Instead, through its plot, characterization, and rhetorical devices, George Washington Gomez is an anti-corrido.
The corrido has been identified as having distinctive characteristics that make up its theme and plot. First, the corrido has a “context of hostile relations between Anglos and Mexicans along the border and the establishment of a scenic structure, geographical locale, and opposing social forces” (Mendoza 146). The corrido’s hero “is a hard-working, peace-loving Mexican, who, when goaded by Anglos, outrages into violence, causing him to defend his rights and those of others of his community against the rinches, the Rangers” (Saldívar). This hero “is quickly introduced in legendary proportions and defiant stature” and many people must die before the hero reaches his triumphant, but tragic, demise (Mendoza 146). The Anglos in the corrido, meanwhile, are not one-dimensional villains but “complex figures who contain positive as well as negative qualities” (Mendoza 146). These distinctive traits of a corrido – setting, conflict, and characterization, among others – are present in Paredes’ George Washington Gomez. Indeed, Paredes constructed the novel around these traits, but each trait has been reconfigured so as to form George Washington Gomez not as a traditional corrido, but as an anti-corrido.
The reader first sees the novel as an anti-corrido in the introduction of its hero. Unlike a corrido, which begins “en media res,” in the middle of the action with the hero already introduced and clearly defined as legendary, the book begins with the naming of the hero shortly after his birth (Mendoza 146). When the baby is born, “an effort is made to construct him as a hero of legendary proportions” (Mendoza 147). His young mother says, “I would like him to have a great man’s name. Because he is going to be a great man who will help his people” (Paredes 16). So his family goes back and forth, seeking a name that embraces his Mexican heritage and his birthplace in the United States. The name his family decides upon is derived from the first president of the United States, George Washington. They call him George Washington Gomez, Guálinto, a “name [that] is a duplicity, that anticipates the impossibility of his being the ideal hero” (Mendoza 147). In a corrido, on the other hand, the...

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