Friday, October 13th, 2017

Calibre 50 – Corrido de Juanito

Norteno’s biggest stars – more hashtags, more T-shirts, less controversy


Alfred Soto: An embrace of identity without a trace of jingoism, “Corrido de Juanito” depends on the sweetly modulated trill of that accordion.

Stephen Eisermann: A terrific Norteño track detailing the life of a man who crossed illegally and his life through his eyes. This song hits harder and hurts more because of the current climate we live in, and coming from a family where both of my parents were raised in Mexico and my maternal grandfather told us he crossed illegally by hitching on to the bottom of a train this feels all too familiar. Fortunately for me, my family taught me Spanish first and made sure to always remind me and my siblings/cousins that we were Mexican-Americans, but Mexican first and to never lose that part of our heritage. I am so thankful they did that because I know far too many people who, like Juanito’s children in this song, have shed their culture and language and have trouble empathizing or even communicating with their adult, Spanish-speaking parents. It’s all frustrating and sad, but the call out to the numerous crosses in the desert near the US-Mexico border is especially devastating when you’ve heard about those crosses before in your life. Even so, the song manages to end with Juanito committing to see his dying father one last time, throwing caution to the wind, knowing damn well he missed out on so much of his family due to his longing for a better place — one he freely admits wasn’t all that it was chalked up to be.

Ian Mathers: Certainly this kind of narrative is, for lack of a more graceful phrase, on the right side of history, but it oompahs along with the kind of folk-music stateliness that both makes it feel more Important, even a bit timeless, and sucks some of the life out of it. Not that a song like this needs to be “fun,” but it doesn’t need to be so pokey either.

Josh Langhoff: Despite its #MexicanoHastaElTope kicker, Calibre 50’s latest immigration story sounds more defeated than immediate precursors like Adriel Favela’s “Me Llamo Juan” (everyman comes to the U.S., struggles through poverty and odd jobs, starts successful company) or Calibre’s own “El Inmigrante” (everyman comes to the U.S., suffers various humiliations, starts successful string of “-ado” rhymes). It also sounds more defeated than Sparx’s chipper Clinton/Zedillo-era ranchera murder ballad, but we’ll say their “Corrido de Juanito” is not a precursor, at least until Calibre songwriter Edén Muñoz corrects me. The defeat resides partly in Muñoz’s melody, rising hopefully before collapsing into perpetual sighs; partly in the slow tempo and settled-in length, unusual for a radio corrido; but mostly in Juanito’s sadness at missing his family and feeling like an outsider everywhere, even around his own English-speaking, El Norte-born children.

Crystal Leww: To the surprise of my friends who watch streaming numbers, Latino acts sometimes rack up crazy numbers on YouTube. This is surprising, until you consider just how many people are in Latin America. Calibre 50 are one of those acts that rack up crazy views on YouTube, and it reminds me of a time when I was a child running around neighborhoods in Texas. This is music meant for a different time, or at the very least with a grill going.

Rebecca A. Gowns: Listening to this song puts a lump in my throat. It’s the story of my family; the story of Los Angeles and the people who live here; the people in my neighborhood of Echo Park, some of whom have lived here through generations of Mexican-Americans, who are feeling the squeeze of pressures on all sides. The rent is too high here and the wages too low. English is incredibly difficult to learn, let alone to speak without an accent. Immigrants want to live with other immigrants and 2nd/3rd generation Mexican-Americans, we want to have our community, but our communities are being increasingly displaced by corporate interests and yuppie landlords. And yet, in many cases, there’s nothing to return to in Mexico — the wages are even lower, the opportunities even less. So one has to stay and make do with what one can, hundreds or thousands of miles from the land that’s embedded in the soul. Calibre 50 manages to get all this across in much fewer words than I can, with an economy and grace of storytelling that comes from the richest depths of folk song tradition. I only wish anti-immigration ideologues could learn Spanish and hear this. I want them to feel the lump in the throat, the pull at the bottom of the gut, the cactus needle pressing against the heart.

Edward Okulicz: This is a lovingly written emotive song, and sung richly, but the real power didn’t become apparent until I read the translation. “My children are big…they do not speak Spanish” says one verse, and that section makes sense as a poem, as if to assert one’s Mexicanness is half pride in one’s identity and half ruefulness in seeing that identity not passed down, or passed over by your children. That reads incredibly sad, but doesn’t sound it to me. As a non-Spanish speaker, the fault’s with me for hearing the accordion and gently oompahing rhythm as a sting of pain that time or liquor might heal, over a song about a sadness that I don’t think ever heals. Some may cry to it, I can only sway.

Reader average: [8.72] (11 votes)

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3 Responses to “Calibre 50 – Corrido de Juanito”

  1. @Rebecca, girl, why are we the same person??? Hahah.

  2. Both of your blurbs are the kind that I hoped and assumed this song would get, and Edward gets at what I was trying to say much better than I did.

  3. Thank you Ian! And yes Stephen!