CAMD Scholar Pablo Sanchez ’19 On the Role of Corridos In Mexican Culture

O.Tung/The Phillipian

Pablo Sanchez ’19 found a connection with corridos from a young age, having listened to them growing up.

After taking Spanish-400 his Lower year, Pablo Sanchez ’19 promised that he would someday write about the corrido, a popular genre of Mexican music, during his time at Andover.

Sanchez got that chance through the CAMD Scholarship, an annual program that allows selected students to research topics related to diversity and multiculturalism. Last Friday, Sanchez presented his CAMD Scholar findings in his presentation, “The Duality of the Mexican Narcocorrido: How Songs About the Drug Trade Expose the Truth About the Mexican Condition.”

Corridos are ballad-like songs that have evolved from honoring Mexican Revolutionaries to glorifying drug culture and violence, according to Sanchez’s project description. In some parts of Mexico, corridos have been banned from radio for their lyrics.

In an interview with The Phillipian, Sanchez said that he hoped the audience would be able to walk away recognizing corridos as a legitimate form of expression.

“I hope [the attendees] recognize corridos as a valid art form, and beyond that, I hope they recognize that there are other groups that have representation in their own ways and just because it’s a niche culture and it is in small pockets of America, it doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate. It doesn’t mean it’s not actually impactful to not only Mexican citizens but American citizens as well who don’t feel like they’re being accepted or assimilated by the larger U.S. society,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez had a personal connection to corridos, having listened to them since his childhood. During his research, Sanchez considered why he identifies with the genre and how it voices the realities of daily life.

“Even for me, as someone who grew up in the culture, I was really confused as to [not only] why it was so popular but also why I could identify with it at the same time. It’s this idea of this coping mechanism for our daily reality, but I think at the same time it’s a way of people to relate to our story but more so to actually hear our story,” said Sanchez during his presentation.

Ramphis Medina PG ’19 was struck by Sanchez’s evolving perspective on the music and its importance to his culture.

“It was a really good presentation because I’m also Hispanic too, and it was [Sanchez] talking about a musical experience that he’s grown up with and as a young adult, he was discovering its importance and its meaning, compared to as he just saw it before. When he was younger, it was just music, but now he was learning himself and teaching us the significance of the culture,” said Medina.

For a portion of the presentation, Miriam Villanueva, Instructor in History and Social Science, joined Sanchez on stage to have a conversation about corrido culture and their personal experiences with it. Much like Sanchez, Villanueva said he saw the genre as a way to cope with one’s daily reality.

“In listening to these songs, at least for our family, it’s kind of an escapism, if that makes sense, in that you recognize the brutality of what is happening, you recognize how your community is being exploited, but you’re finding a release and an outlet with these songs. You’re allowing your trauma to be expressed so that you could commiserate together as a community,” said Villanueva during the talk.

Mark Cutler, Instructor in Spanish, served as Sanchez’s faculty advisor throughout his research. Having known Sanchez since his Junior year, Cutler enjoyed seeing Sanchez take on and execute the project.

“Honestly, whenever I’ve done anything like this, I’ve enjoyed sort of taking myself out to the expert role and allowing the student to guide me through the process. I don’t know how many CAMD Scholar projects I’ve done, but Pablo definitely has handled this one extremely well,” said Cutler in an interview with The Phillipian.

Emma Staffaroni, Instructor in English, oversees the CAMD Scholars program. Staffaroni said that from the start of the process, she was eager to hear Sanchez’s take on the connections between politics, economics, and culture. 

“We always hear very negative things about the border [between Mexico and the United States], and we don’t think about the culture that is flourishing there under these negative conditions and is part of people’s real lives. So I thought that was a really exciting angle, and I was really excited that he wanted explore it,” said Staffaroni.

Sanchez’s presentation kicked off not only this year’s CAMD presentations, but also Latin Arts Weekend, a weekend dedicated to celebrating Latinx culture.

Chi Igbokwe ’21, an attendee of the talk, says she would like to see even more discussion about Latinx identity at Andover.

“I feel like on this campus, things concerning Latinx identities and Hispanic identities aren’t talked about as much, and since this is Latin Arts Weekend, I think it’s really important that there was a talk like this…  I think that this was a really cool insight into one part of the broader Latinx culture, and I feel like that’s something that we should see more of on this campus,” said Igbokwe.