john h. mcdowell
- folklore of mexico and beyond
For more than a quarter of a century, I have been on the trail of the corrido, Mexico’s popular ballad form, an interest that I acquired from one of my mentors at the University of Texas, Professor Américo Paredes. It was Dr. Paredes who suggested that I travel to the Costa Chica in search of the living ballad, and that encounter during the summer of 1972 left a permanent mark on me. I have returned to this costal region of Mexico several times, most recently for a half-year sojourn in 1996, and little by little expanded my understanding of the social role played by this artistic form. My wife Patricia Gluskho and I produced a documentary video on the corrido of Mexico’s Costa Chica, called “Que Me Troven Un Corrido” (Write Me A Corrido), as well as on the brass bands of Guerrero and on the Easter passion play in El Treinta, Guerrero. I have taught courses at IU on both Chicano folklore and the folklore of Mexico. The remarkable traditions of our neighbors to the south, and increasingly at home, remain a source of inspiration and fascination. Recently, my attention has turned to the narcocorrido, songs dealing with events and experiences in the cross-border drug trade -- see my 2012 article, "The Ballad of Narcomexico," in the Journal of Folklore Research.
The Ballad Tradition of Mexico's Costa Chica
John H. McDowell
Cover image: The Highland Troubadour
Photographed by: Patricia A. Glushko
by the L.J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund and by Indiana
University's Vice President for Academic Affairs and Bloomington
Chancellor, the Dean of Faculties, and the College of Arts and
Released as paperback in 2008!
Buy the book now at
that depicts violence generate more violence?
up a question that touches on contemporary developments such as gangsta rap and
schoolyard shootings, John H. McDowell provides an in-depth study of a
body of poetry that takes violence as its subject: the Mexican ballad
form known as the corrido.
concentrates on the corrido tradition in Costa Chica, where the ethnic mix includes a
strong African-Mexican, or Afro-mestizo, component. Through
interviews with corrido composers and performers, both male and female,
and a generous sampling of ballad texts, McDowell reveals a living
vernacular tradition that amounts to a chronicle of local and regional
rivalries. In the Costa Chica, the ballads center around land
redistribution in the aftermath of the revolution, the process of capital
formation in the area, and the consolidation of federal authority in this
on the tragic corrido with its stories of heroic mortal encounter, McDowell
examines the intersection of poetry and violence from three
perspectives. He explores the contention that poetry
detailed case study with broad social and cultural implications, Poetry and Violence on
Mexico's Costa Chica is a compelling commentary on violence as human
experience and as communicative action.
H. McDowell, a professor of folklore, director of the Folklore Institute, and
of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University,
is the author of "So Wise Were Our Elders": Mythic Narratives of
the Kamsa, Sayings of the Ancestors: The Spiritual Life of the Sibundoy
Indians, and Children's Riddling, for which he won the Chicago Folklore
A volume in the series Music in American Life and in the series Folklore and Society, edited by Roger Abrahams, Bruce Jackson, and Marta Weigle.
/ Folklore / Latin American Studies
"John McDowell's book Poetry and
Violence is a
brillant in-depth analysis of the relationship between violence and the
corrido. McDowell's splendid
insights into an Afromestizo Mexican community and its cultural
production are invaluable to those interested in the corrido tradition. The
interviews undertaken in the Costa Chica, the corridos collected,
and the photographs included in the book are particularly outstanding."
-- Maria Herrera-Sobek, Author, The Mexican Corrido: A Feminist Analysis
"John McDowell's fascinating and nuanced account of tragic corridos and their place in the lives of people from Mexico's southern Pacific coast captures the ambivalence at the heart of this musical genre. Extending his analysis to the border and beyond, McDowell argues perceptively and engagingly about the beauty and the anguish violence bears in a variety of social settings."
--Laura A. Lewis, James Madison University
Come sample some of the 11 original Corridos on the accompanying CD:
Pedro el Chicharrón
11. Matías Rojas
|Back to Top|
|Last Modified May 29, 2007|