response to Migrancy (Kun and Ragland)

23 Mar
I found Josh’s article fascinating, and an interesting introduction for me into the world of narcocorridos. Before this week’s readings, I knew absolutely nothing about Mexican music. (and honestly, I still feel like I don’t know much!) So, I think this response will be drawing comparisons to types of music and situations with which I am familiar.

The narrative style of narcocorridos to which the readings this week refers reminds me a little bit of country music – the telling of a story often centered around a character. With country music, though, there’s usually a moral point to the song or the story. Narcocorridos seem to celebrate crime and subversion. It is almost as if music itself is in cahoots with these ideas of subverting traditional power structures – women in the position of power with the example of Emilio Varela and Camelia le Tejana. Ragland paints a very interesting story of the tensions between Mexican and Mexican American culture – one that I’m rather familiar with as well, being Asian American and seeming “westernized” in the eyes of Asian friends, family, and acquaintances. The fact that Camelia was able to get away with murder and money, I felt, could be read a few ways. That it was ok because she was a woman, but not REALLY Mexican, and women are shady, subordinate creatures anyway, which doesn’t disrupt the social order if they deviate from it, because their position of less power. That it is empowering that a woman (regardless of nationality or culture) overpowers and outsmarts a man. That a woman had so much “visibility” or “aurality” – or “airtime” and given notice – that she was represented and given (quite a bit of) space in the musical narrative, that may seek to change the patriarchal hegemony.

Josh’s article quotes Mr. Quintero as saying that “songs for peace, or songs about ending violence…It’s not what people want to hear.” At first, that seems a bit disturbing. However, if we take ourselves out of the dichotomized framework of good and evil, legal and illegal, peace and violence, etc, can we start seeing the world more as relational rather than as absolute? Ragland also alludes to the complicated dynamics of the border, of nationality and identity, and of music. The narcotraficante lifestyle seems like it can be painted a bit like Robin Hood, where the questions of good and bad are thrown out the window and are, rather, replaced with questions of perspective, power, need, culture. If you steal from the rich (the drug-addicted North Americans) to feed the poor (shunting drug money back to Mexico to better the community) (Ragland, 166), is that really “bad”? The law may seem black and white, but morality is rarely that clearcut… as are the other strands of questions Mexican music plays with – culture, identity, nationality, race, gender, etc, and the movement across and between the Mexican and American frameworks for these.

I also wonder how narcocorridos compare with rap and the prevalence of sex and domestic violence and rape in rap music. I know very little about ether genre (oh, how problematic this idea of genre is, as we know), but it doesn’t seem as though rappers are killed like the Mexican musicians were…

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


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