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This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably heard a Mexican corrido.

These tragic ballads—often mixed with accordions and bouncy norteño music—play nonstop in Mexican restaurants and on Spanish-language radio stations.

The 150-year-old Mexican ballad format narrates tragic tales based on real events. Nowadays, corridos are often associated with narcocorridos, a variation that glorifies Mexican drug lords and their lavish lifestyles.

Next America recently participated in a corrido songwriting workshop at the Library of Congress. About two dozen people showed up eager to learn this Mexican tradition, and we even got some help from a surprise guest: U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

The workshop was led by Sones de Mexico, a Grammy-nominated Mexican folk band based in Chicago. Band leader Juan Díes told us the basics: Choose a real-life, heroic character with a tragic story. Oh, and make sure each verse has eight syllables and follows an ABCB rhyming pattern.

We all ended up choosing to immortalize Sandra Bland, the African-American woman who was arrested for a minor traffic violation in Texas and was found dead in jail a few days later.

Here is our group song:

The Cor­rido of Sandra Bland ©

(The Eng­lish trans­la­tion be­low does not fol­low cor­rido rhyme or rhythm struc­ture.)

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.

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