MexConnect
Living  |  See all articles tagged culture-customs perspectives social-issues

Superman is an illegal alian: humor and satire in the corrido

Maggie Van Ostrand

Mexicans are lining up on the south side of the Rio Grande and North Americans are lining up on the north side, each group of citizens looking for something from the other. For the North Americans, it's a keep-out mindset and, for the Mexicans, it's a let-us-in mindset. If you ask me, they are all in dire need of a humorous corrido.

A corrido is a song of experience that captures the spirit of certain historical events. Everything that moves, disturbs, or affects the common spirit, everything that influences the lives of the masses, everything that produces unforgettable commotion or excitement, is fodder for the corrido.

In other words, any happening of general public interest calls for a corrido.

Composers of the corrido are called corridistas.

The corrido is enjoyed and produced throughout Mexico, the American Southwest, and other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Corridos are heard from Chicago to Chiapas to Cordoba, with two regions contributing more than others to the folklorization of the corrido — Michoacán, Jalisco, and Guanajuato, and along the border of Northern Mexico and the American Southwest.

Studies tell us that immigration is first and foremost a personal and emotional experience affecting the individual spirit and the collective sentiment of the community. Many corridistas have experienced immigration first-hand.

The number of undocumented workers has soared in recent years and this has become a major theme of contemporary corridistas. Corridos focusing on illegal immigration have been appearing on Mexican radio and Spanish-language radio in the U.S. annually for more than 35 years.

Here's an example of corrido humor:

"Superman Is An Illegal"

Spoken:
It's a bird.
It's a plane.
No, it's a wetback.

Sung:
1. He arrived by air, but not in an airplane
He came in his ship all the way from Krypton
and it appears that he is not an American.
Rather, he is just like me, undocumented.

2. So you see, Border Patrol, he shouldn't work
because even though it hurts, Superman is an illegal alien.
He's a journalist, well so am I
and he didn't go into the Army, oh what a deal.

3. And he is blonde, blue-eyed, and well-built
and I'm dark, chubby, and very short.
But at least I have already marched (in the military)
with the smuggler I had to pay when I crossed (the border).

4. He didn't comply with military service,
he doesn't pay taxes and he acts like a judge.
He doesn't have a green card nor a license to fly,
and I bet he doesn't even have a social security card.

5. We have to deport Superman from this region
and if possible return him to Krypton.
Where are the immigration authorities when you need them?
What's new, Mr. Racism, in the nation?

What, you're not laughing yet? Maybe the next one will get you.

There's the corrido about a young man named Natalio Reyes Colás who emigrates to the United States from Mexico and experiences culture shock in the form of food, music, language, and sex roles. Colás meets a Mexican-American girl who wants him to assimilate as she has done. She changes his name from Natalio to "Nat," from Reyes to "King," and Colás to "Cole," and he becomes Nat King Cole. At this point, the music changes from a corrido to the romantic "Love is a Many Splendored Thing, as Colás sings the lyrics impersonating Nat King Cole.

Trust me, it's funny.

It's difficult for a Mexican to assimilate into the North American culture, but it's much worse for a North American to assimilate into the Mexican culture, since learning to relax is much harder than making money.

Let's take a cue from the corridistas and handle immigration with humor by eliminating two words from both our languages: wetbacks and greenbacks. It's a start.

Published or Updated on: May 1, 2005 by Maggie Van Ostrand © 2005
Contact Maggie Van Ostrand

More about award winning author, Maggie Van Ostrand

All Tags