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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Origins and Early Evolution
  • Textual and Poetic Analysis
  • Performance and Compositional Styles
  • Immigration and Migrant Corridos
  • Narcocorridos
  • Women in the Corrido Tradition
  • Interviews, Profiles, and Oral Histories
  • 21st Century Trends

Latino Studies Corridos
Elijah Wald
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0077


Corridos are a form of narrative song or verse popular in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Related to the Spanish epic ballads known as romances, corridos have been variously defined. The classic corrido is a narrative ballad, generally consisting of regular verses of four octosyllabic lines, beginning with a verse setting the theme, then telling a story, and ending with a despedida (farewell). The Mexican corrido seems to have emerged as a distinct style in the early or mid-19th century and reached a peak of popularity during the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), during which virtually every major figure and battle was commemorated in verse. A new wave of corridos emerged in the 1970s, often performed by commercial recording artists and commemorating drug traffickers (thus, the songs are generally known as narcocorridos) but also composed and performed by amateurs and semiprofessionals and dealing with local events and characters or broader issues such as political corruption and immigration to the United States. Until the 1990s, most academic corrido scholarship focused on songs composed before 1940 and considered as folklore, dismissing later compositions as commercial fabrications. Later scholars have tended to situate modern commercial compositions within the older tradition. The most popular corrido theme has been heroic narratives, often commemorating the death of the protagonist. Other common themes include topical events, horse races, and natural disasters. Two other styles of nonnarrative verse are typically included within the corrido category: corridos written to celebrate a town or event and those known as the corrido de amistad (friendship corrido), a subgenre of the narcocorrido which emerged in the 1990s and simply celebrates its protagonist (often but not always connected with the Mexican underworld) without telling a story. Many scholars believe the corrido form emerged in the Texas–Tamaulipas–Nuevo Leon border region and overlapped and influenced the English-language cowboy ballads of that region. Traditionally, corridos were often recited rather than sung; when sung, they are typically performed a cappella or accompanied by stringed instruments, most commonly guitars. If performed in regular dance meters, they are commonly set to waltz or polka rhythms. In the 20th century, the corrido style became associated with the various styles grouped as ranchera music, roughly equivalent to Anglo country and western music. This includes mariachi, a commercial style featuring guitars, violins, and trumpets; norteño, played by trios or quartets on accordion, bajo sexto (a sort of twelve-string guitar), bass, and sometimes drums and saxophone; duetos, accompanied by guitars and often a bass; and banda, a West Coast style accompanied by trumpets, clarinets, valve trombones, tuba, and drums.

General Overviews

Most books presented as overviews of the corrido form and tradition are essentially anthologies of song texts, with brief or cursory introductory material and fleeting annotations. The best known of these is Mendoza 1954, which helped establish corrido scholarship as a modern discipline, but dozens of less influential examples have been published since then. None of these is available in English, nor do they tend to provide any analysis of the individual corridos included. The one great exception is Simmons 1957 (cited under Historical and Topical Corridos: Mexico) which provides a solid introduction to the tradition and thorough discussions in English of a wide range of Mexican historical corridos and corrido themes. Paredes 2012 is an informal introduction to corrido scholarship by one of the most influential figures in the field. Hernández 2012 and Nicolopulos 1997 are efforts by two of the leading corrido scholars in the United States to provide a sense of current scholarship and understandings of the tradition. Gurza 2012, while concentrating on recordings in one collection, provides a sense of the breadth of the field with examples illustrating common varieties and themes. Wald 2001 is a broad survey of current corrido trends, written in journalistic style and based on interviews with composers and performers on both sides of the border. The Smithsonian website Corridos sin Fronteras, although including some quirky choices and relatively cursory descriptions, is a decent general introduction to the corrido tradition in the United States.

  • 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 with Jonathan Clark and Chris Strachwitz, 36–69. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2012.

    An introduction to the corrido as oral history, based on examples in the largest digital archive of Mexican and Mexican-American recordings, and describing thirty corridos that “define the genre.”

  • 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 with Jonathan Clark and Chris Strachwitz, 176–192. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2012.

    An excellent brief summation of scholarly research and understandings of the corrido, citing principal works and illustrating typical themes and styles.

  • Mendoza, Vicente T. El corrido mexicano. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1954.

    The standard introductory anthology of Mexican corridos, arranged by theme and including a representative sample of the style as understood by scholars in the mid-20th century.

  • Nicolopulos, James. “The Heroic Corrido: A Premature Obituary?” Aztlán 22.1 (1997): 115–138.

    An article by one of the foremost American corrido scholars summarizing earlier research that argued the classic style died in the 1930s and countering with later examples that suggest the enduring continuity of the tradition in both form and content. Also available online as “Another Fifty Years of the Corrido: A Reassessment.”

  • Paredes, Américo. “The Corrido: An Invited Lecture at the ‘Music in Culture’ Public Lecture Series.” Transcribed and edited by María Herrera-Sobek. Journal of American Folklore 125 (2012): 23–44.

    DOI: 10.5406/jamerfolk.125.495.0023

    A brief but broadly grounded summation of the basic definitions, scope, and origins of the corrido, presented by the pioneering scholar of the form in the United States.

  • Smithsonian Institution. Corridos sin Fronteras.

    A bilingual website (“Ballads without Borders”) providing an overview and general history of the corrido tradition, created by the Smithsonian Institution in 2002 to accompany a touring exhibit.

  • Wald, Elijah. Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas. New York: Rayo, 2001.

    A broad exploration of the modern corrido in Mexico and the United States, based on interviews with composers and framed as a travel narrative. Along with the drug ballads referenced in the title, it includes composers of traditional heroic corridos and ballads of migrant life, social issues, and local events. Also available in Spanish: Narcocorrido: Un viaje al mundo de la música de las drogas, armas y guerrilleros (New York: Rayo, 2001).

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