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.