In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Corridos

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Anthologies
  • Impact of Américo Paredes
  • Heroic Border Corrido Paradigm in Chicano Literature
  • Contentions and Crosscurrents of the Heroic Border Corrido Paradigm
  • Feminist and Gendered Critique
  • Immigrants and Migrants/Migration and Immigration
  • Narcocorridos
  • The Corrido and Its Relation to Poetry
  • The Corrido and El Teatro Chicano (Chicano Theater)
  • The Corrido in Western American Literature

American Literature Corridos
Diana Noreen Rivera
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0166


The corrido is a significant form of folk music and folk poetry sung by people of Mexican descent that has had a lasting impact on Chicana/o literature and criticism. The corrido is also significant within the broader scope of American literature, as it contributes to the culturally diverse tapestry of folk literature in the United States. Like traditional white-American folk ballads, Negro spirituals, and Native American songs, corridos primarily existed as an oral literature passed along from singer to singer and one generation to the next. Corridos historically descended from the Spanish romance ballad of the medieval period, were brought to New Spain in the 16th century by Spanish colonizers, and have maintained their significance within the modern geopolitical formations of Mexico and the United States. A key characteristic granting the corrido its staying power among Mexican and Mexican American communities is the corrido’s narrative function. The corrido is an effective vehicle for passing along information pertaining to significant events, be they cultural, environmental, political, or social, and for narrating the circumstances of remarkable individuals, be they heroic or tragic. Therefore, as many corrido scholars have noted, it is not coincidental that the term corrido derives from the Spanish verb correr, “to run.” Moreover, corridos are a form of expressive culture that provides a voice to working-class and disenfranchised communities. Corridos also function as a source of entertainment and serve as an artifact of cultural memory. In the late 19th century, corridos were lyricized and sold or passed around on broadsides in Mexico and the US Southwest. Advancements in 20th-century communications technologies transmitted corridos over radio airwaves and ignited a new era for the commercialization of corridos as profitable commodities sold on records, cassette tapes, and CDs; however, pockets of traditional oral performances continued and new corridos narrating significant events and people were organically generated. Whether a historic oral literature or a lyricized commodity, corridos provide a wealth of historical, cultural, gendered, regional, transnational, and environmental information. This coupled with the corrido’s musical and lyrical poetics have attracted scholars from a multitude of disciplines (anthropology, history, folklore, musicology, literature, Chicana/o studies) to study corridos for well over a century. This list charts corridos from the vantage point of American literature and literary analysis. The rich tradition of corridos as a type of folk literature appreciated and studied often remains unknown within the broad scope of American literature. Corridos are also too often understood within the narrow scope of a particular subgenre or era of production in the fields of Chicana/o literature and Western literature. What follows is a suggestive guide ranging from historical to contemporary corrido scholarship with a literary focus that addresses key figures, critical approaches, and literary works significant to the corrido genre.

General Overviews

A number of published works address the “corrido” in a general fashion in terms of literary, historical, and regional significance. Hernández 2012 provides an excellent overview of the corrido by definition, summation of important scholarly debates, and the seven common narrative components of the genre. Gurza 2012 offers a concise treatment of the corrido’s historical development dating from medieval European balladry and the Spanish romance as well as a discussion on the theme of masculine heroics before providing an excellent literary analysis of thirty popular corridos that utilize the narrative components of corrido discourse in Hernández 2012. Leal and Barrón 1982 provides a literary history of the corrido that illustrates its profound influence on Chicano literature as a prominent mode of cultural expression dating from the 19th century. Ortega 2002 offers a focused historical account of the corrido from the 17th to the 21st centuries. Lucero-White 1937, Campa 1946, Hansen 1959, and Paredes 1976 are overviews that focus on regional sites of corrido production in the US Southwest. Lucero-White 1937 and Campa 1946 contain corridos gathered in northern New Mexico, Hansen 1959 presents corridos gathered from Southern California, and Paredes 1976 offers a corridos from personal memory sung in South Texas. Each of these regional corrido collections would suit undergraduate or graduate courses with their varying combination of discussions that musically, culturally, historically, and thematically define and contextualize the corridos that comprise their respective studies. Advanced scholars and students may be interested in the comparative literary and cultural possibilities that exist by examining variants from different locales documented in these regional surveys of corrido production.

