Mexico City—Mexican corrido performers captivate new audiences with rap notes or a punk look, fueled by digital platforms, to glorify drug traffickers or denounce the damage they cause.
According to researchers from the state of Sinaloa, singers like Abraham Vázquez, 22, and Vivir Quintana, 32, are some of the new faces of this genre, which emerged during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) as an alternative story to the official story ( northwest).
His libertarian proposals incorporated hip hop elements, as in the case of Vázquez, and a punk aesthetic, as in the case of Quintana, with a blond lock of hair, tattoos, and black clothing.
As a result, they adapt to realities such as online music services or the ubiquity of the urban genre. And his lyrics, to the capos’ mutation or the rejection of criminal violence, which has left 340,000 dead and thousands missing in Mexico since 2006.
Vázquez, who is originally from Chihuahua (north), has 1.1 million monthly Spotify listeners, and his narcocorrido “El de las dos pistoles” (2019) has 52.7 million views on that platform.
The song’s video extols the world of mobsters, complete with wads of cash, guns, and women in a swimming pool. On YouTube, it has 27.7 million views.
- Digital refuge –
Quintana, a teacher from Coahuila (north), was tired of her students listening to such songs, so she joined the “anti-narcocorrido” movement, which emerged five years ago, to condemn sexist and criminal violence.
He recently released “El corrido de Milo Vela,” a tribute to journalist Miguel ngel López, who was murdered in Veracruz in 2011 along with his wife and son.
“It was to remove drug traffickers and put in those who truly defend the country, those who defend the truth (…) because I believe we are at a very critical point,” the artist told AFP, referring to the murder of eleven Mexican journalists this year alone.
The distribution of narcocorridos is prohibited in the states of Sinaloa (pioneer in 1987), Baja California, and Chihuahua because it is considered an apology for crime (where punishments range from 36 hours of arrest to fines of 20,000 dollars).
The famous band Los Tigres del Norte was fined in Chihuahua in 2012 and 2017, and Los Tucanes has been banned in Tijuana since 2008.
However, this musical expression is uncensored and has found a catapult in digital platforms that facilitate production, access, and interaction between artists and audiences, according to researcher Juan Antonio Fernández.
“With the platforms, I see it being very difficult to control because, unfortunately, young people see drug trafficking as an aspirational activity where they can make easy money,” warns the academic.
- President admirer
The transformation of its characters also contributes to the genre’s popularity.
“There is an entire imaginary of the drug trafficker that goes from being an individual of rural extraction, sower of drugs, and climbing positions, to being a more urbanized, mediated drug trafficker, more connected with today’s youth,” the expert adds.
The mix of rhythms captivates young people equally with styles such as tumbados and the altered corrido, which are popular on both sides of the US-Mexico border, with lyrics about drug use and cartel warfare.
Hundreds of boys danced with Los Tucanes in 2019 at the Coachella festival in California, wearing shirts with the image of Joaqun “Chapo” Guzmán, who is imprisoned in the United States.
According to the government, the narcocorridos – three of whose interpreters have been murdered since 2006 – promote mafia culture and are a “social risk” that must be addressed, as Fernández points out.
Teodoro Bello, a veteran composer of famous songs from Los Tigres del Norte, however, rejects that label as stigmatizing. There is only the corrido for him.
He has played capos such as Amado Carrillo and Miguel ngel Félix Gallardo, who was thought to have inspired the 1997 song “Jefe de Jefes” (performed by Los Tigres del Norte) and was famous for controlling traffic to the United States in the 1980s.
“‘The boss of bosses’ is the best in his profession: a doctor, a lawyer, or even a journalist,” he explained to AFP.
Apart from the fact that they flirt with crime, corridos are so popular that even President Andrés Manuel López Obrador includes songs by Los Tigres del Norte in his daily press conference to refute, for example, comments by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on migration.
This week, he released a Spotify playlist with three corridos by that band with a social theme.