I’m continuing my voices of diversity this month. I did some digging in my American anthology of literature and ran across something called “corridos”. They are a type of fast-paced song created by the Mexican American peoples who herded cattle through the Southwest. They were the most important form of expression from 1865 to 1915.
They are songs and are used to illustrate what life on the range was like from a Mexican American perspective. According to the book, they claimed that cattle ranching was more of a Latino enterprise than an Anglo American one. They often speak of fights that went on between the two groups for supremacy in the cattle world and sometimes outside of it.
I like that this is not only a unique expression in content but in form. This their form, they created it and has become a part of the unique tapestry of American Life. Despite the fact that the conflicts often illustrate how the Mexican Americans feel separate from the country (an illustration is one corridos that talks about a man who shoots a sheriff in defense and runs for the border because he knows he’ll never get a fair trial in a Texan court), I hope that the sharing of the corridos brings together the two sub-cultures. Perhaps it can shed a light on what divides us in order to bring us together. This is the secret hope of the American experiment: to bring together diverse cultures and have the live together in peace and harmony – hopefully both can bring the other something useful to each other’s lives.
I’ve never heard a corridos sung; I certainly do hope to do so some day.
When we left for Kansas with a great herd of cattle,
ah, what a long trail it was! I was not sure I would survive.
The caporal would tell us, as if he was going to cry,
“Watch out for that bunch of steers; don’t let them get past you.”
Ah, what a good horse I had! He did nothing but gallop.
And, ah, what a violent cloudburst! I was not sure I would come back.
Some of us asked for cigarettes, other wanted something to eat;
and the caporal would tell us, “So be it, it can’t be helped.”
By the pond at Palomas a vicious steer left the herd.
and the caporal lassoed it on his honey-colored horse.
Go tell the caporal that a vaquero has been killed;
all he left was his leather jacket hanging on the rails of the corral.
We got to the Salado River, and we swam our horses across;
an American saying, “Those men are as good as drowned.”
I wonder what the man thought, that we came to learn, perhaps;
why we’re from the Rio Grande, where the good swimmers are from.
And then Kansas came in sight, an the caporal tells us,
“We have finally made it, we’ll soon have them in the corral.”
Back again in San Antonio, we all bought ourselves good hats,
and this is the end of the singing of the stanzas about the trail drivers.
*Here it is in Spanish – the way it was originally sung. [Please excuse the unaccented words, I don’t have the capacity to do so in this program – sorry!]
Cuando salimos pa’Kiansis
con una grande partida
ah, que camino tan largo!
no contaba con mi vida.
Nos decia el caporal,
como queriendo llorar:
-Alla va la novillada,
no me la dejen pasar-
Ah, que caballo tan bueno!
todo se le iba en correr,
y, ah, que fuerte aguacerazo!
no contabe yo en volver.
Unos pedian cigarro,
otros pedian que comer,
y el caporal nos decia:
-Sea por Dios, que hemos de hacer.-
En el charco de Palomas
se corto un novillo bragado,
y el caporal lo lazo
en su caballo melado.
Avisenle al caporal
que un vaquero se mato,
en las trancas del corral
nomas la cuera dejo.
Llegamos al Rio Salado
y nos tiramos a nado,
decia un americano:
-Esos hombres ya se ahogaron.-
Pues que pensaria ese hombre
que venimos a esp’rimentar,
si somos del Rio Grande,
de los buenos pa’nadar.
Y le dimos vista a Kiansis,
y nos dice el caoral:
-Ora si somos de vida,
ya vamos a hacer corral.-
Y de vulta en San Antonio
compramos buenos sombreros,
y aqui se acaban cantando
versos de los aventurenos.