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Migrant Labor Corridos

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Historical Background

After the Mexican Revolutionary period (1910-1917), many Mexican citizens traveled North to escape their war torn nation. The Revolution had left Mexico's economy in shambles. For the Mexican, there was no other alternative than to go North. The United States during this time, benefited from the booming post-war economy. Mexicans had heard of the great job opportunities available in the United States and decided to go in hopes of finding jobs with higher wages. In the following years, this migration from Mexico to the United States grew at a constant rate. The hopes and dreams of the impoverished immigrant would hopefully become a reality in the United States.

During the early years of migration(1920-1930), labor contractors actively sought out Mexican immigrants due to their willingness to work under any conditions. Many of the laborers who had worked in the Southern states were now being transported to Northern U.S. cities. Often, the trips to the Northern cities would cost the immigrants more than the pay they received while working under contract. Contracted labor served as a vehicle of oppression for the Mexican immigrant. The migrant laborer needed work and as a result of his desperate state, was exploited by the "enganchistas." The "enganchistas" hired Mexican labor because it was cheap and abundant. In 1929 when the Stock Market crashed, the stable United States' economy experienced a severe blow. Many people were left jobless as a result of the crash. Since the Mexican immigrant was not a citizen of the United States, his rights were limited. Americans believed the Mexicans had taken jobs that were justifably theirs. Thus, escalating the discrimination towards Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. This in effect, destroyed the migrant laborer's American dream.

As the years progressed, the migrant workers became even more disillusioned by the treatment they received in the United States. The Mexicans were welcomed into the United States only as cheap sources of labor. Once in the United States, the Mexicans were expected to follow a segregated law system: a system of subordination. In 1942, the United States deperately needed workers in the agricultural field due to the hired hands that had gone to fight in the second World War. The United States created the Bracero program in order to cover the loss of its agricultural work force. During this period, the Mexican laborer was promoted in the United States; yet, he still did not have a steady job. This caused him to move from city to city in search of better job opportunities. The migrant worker endured the many abuses of the employers through his countless journeys through the states.

In the following decades, the braceros continued to suffer working long hours for little pay. Despite the many complaints, the migrant laborer remained a helpless, unfortunate soul. As a result of the constant discrimination and injustice the workers experienced, a union was established. In the 1960s, the United Farm Workers union served as an organization the farm workers could go to for help. Those field workers who had been second generation braceros were now able to organize and let their grievances be heard. Benefits, job security, and better field equipment were demands made by the migrant workers. This became the turning point for many of the once disappointed field workers. Now, the migrant worker could work through a collective action and make a difference.


In studying the corridos concerning migrant labor issues, our group's goal was to trace the changing attitude of the migrant laborer over a forty year time span. A selection of six corridos will be historically researched and textuall y analyzed. Each of these corridos explore the Mexican immigrants' work experience at different stages in history. These songs, according to Américo Paredes, " have resonance in the United States. They record an important aspect of the Mexican-American's long struggle to preserve his identity and affirm his rights as a human being."<1> In accordance with Paredes, our group also believes the corridos reflect the changing economic stances of the times for the migrant worker.

Another aspect of the corridos is the analysis of the evolution of the corrido from "heroic" to "victim"<2>. We see the corridos gradually change from the protagonist being the brave worker going to conquer the fields to the victim protester being beaten by the Texas Rangers. Although "heroic" corridos are still composed today, the "victim" corrido appears to have taken a more popular following with a more contemporary setting. The protagonists in these corridos often are innocent victims whose stories of cruel injustices send out messages to people in hopes of them forming a collective action.

However; before we establish such an analysis, we must take a look at the lyrics within the corridos. Throughout our textual analysis, our group refers to Armando Duvalier's six formulaic motifs<3> to establish the characteristics that define a corrido. As a guide to the selected corridos, the following numbers denote the various motifs:

Duvalier's Six Formulaic Motifs

(1) llamada inicial del corridista
(2) lugar, fecha y nombre del protagonista
(3) formula que precede los argumentos del personaje
(4) mensaje
(5) la despedida del personaje
(6) la despedida del corridista

After each corrido, a brief summary of its historical significance will be presented along with its textual analysis. Also included is a bibliography for each separate corrido. We hope you enjoy listening to the corridos and leave with a better understanding of the migrant labor issues in corridos.

Migrant Labor Group Members

Cathy Vasquez
Alison Roberts
Marisol Rivera
Trey Hoover

1 Paredes, Américo. A Texas-Mexican Cancionero . Austin: University of Texas Press. p. xviii. c. 1995.
2 Peña, Manuel. "Folksong and Social Change: Two Corridos as Interpretative Sources" Aztlan vol.13.c.1982.
3 Duvalier, Armando. "Romance y Corrido". Cristol 15 (September): p.8-16; (November): 135-141. c.1937.

"El Corrido de Texas"
"El Corrido Pensilvanio"
"Las Piscas de Algodón, Pt. 1"
"Las Piscas de Algodón, Pt. 2"
Más Corridos

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