Corridos at the Library of Congress: Spurring Creativity while Studying Hispanic Heritage

Collaborating with a Music Teacher in Residence has led to us thinking more often about ways to incorporate music into classroom activities, so when we began discussing ways that teachers could use primary sources to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, several of us began naming different types of music available in the online collections of the Library of Congress. Suddenly, we found we were combining our two discussions, and were exploring ways to not only bring music into the classroom, but to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the same time.

While I was reading about the history of many kinds of Mexican American song, I learned about the corrido, “a type of socially relevant narrative ballad.” I remembered a songwriting workshop at the Library’s American Folklife Center in which a group of students learned to write a corrido from scratch, including generating the topic – typically a tragic story. The students decided to write about the death of Sandra Bland, which was current news at the time. Encourage your students to watch ethnomusicologist Juan Díes, who facilitated the workshop, perform the corrido while then-Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera translates it into English.

How do they feel after hearing the corrido? Do they think that the corrido provides a complete picture of the events? If time allows, they might compare it to a news story of the events. Ask students why they think corridos have been popular and why their popularity continues.

Explore more:

  • Students might learn more about the corridos within the Library’s collection in this essay by Library folklorist Stephanie Hall. This presentation from Juan Díes offers more general information about corridos.
  • Students might also compare corridos to other kinds of music or songs they listen to. What are the similarities and differences between the various types of songs?
  • Share links to some of the other corridos found in the Library’s collections. If needed, work with the Spanish language teacher to help with translations. Encourage students to create their own corridos in English or Spanish.

As we enter the second half of Hispanic Heritage month, let us know what your students discovered during a study of corridos.

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