Corridos and the Stories They Tell Us

I have always found that one of the most powerful aspects of music is its ability to tell a story, whether that story is triumphant, despondent, funny, or meant to act as a soothing balm to the soul. There is a folk genre among the Mexican community that encompasses all of the previously mentioned stories and more; it’s called Corrido.

Corridos have a documented history to pre-colonial Spain during the medieval era, but they were called “romances” instead of corridos. They were epic tales and lyrical poetry composed to entertain the people of Spain, from the poorest laborers and servants to the courts of nobility. Romances were tailored to their audience, exemplified by shorter pieces and the addition of refrains due to public demand for favored passages to be repeated, but missionaries found they could also be tailored to emulate the epic tales of the Indigenous people they resolved themselves to convert.

Corridos didn’t truly take hold in Mexican culture until around the time of the Mexican Revolution, but that isn’t to say that it was an immediate transition from religious propaganda romances to corridos. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and to that point, once the romances arrived in the colonies(especially the northern colonies) there began to be a shift in the format and topic of the epics. Instead of serenading audiences with religious stories and tales of love, the subjects changed to infidelity, incest, the majesty of the landscape, and other more novel topics. Examples of the shift from romance to corrido date back to 1808 in New Mexico and 1824 in Santa Barbara, California.

It was with the Mexican Revolution, beginning in 1910, that corridos really became a part of Mexican culture. They were used for communication between various regions and towns, to relay information during battle, and as a way to proliferate propaganda across the country. It was these very practices that led to the corrido form used today; it’s known to have a three-part structure(introduction, events, and farewell) to chronicle the great deeds of those that came before us.

There are also subgenres within corrido: border ballads are one of them. The border ballads were a social unionizer of sorts; they told stories of resistance against the ruling class and an oppressive society, and it helped to create a national identity due to many Mexican citizens being able to empathize with the heroes of the story and their desire to be free from societal oppression. These ballads wove tales of exploits and daring escapes, but they had various endings too. Some were triumphant with the escape of the bandit and others showed the bandit’s defeat, at times from double-crossing confidants or the bandit’s surrender. An example of this is the corrido of Aurelio Pompa who killed a man in self-defense, was convicted by an all-white jury, and killed.

The link below will take you to the transcript:

Through learning more about corridos, I have come to understand how much information and how many stories can be told through music. I also have greater respect for everything Mexican citizens and immigrants have gone through to be able to share corridos with their communities. We have a chance to learn from these corridos, to understand the issues facing Mexican communities today, but that also means we are given the chance to try and help fix these issues. Stories are told so that younger generations may learn from previous mistakes, so let us listen and learn to ensure that the subsequent generations have just a little less to fix when it is their turn.


“‘Life, Trial, and Death of Aurelio Pompa’ (1928).” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2021. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Kanellos, Nicolás. “Corrido.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2021. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Avila, Jacqueline. “Corrido.” Grove Music Online. 16 Oct. 2013; Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

“‘Venimos De Matamoros’ [3:13].” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience audio. 2021. Accessed September 27, 2021.

Pompa, Carlos A. “Aurelio Pompa (CORRIDO).” May 17, 2018. Youtube video. 6:04.

Leave a Reply