Dear Readers: As you drinko por Cinco this May 5, please take this column around—it lists songs that mariachis will actually play gladly instead of glumly strumming through the umpteenth “La Bamba” and “Guantanamera.” The following eclectic choices (and reasonings) came from hundreds submitted by wabs and savvy gabachos. Make sure to knock back the Herradura but, por favor, designate a nerd as your driver!
“Los Mandados” (“The Errands”): I could give you hundreds of songs for Drinko de Mayo festivities, but if a Wayfarer-sporting, American Apparel–wearing, Elliott Smith–worshipping, Shepard Fairey–loving, and oh-so-ironic gabacho wants to hear a mariachi play something subtly anti-gringo, they can ask for this.
“El Borracho” (“The Drunk”): Mariachis love it, and the puto pendejos que comen en restaurantes mexicanos on Cinco de Mayo can no doubt remember the title.
“La Media Vuelta” (“The Half-Turn”): Is there a more supremely confident, hyper-macho, Mexican song out there? “You’ll leave if I say so”? “You’ll stay if I say so”? “I want you to kiss other lips just to see how great I am in contrast”? Perfect!
“La Martina”: A great corrido by Antonio Aguilar about a young bride who cheats on her husband. She gets caught red-handed and tries to talk her way out of it. When her father refuses to do anything about it, her husband takes matters into his own hands and empties his revolver into her. What else was the man to do?
“El Gavilán Pollero” (“The Chicken Hawk”): Years ago, our high school Spanish club used to sponsor “authentic” dinners out. One night, the mariachi played “El Gavilán Pollero” and one of the not-so-fluent students asked la profesora to translate la letra. Our teacher, blushing with embarrassment, actually told us the song was about a nasty chicken hawk who flew over a barnyard, terrorizing the newly hatched little chicks [Mexican note: Metaphors, amigo; the song is about a guy who steals another guy’s girl.] Now, whenever I hear the song, it makes me laugh so hard, Negra Modelo comes out my nose.
“El Perro Negro” (“The Black Dog”): A man kills another man in his sleep, and the victim’s faithful dog avenges his owner’s death. The wife of the killer (whom the victim admired) finds the two bodies and buries them in a local cemetery. The dog follows his owner to his plot, and dies there.
“Sabor a Mi” (“Taste of Me”): Gringos will love this beautiful ballad, but talk about a little dirty! Favorite line, literally translated: “On your mouth, you will take a taste of me.” Research the English translation only for laughs—it’s a perfect example of American influence sucking the passion from anything ethnic.
“Historia de Un Amor” (“History of a Love”): If the white folk do not get our true intensity by the following lines, “Adorarte para mí fue religión/Y en tus besos yo encontraba/El calor que me brindaba” (“Adoring you was my religion/And in your kisses, I found/The heat that it offered”), they never will.
“El Sinaloense” (“The Sinaloan”): It sounds like an entire group of high school band students are falling down a flight of stairs, but that they are so dedicated to their craft that they keep on playing as they fall. [WARNING: Any mariachi who has asthma should not attempt this song.]
“I Just Called to Say I Love You”: Yes, mariachis know it—and it sounds bad-ass.