Saul Linares, a factory worker from Hempstead, N.Y., sat down at dinner on Feb. 7 with pen, paper and a story to tell. Then he did what similarly equipped Mexicans have done since the 1800’s. He wrote a corrido.
“In the left hand I was eating, and with my right hand I was writing it down,” he said. He was done in 20 minutes.
Mr. Linares was on a weekend retreat for immigrant-rights organizers in Rye, N.Y. After work on Saturday they took a break for a “cultural night” of poems, songs and stories.
Mr. Linares, 30, had never written a corrido before. He is from El Salvador, where they sing cumbias. But people all over Latin America like corridos. He knew what to do.
Voy a cantarles un corrido a los presentes,
que le compuse a Joe Arpaio de Arizona,
un sinvergüenza, desgraciado, anti-inmigrante,
que se ha ganado el repudio de toda la gente.
I will sing a corrido to all those present
that I wrote for Joe Arpaio from Arizona,
a shameless, disgraceful immigrant hater
who has earned the repudiation of the people.
Corridos are Mexican folk ballads, stories of love, betrayal, murder, s, often lurid and usually drawn from real life. Scholars who collect them by the tens of thousands say they are the literature of the rural poor: pulp nonfiction.
Mr. Linares’s subject, the Maricopa County sheriff, is infamous for abusing prisoners, strutting on TV and arresting Latinos on flimsy pretexts. To his victims he is a figure of fear and mockery, part Bull Connor, part Buford T. Justice from “Smokey and the Bandit.” He is prime corrido material.
Arpaio puts the immigrants in jail
because he says that they are crooks
but they are only looking for a decent job …
And without any apparent sense or reason
he paraded them in chains down the street.
That is all true. The inmate parade happened in Phoenix on Feb. 4. Last week the Justice Department told the sheriff he was being investigated over accusations of racial profiling, and Congress members denounced his “reign of terror.”
Mr. Linares, a former day laborer, had his audience cheering, but he was modest about it. He threw the song away. Someone had to persuade him to retrieve and save it. The next day, he and a guitarist, Francisco Pacheco, squeezed into a bathroom, for better acoustics, and recreated the moment for a portable recorder.