Soledad en masa

La negra

with 3 comments

Yesterday, I read an article in the San Antonio Express-News that the Today show asked Mariachi Campanas de America not to play the mariachi’s anthem, “El són de la negra.” Here’s a bit from the article:

That popular folk song, whose title translates to “The Song of the Black Woman,” was the renowned mariachis’ first choice for their performance Wednesday on the “Today” show. But the show’s producers asked Campanas de America not to sing it when “Today” broadcasts from the Arneson River Theater next week.

“It’s the mariachi national anthem,” said Belle Ortiz, manager of Campanas de America. “We always play ‘El Son de La Negra.’ Everybody plays it.”

The reason for rejecting it? “Because they didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings because of the name of the song,” Ortiz said.

A show spokeswoman said this was not a case of political correctness.

“The song ‘El Son de La Negra’ was by no means deemed too controversial for ‘Today,’” publicist Megan Kopf said via e-mail.

“We always consider several song choices for our musical performance segments on the ‘Today’ show. For this particular segment, we decided to go with a song selection that is both appropriate for our wide-ranging ‘Today’ show audience and that also keeps with mariachi tradition.”

This is clearly the Today show worrying too much about offending a group of people over a song that is not offensive at all. I don’t but the Today’s show explanation at all. If I were put in the position Campanas was put in, I would rather lose the work than not be allowed to play this song. “La negra” is an essential part of the mariachi repertoire and is universally recognized. It is synonymous with mariachis and México.

Another aspect of this situation is the actual meaning of “La negra.” The most commonly accepted meaning is that the song is about a woman, “La negra”, the black one. This analysis hinges on the lyrics “Negrita de mis pesares/ojos de papel volando” (“Black one of my sorrows/eyes of paper flying). Those verses don’t make any sense. The proper lyrics (which fell out of fashion, for some reason) are “Negrita de mis pesares/hojas de papel volando” (Black one of my sorrows/Sheets of paper flying).

A few weeks back, this very topic was discussed over at El There is no definite interpretation of “La negra” because the song is from the mid-to-late 1800s. The meaning that I prefer is that “la negra” refers to a train. The beginning of the song is that of a train picking up steam and the train is “la negrita de mis pesares,” which brings sorrow to the author because his love has not come on the train. As the train passes, the wind picks up sheets of paper.

Other parts of the songs don’t fit well into this intepretation, but that is probably because of the time that has passed since the song was first written. Everyone interprets the song differently, but interpreting the song as inappropriate because its “kind of saucy” is insincere, considering the airplay that other, more objectifying, songs receive from T.V. shows.


Written by soledadenmasa

July 30, 2009 at 3:00 am

Posted in Mariachi, Politics

3 Responses

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  1. I had never really paid attention to this song until today.

    It totally makes sense. If you know customs from Nayarit…

    The lyrics:

    Negrita de mis pesares,
    ojos de papel volando.
    Negrita de mis pesares,
    ojos de papel volando.
    A todos diles que sí
    pero no les digas cuándo.
    Así me dijiste a mí;
    por eso vivo penando.

    ¿Cuándo regresa mi negra?
    Que la quiero ver aquí
    con su rebozo de seda
    que le traje de Tepic.

    ¿Cuándo regresa mi negra?
    Que la quiero ver aquí
    con su rebozo de seda
    que le traje de Tepic.

    The first 4 lines talk about “Albina Luna Perez” flirting by “flittering” her eyes. “ojos de papel volando”

    The next 4 lines talk about the way Albina said, “yes” to the song writer’s advances but never told him when she would make good on her promises… He’s telling her to say the same thing to everyone else but not to tell them when… That’s what she told him and now he’s living, “penando”

    The next 4 lines ask when “La Negra” will return. It is very important to know what La Negra did to understand this… It’s well documented that she worked in the Tobacco plantations and would be gone for months at a time… The songwriter purchased for her a silk “Rebozo” and sent it to her with her uncle… He refers to her as “Mi Negra” because back in the day… Tepic was very well known for it’s silk and a gift such as a silk scarf was known to be a gift given to someone whom you wanted to marry…

    Hope that helps…

    Where have you been Diego?!!!


    July 30, 2009 at 9:31 am

  2. It’s a good analysis, but I think the true meaning of the song has already been lost. Email me or send me a message on Facebook, let’s set up something.


    August 3, 2009 at 8:51 pm

  3. I’m sure most of the audience for the show won’t even know what the song is called. I know I didn’t know it until I started dancing folkórico.


    August 5, 2009 at 12:44 am

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