Here come the mariachis!
Why are Mexicans so proud of the brutality of their police force? They seem to glamorize it in all their music and telenovelas.
—Batons Are Bats or Super Oracles
I’ll let you know when Dirty Harry, Detective Sipowicz, Chief Wiggum and the producers of Cops get back to me, m’kay?
Why aren’t more Mexicans talking about the economic destruction that the NAFTA treaty has caused in Mexico and the role it plays in the immigration problem? The state of Guanajuato, home state of former Mexican President Vicente Fox, went from being Mexico’s breadbasket to chiefly exporting immigrants because of the influx of American subsidized cereals that the NAFTA treaty allows. The Americans aren’t going to talk about it, so why don’t the Mexicans?
—Angry Chica Tired of All the Shutting Up
You’re wrong. The mainstream media has spilled mucho ink over the North American Free Trade Agreement recently, on account of its quinceañera this year. Chicano activists and Know Nothings, in a rare moment of standing on the same side of an issue, have spent years railing against NAFTA, although for different reasons—the right fears the free flow of Mexicans into the United States, while the left has tracked the devastation that the free market wrought upon a state-controlled economy. Meanwhile, the Mexican plain ol’ folk have spoken loudly and many times against NAFTA—with their feet.
So, I’m in a Mexican restaurant, and it’s panic time: Here come the mariachis! Mexican, help me. What can I request so as to not appear to be a dolt by asking for the 12th “La Bamba” or (worse yet) “Guantánamera” of their shift? Sure, “Bésame Mucho” is a gringo’s best friend, but I want something that the players will know and be happy to play for a change. Maybe something a little dirty, even, or with a subtle anti-gringo inside joke? And please make it easy for me to remember. I’ll be drunk.
For once, the Mexican is stumped, overwhelmed with the unlimited semiosis that is someone asking him what song to request while a mariachi plays. Simply too many choices, amigo! You can get the mariachi happy by requesting “El Rey” (“The King”) or “Volver, Volver” (“Return, Return”) because it’ll fill them simultaneously with bravado and wussiness and encourage the audience to sing along with the chorus, but the Mexican finds these songs to be the “My Way” and “Free Bird” of Mexican music. Personally, I like to ask for “La Malagüeña” (“The Lady From Malaga,” a song of love) and “Un Puño de Tierra” (“A Fistful of Dirt,” a Satrean ditty of existential angst that goes wonderful with Herradura tequila), because the canciones are both standards that nevertheless don’t get as much recognition as they deserve. But if you want to test a mariachi’s mettle, ask for “El Mil Amores” (“The One Thousand Loves”) and “Carabina 30-30” (“Carbine 30-30”)—the former because it’s my theme song and written by the severely underappreciated Cuco Sánchez, the latter porque it’s one of the few Mexican Revolution-era corridos that still notches regular airtime at parties (but not on radio, alas). But I’m sure readers have better picks, and since Cinco de Mayo is upon us, I turn it over to ustedes. OK, cabrones: what mariachi songs do you recommend gabachos request as they drinko por Cinco in a few weeks? Give me the song’s title and 50 words or less explaining its beauty to gabachos, and I’ll print the best picks for my Cinco de Mayo column!