Songs of Sorrow and Resistance
Digital History ID 3673
Many early corridos arose at least partially in response to the prejudice and discrimination that Mexican Americans faced from Anglo Americans in the Southwest. Mexican American pride is particularly evidence in a corridor known as Kiansis (Kansas) that was sung among Tejanos--Texans of Mexican descent--beginning in the 1850s.
It was in Texas that anti-Mexican prejudice had first surfaced. From the outset of Anglo colonization, some newcomers spoke of Tejanos and Mexicans as debased human beings, comparable in many ways to Native American “savages” blocking the westward movement of white European civilization. In 1831 colonizer Stephen F. Austin wrote:
"My object, the sole and only desire of my ambitions since I first saw Texas, was to...settle it with an intelligent, honorable, and enterprising people."
Four years later Austin still wanted to see Texas:
"Americanized, that is, settled by a population that will harmonize with their neighbors on the East, in language, political principles, common origin, sympathy, and even interest."
The success of the Texas Revolution, from Austin’s point of view, would ensure that Americans pouring into the region would not be ruled by what they considered an inferior native populace.
After the Texas Revolution of 1836, American migrants employed terms of racial and cultural derision to describe the native Tejanos. They were the most “lazy, indolent, poor, starved set of people as ever the sun shined upon”; they were “slaves of popish superstitions and despotism”; and they would “spend days in gambling to gain a few bits” rather than “make a living by honest industry.” With their mixture of blood from Spanish, Native American, and African parents, the native populace represented a “mongrel” race, a “swarthy looking people much resembling...mulattoes.” By depriving Mexican Americans of full humanity, Anglo settlers could justify land grabbing, depriving Tejanos of the vote, violent repression, and even murder. Wrote one American veteran of the Texas Revolution late in life: “I thought that I could kill Mexicans as easily as I could deer and turkeys.” He apparently did so while shouting: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!”
When we left for Kansas on a big cattle drive, my far manager shouted, “Take care of my beloved”…
Five hundred steers there were, all big and quick; thirty American cowboys could not keep them bunched together.
Then five Mexicans arrive, all of them wearing good chaps; And in less than a quarter-hour, they had the steers penned up.
Those five Mexicans penned up the steers in a moment and the thirty Americans were left staring in amazement.
Many of the figures that Anglos regarded as bandits were viewed quite differently by Mexican Americans. They were viewed as rebels who were defending Mexicans against Anglo prejudice, intolerance, and violence. One popular corrido told the story of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, a Robin Hood-like figure defended Mexican Americans in Texas against discrimination and violent intimidation.
That famed General Cortinas is quite sovereign and free, the honor due him is greater for he saved a Mexican's life.
The Americans made merry they get drunk in the saloons, out of joy over the death of the famed General Cortinas.
Copyright 2021 Digital History