La Lengua Española en la Música en el Valle del Río Grande
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Popular rhetoric relegates the Hispanic culture in South Texas to a secondary position. The Hispanic culture is dominated by the English language and American culture. Those who make these relegations argue that while Spanish is used in South Texas, it is only used in a diglossic1 setting where Spanish is used in limited familial and informal contexts while English serves as the dominant language and is used in formal and business contexts. These critics would argue that the Spanish spoken and the culture it represents in South Texas are merely a remnant of a distant past. If popular music is a cultural product, then the persistence of its production in a specific area is indicative of the permanence of that culture; therefore, the production of music serves to reinforce the culture, its permanence and its perceived value by those who sing it, produce it, and enjoy it. In this paper, I examine music recorded and/or produced in South Texas from the turn of the twentieth century to today. I argue that the continuous production of Spanish language songs in a regional voice proves that the Hispanic culture in this area has always been and continues to be valued despite popular rhetoric which would suggest the contrary. The genres included in the analysis are corridos,2 Tejano, and other popular styles. First, I analyze a collection of folk songs from the late nineteenth century known as the “Lomax Collection.” Then, I utilize more contemporary songs similar in theme, structure, or genre to those in the Lomax Collection. Through this comparative analysis, I examine how the Spanish language has not only evolved, but it has remained as a vital part of the border communities in the Rio Grande Valley and Northern Mexico over the past century. I consider how Article V of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the current border between both countries and how its signing in 1848 has influenced the status of the language along the Texas-Mexico border. While the border, an artificial political division, has been in place for over 150 years, the culture and language are not bridled by borders and thrive on both sides of the US-Mexico border.