Mexican airwaves carry songs chronicling U.S. terrorist attacks

Sunday, October 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) _ Northern Mexico's folk musicians who sing about drug lords and bloodshed to accordion riffs and strumming guitars are now filling the airwaves with ballads about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the world's most wanted outlaw: Osama bin Laden.

Radio stations across northern Mexico have been playing songs like ``Black 11th,'' ``Tragedy in Manhattan,'' and ``The ballad of Osama bin Laden.''

Disc jockey Paco Nunez said the folk songs, known as corridos, are among the most requested on his program.

``A lot of people in this region know the details of what happened because of the corridos more than the news,'' said Nunez, whose radio show, Ranchera de Monterrey, is aired across northern Mexico and on Spanish radio stations in the United States.

``The news just recounts the story one or two times, whereas people can buy a cassette of corridos and never forget what happened because they listen to it over and over as a song. That way it's remembered as more than just a historic event.''

The cassette featuring ``The Black 11th,'' or ''11 Negro,'' played by Los Estrellas del Bravo, went on sale late Friday in Monterrey. The compact disc was scheduled to be released next week.

``I want the people, the world, wherever my lyrics are heard, to know that Mexico is lamenting a lot, and Monterrey is lamenting the situation in which a lot of Americans, and countless nationalities, including Mexicans, were killed,'' said Filogonio Contreras, who wrote ''11 Negro'' for the Monterrey group. At least 15 Mexicans died in the World Trade Center attack.

``This isn't being morbid. It's lamenting the fact that our brothers and sisters died,'' he said.

Many of the corridos, like ``Tragedy in Manhattan'' by farmer Jose Alejandro Vega, express sadness.

But the tunes of Rigoberto Cardenas, 39, who penned the bin Laden corrido, are also critical: ``By sky, by sea, by land/Osama bin Laden/they are looking for you/bin Laden/The terrorist that the CIA trained/That was the biggest mistake of the American government.''

The lyrics, which rhyme in Spanish, refer to claims by Western and Middle Eastern sources that bin Laden received U.S. support to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan as he was shaping his al-Qaida terrorist network. Bin Laden insists he never took CIA funds.

Cardenas, who said the song is titled ``The mistake of the CIA,'' is working on a cassette of a dozen corridos about Sept. 11, when hijackers believed tied to bin Laden slammed commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Cardenas recently finished one called ``The Anthrax Corrido.''

``I decided to do this because we composers, like the press, look for the news and report it,'' said Cardenas, who lives in Colima state on the Pacific coast.

By tradition, corridos comment on current events, the famous _ or the infamous.

``Corridos are about life and all its happenings,'' said Maynardo Vazquez, who researches corridos at Nuevo Leon's Autonomous University in Monterrey. ``If there was an explosion in the city today, tomorrow there would be a corrido about it. They relate what has happened through the language of the people.''

Corridos were used as a way to spread news by traveling minstrels in the 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the old songs are about revolutionaries.

Today's corridos are a contemporary variation. Many are about the difficulties of life along the U.S.-Mexico border, relating tales of drug smugglers paying off police or Mexican migrants dying in the desert while trying to sneak into the United States. Critics say the drug songs glorify smugglers, and the so-called narco-corridos are banned in some parts of Mexico.

But those who write them say they are just recounting life.

Contreras, 69, has written more than 300 songs, chronicling everything from California's controversial Proposition 187 that banned Mexican immigrants from government services to the murder of popular Tejano music singer Selena, a song that sold more than 30,000 copies.

Requests for a copy of his latest song came in from across Mexico and the United States even before it went on sale Friday.

At the Juarez market's Centro Casetero in Monterrey, owner Jorge Caballero stocked shelves with the cassettes and said he'd been getting requests for tapes all week.

``More than anything,'' he said, ``this narrates history and how the world came together in solidarity over such a horrible act.''