Column: The Corrido of ‘Amigo’ Biden: How the presidential candidate lastly bought his Mexican ballad


For over 200 years, the Mexican corrido has instructed tales of derring-do about heroes and villains and hero-villains galore.

The ballad kind naturally carried over to the United States, and finally caught on to American politics, the place heroes and villains (and hero-villains) rule. JFK got dozens to mark his assassination; one hailed Jimmy Carter because the “peanut king.”

La Hillary earned some too, together with “El Corrido de Hillary Clinton,” a lazy effort launched in 2016 by ranchera icon Vicente Fernandez that repurposed an outdated hit of his to inform followers to vote for Clinton.

And everyone knows how that turned out. Oh, she bought the favored vote. But apparently Chente by no means heard of el electoral school.

President Trump has appeared in a number of, inevitably solid as a foul hombre — and never in a cool method. Tio Bernie? A jammin’ one known as “El Quemazón” (“The Bern”).

But Uncle Joe Biden? He simply doesn’t encourage the identical emotions amongst Latinos — whether or not hatred or love — as Trump or Sanders.

A mariachi band waits to carry out earlier than a January marketing campaign occasion for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Las Vegas.

(John Locher / Associated Press)

So he was left largely corrido-less till the Diaz brothers determined to do one thing about it.

And the best way they put collectively “La Señal es Joe y Kamala” (“The Signal Is Joe and Kamala”) was so Los Angeles circa 2020:

Take two natives of Watts — David’s a music producer, Elvis is a political science undergrad at Columbia University.

Throw in a songwriter primarily based in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico.

Find a norteño band in Las Vegas to file the observe.

Have them debut it at a nightclub in small-town Georgia.

Release it on YouTube.

“La Señal” by La Nueva Onda Norteña begins with a flourish of notes plucked off a bajo sexto (12-string guitar) by singer Selwyn Gonzalez. As photographs drawn from Biden’s profession flash on a display behind the band, Gonzalez croons out what a vote for the Democratic presidential candidate would carry to Latinos: Respect. Hope. Walls that tumble down.

“The signal/I see the signal,” the track’s refrain proclaims. “Of a new era/Of a change for real.”

Strangely, the straightforward villain for such a story is nowhere to be discovered. Trump shouldn’t be even talked about.

Instead, La Nueva Onda Norteña’s swaying track presents one thing absent in electoral politics today: optimism.

The expectations for “La Señal” are modest for David, who spent about $1,500 of his personal cash to provide it.

“If we change the mind of one person, I’ll be happy,” mentioned the 28-year-old by way of cellphone from Mexico. “But hopefully, it changes millions.”

At fewer than 4,000 YouTube hits, it in all probability received’t. Elvis despatched the track to Biden’s workforce, which hasn’t responded; as a substitute, they used songs by Vicente Fernandez’s son, Alejandro, and reggaetón superstar Bad Bunny to attain marketing campaign commercials.

But the corrido does present how this election has impressed Mexican American males who beforehand didn’t look after American politics to leap into the fray.

Those who’ve gravitated towards Trump due to a way that he’s a macho’s macho are getting mucho media consideration. But the Diaz brothers and La Nueva Onda Norteña signify the silent majority of those señores: males who care for his or her household and group and lengthy noticed their ceaseless work, not elections, as the best way ahead for Latinos.

Until now.

It’s additionally an inadvertent call-out to the modern-day Mexican regional music business within the United States, which has a surprisingly lengthy historical past with American presidential campaigns past merely chronicling them. Mariachis serenaded JFK the night time earlier than his dying, and Richard Nixon at his 1973 inauguration gala. Ranchera legend Antonio Aguilar was a good friend of Ronald Reagan. Vicente Fernandez even performed at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Today? The business finds it simpler to reward avarice and any variety of narco lords than American democracy. Or democracy, interval.

“We Mexicans all have a friend who was born here but doesn’t want to vote,” Gonzalez mentioned. “That it doesn’t matter. But we need them to get conscious.”

“Before this, my interest in politics was zero,” admitted David. “But we need a change. Something different from what Trump is doing. And I needed to do something.”


 Joe Biden walks on a picket line with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226

Joe Biden walks on a picket line with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 exterior the Palms Casino in Las Vegas in February.

(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

David takes pains to distinguish himself from Elvis — the brother, not the King. “He’s more on the side of smartness,” he mentioned. “He goes to Columbia. Me, I’m more the streets. I know Mexican music.”

Elvis, a 30-year-old who has labored for the Thai and Peruvian consulates within the United States and as a speechwriter for Mozambique’s ambassador to the United Nations, by no means bothered speaking politics along with his youthful brother.

“He’s a businessman, and doesn’t want to lose any potential income,” Elvis mentioned. “But we all need to participate this year.”

Knowing the social buzz that the Bernie Sanders corrido earned in the course of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Elvis pitched his thought to his brother. After a few deep talks, David agreed.

“People don’t understand the power of a vote until it affects them,” he mentioned. “And this election definitely will.”

David reached out to a earlier collaborator, Hunab Mandujano. Even although he’s primarily based in Chiapas, the 28-year-old was “happy and excited” to jot down one thing about Biden.

“We [in Mexico] know about what’s going on up there, and the racist language Trump uses, and not just about Mexicans,” Mandujano mentioned. The Diaz brothers supplied just one suggestion: Don’t give attention to Trump, as a result of that corrido market was already filled with songs that ranted the president is “crazier than a goat” . Or a “pinche payaso” in one other. And these are the insults we will print.

“Look, I’m into marketing,” David mentioned. “All that [trash]-talking on Trump helps him.”

He’s proper. Because for those who’ve heard one anti-45 corrido or Facebook screed, for that matter, you’ve heard all of them. Obsessive hate presents no method ahead apart from to hate some extra.

Instead, David mentioned he “wanted us to show positivity.”

So Mandujano learn articles about Biden and heard his speeches, and delivered one thing inside per week.

His final inspiration?

“Joe’s smile,” Mandujano mentioned. “He’s also a more analytical person and firmer [than Trump]. And he can do a lot of good for the American project.”

The Diaz brothers then despatched “La Señal” to Gonzalez, who admitted it was initially “a bit of a challenge” to determine his method musically across the topic. His group is extra used to singing love songs.

“Politics is a subject that can bring you a lot of repercussions, good or bad,” Gonzalez mentioned.

But the American-born 30-year-old mirrored on his dad and mom, former undocumented immigrants. He considered Nevada, a previously deep-red state where Latinos are now a swing vote. And so he sang “La Señal” with “those feelings” in thoughts. The singer bought so into it, that he ad-libbed in Spanish “Now, let’s go out to vote for the amigo Biden — hell ya!” midway via the tune.

“It has a lot of the qualities of what makes a good campaign song,” mentioned Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, music professor at Georgia College. She research the usage of songs in presidential campaigns. “You have to have the marriage of inspirational lyrics, good music, and great hooks. It has an exuberance to it. Even if you don’t know the language, you get the emotions.”

The plan was to debut “La Señal” in time for Gonzalez and his bandmates to play a stay live performance whereas Biden visited Nevada earlier this month. But “the timing just didn’t work out,” and a tour for La Nueva Onda Norteña throughout the South was forthcoming.

So the track debuted in a membership in Moultree, Ga., a metropolis of about 14,000 in southern Georgia close to a significant chicken-processing plant. Gonzalez mentioned the viewers was principally Salvadorans and Guatemalans, however “they liked it.”

The membership promoter, alternatively …

“He was at first like, ‘What was up with that corrido?’” he mentioned. “He was nervous about being seen as political. But there’s always a first time for something.”

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