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Poetry and Violence

The Ballad Tradition of Mexico's Costa Chica

The corrido and its complex relationship with violence

John H. McDowell provides an in-depth look at the Mexican ballad form known as the corrido, a body of poetry that draws from violence for its subject matter. Through interviews with male and female corrido composers and performers, plus a generous sampling of ballad texts, McDowell reveals a living vernacular tradition that chronicles local and regional rivalries and spawned the narcocorrido, ballads set in the drug trade and particularly popular along the Rio Grande border.

Detailed and rife with social and cultural implications, Poetry and Violence is a compelling commentary on violence as both human experience and communicative action.


"A brilliant study of a thriving ballad tradition extant in the Costa Chica region. It is written in a clear, coherent, and concise style. The book will appeal to those interested in ethnomusicology, ballad studies, and corrido studies."--Maria Herrera-Sobek, Western Folklore

"The rich representations of the composer's voice interwoven with the theoretical overlay of scholarly abstractions, the critique of the (racist) allegations that the African heritage of Costa Chica afromestizos is the source of the patterns of violence, [and] the counterdistinction of the roles of composer, performer, and audience member in relating to the corrido's veracity . . . are all reasons to give McDowell's work 'two thumbs up.'"--Daniel Sheehy, Ethnomusicology

"A carefully crafted ethnography. . . . [McDowell] succeeds in making his case for the power of the corrido tradition on the Costa Chica to mediate fundamental cultural issues. . . . A groundbreaking analysis of this oft-interpreted genre."--Manuel Peña, Journal of American Folklore

"[McDowell] has uncovered a vernacular tradition that relates to regional rivalries that have centered on land redistribution since the revolution, capital formation, and consolidation of federal authority."--British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain

Publication of this book was supported by a grant from the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund


John H. McDowell is a professor of folklore, director of Undergraduate Studies, and former director of the Folklore Institute at Indiana University. He is the author of "So Wise Were Our Elders": Mythic Narrative of the Kamsá and editor of ¡Corrido!: The Living Ballad of Mexico's Western Coast.

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