  • Campa, Arthur L. Spanish Folk-Poetry in New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946.

    Impressive study of folk material from New Mexico that includes twenty-three corridos collected by Campa. Scholars and students will appreciate Campa’s effort to address types of folk music (versos, inditas, cuandos) that are synonymous with the term corrido in some folk communities and differentiated from the corrido in others. Historical and cultural context accompanies each corrido.

  • Gurza, Agustín. “A Century of Corridos: The Musical History of Mexico and Its People.” In The Arhoolie Foundation’s Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings. Edited by Agustín Gurza, Jonathan Clark, and Chris Strachwitz, 36–69. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles Chicano Studies Research Center, 2012.

    Overview of the University of California, Los Angeles Frontera Collection’s extensive digital repository that archives a century of recorded corridos that is particularly helpful to researchers, but also notable for its evaluation of the corrido’s historical roots, heroic subject matter, and key scholars of the genre. Includes a guide to thirty quintessential corridos analyzed by corrido scholar Guillermo Hernández.

  • Hansen, Terrence L. “Corridos in Southern California.” Western Folklore 18.3 (1959): 203–232.

    DOI: 10.2307/1497707

    Survey of seventeen corridos collected from informants in Southern California. Responds to what the author views as a void in corrido collection and preservation of the Southern California region. Includes a helpful introduction to the corrido from historical, cultural, musical, and thematic perspectives. Contains unique corridos and corrido variants collected in Lucero-White 1937, Campa 1946, and Paredes 1976.

  • Hernández, Guillermo E. “What Is a Corrido? Thematic Representation and Narrative Discourse.” In The Arhoolie Foundation’s Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings. Edited by Agustín Gurza, Jonathan Clark, and Chris Strachwitz, 176–192. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles Chicano Studies Research Center, 2012.

    Originally published as an article in Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, defines the corrido and succinctly discusses the communal importance, social significance, and evolutionary tensions of the genre. Followed by a review of scholarship that shaped debates in corrido origin theories and questions of narrative analysis. Explains seven narrative components of corrido discourse that will aid beginning students and novices unfamiliar with the narrative structures of the corrido genre.

  • Leal, Luis, and Pepe Barrón. “Chicano Literature: An Overview.” In Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of American Literature. Edited by Houston A. Baker Jr., 9–32. New York: Modern Language Association, 1982.

    Part of a collection of essays intended to familiarize the reader with US ethnic minority literary traditions and promote the inclusion of diverse cultural literatures within a “homogeneous” body of American literature. Positions the corrido as both a predecessor of and living genre within Chicano literature. Gives a concise overview of the corrido’s historical origins and describes its continuous presence as a literary vehicle for cultural expression from the mid-19th century to the social protest era of the early 1970s.

  • Lucero-White, Aurora. The Corrido and Other Poetic Compositions of New Mexico. Santa Fe, NM: Works Progress Administration. 1937.

    Written as part of the Federal Writer’s Project, this essay and collection of folk ballads calls attention to the corrido as an oral folk genre that maintains the literary tradition and identity of New Mexican people of Spanish descent. Overviews the corrido’s history and social significance in New Mexico. Includes Spanish-English translations of seventeen corridos collected by the author.

  • Ortega, Carlos F. “Ballads of History and Resistance: The Narrative Base of the Corrido.” In Aztlan Chicano Culture and Folklore: An Anthology. 3d ed. Edited by José “Pepe” Villarino and Arturo Ramírez, 261–273. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

    Traces the corrido’s historical origins from the Spanish romance in colonial Mexico to the commercialized corrido of the 21st century. Discusses the corrido’s historical trajectory in four sections: “The Mexican Corrido,” “Border Conflict/Border Corridos,” “Chicano Corridos,” and “The Continuity of a Form.”

  • Paredes, Américo. A Texas-Mexican Cancionero: Folksongs of the Lower Border. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976.

    Songbook comprised of sixty-six songs, half corridos, popular to the folk of the “Lower Rio Grande Border.” Includes five sections arranged by thematic and historical context that provide helpful background information for each folksong, making this collection a solid introduction to corrido study. Contains Spanish-English translations, a glossary of culturally specific terms, and several pages of historical images relevant to the corridos in the text.

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