The Story of Juan Charrasqueado  

    In the book, Víctor Cordero: Poeta Y Cantor Del Pueblo, María Cóncepcion informs us "Juan Charrasqueado, cuenta el autor, nació una noche (1942) en que escuchó la voz de un papelero gritando afuera, en la calle: Extra, Extra!  Estaba trabajando en una de sus obras pero esas voces lo hicieron salir.  Lo que anunciaba la Extra era un atentado contra el gobierno.  No era más que una noticia política, pero la impresión de tragedia de la voz del pregonero en silencio de la noche, le dieron la inspiración.  Volviendo por el callejón de la privada hacia su casa vio un hombre a caballo.  Era Juan Silveti.  Y no es que precisamente a Juan Silveti sea Juan Charrasqueado para Víctor Cordero, sino que la situación emotiva que se había presentado al autor lo hizo crear a Juan Charrasqueado.  Ese hombre a caballo tenía que llamarse Juan.  Silveti tenía una herida en la cara por eso el nombre de Charrasqueado" (Concepción 25).  (In the book, Víctor Cordero: Poeta Y Cantor Del Pueblo, María Concepción informs us that "Juan Charrasqueado, according to the composer, was born one night in 1942 when he heard a newsboy outside crying, "Extra! Extra!"  Cordero was working on another song, but this commotion made him rush outside.  The news was an attempted coup against the government.  The news was nothing more than that, but the tragedy in the newsboy voice in the silence of a dark night made a lasting impression.  Returning to his street, the composer saw a man on horseback; his name was Juan Silveti.  Not that this man was in fact the fictional character of Juan Charrasqueado or Juan Scarface, but rather the emotional situation inspired him to create the corrido.  The man on horseback was named Juan, and this man, Silveti, had a scar on his face that gave him the nickname "Charrasqueado" or "Scarface.")

    This corrido became a hit in 1945, was made into a motion picture in 1947 and premiered in early 1948.  It would seem to be a perfect example of what has been described by some scholars, with sniff of disgust, as a "movie corrido.  This composition, arising not from a "ballad tradition" or "corrido community" in the folkloric model, was written by a popular composer and the song had a tremendous success.  Riding on this momentum, the film was rushed into production; the only delay was the need to wait for the male lead and title character, Pedro Armendáriz, to return from shooting films in Hollywood.  The monumental sum of twenty thousand pesos (in that day, about US$2,500) was paid for the rights to the song alone.
    The plot deals with a lower-class ranch hand with a reputation as a drinker, carouser and gambler, who falls in love with the daughter of an upper-class family of landowners.  Juan and María (she is aptly named for her virtuous qualities) run away together, he gets her pregnant, and, through treachery and deception, he is murdered just as he learns that she has had his son.  Shot in the traditional comedia ranchera style, it was huge hit, though it is, in many respects a mediocre film - García Riera described it as "bastante torpe" or "rather clumsy" (García Riera IV:166).  The director, Ernesto Cortázar, was a well-known composer but had never directed a picture before.  This factor and the rush to crank out a film to ride the wave of popularity may account for many of the poor technical aspects: visible moving shadows of actors and cameras in the shots, poor editing, continuity issues, etc.  However, the performances are first-rate.  Amendáriz is gallant and powerful, the beautiful Miroslava turns out an excellent and nuanced performace, and the totally disarming Fernando "Mantequilla" Soto in the sidekick role save the picture.  It is a prime example of the macho in action.  García Riera continues to note, "…el macho es admirable porque es macho (being a macho man is an end in and of itself)", though he goes on to note that "También queda claro en la película que la misoginia es condición indispensable del macho...(It also becomes clear in the film that misogyny is an indispensable part of being the macho)."
    This corrido has often been seen as a parody of the corrido hero who has fallen from grace from heights commanded by the exemplary archetypes of yore.  Two prominent corrido scholars, Américo Paredes and Vicente T. Mendoza have noted in this final era of the corrido, beginning about 1930, the corrido hero becomes a fake who uses the hero's pose to hide his cowardice.  However, though the film could have been made more artfully, Pedro Armendáriz, gives us a man, who though very flawed, violent, alcoholic and insecure, is truly brave, faithful and generous to his friends and the woman he loves.  And, like every true corrido hero that has ever blazed across the Mexican imagination, he can only be undone by a coward who shoots him in the back.

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Juan Charrasqueado

El corrido de Juan Charrasqueado

Voy a cantarles un corrido muy mentado
Lo que ha pasado allá en la Hacienda de la Flor
La triste historia de un ranchero enamorado
Que fue borracho, parrandero y jugador.

Juan se llamaba y lo apodaban "Charrasqueado"
Era valiente y arriesgado en el amor
A las mujeres más bonitas se llevaba
De aquellos campos no quedaba ni una flor.

Un día domingo que se andaba emborrachando
A la cantina le corrieron a avisar:
"Cuídate, Juan, que ya por ahí te andan buscando
Son muchos hombres, no te vayan a matar."

No tuvo tiempo de montar en su caballo
Pistola en mano se le echaron de a montón
"Ando borracho", les gritaba, "y soy buen gallo"
Cuando una bala atravesó su corazón.

Creció la milpa con la lluvia en el potrero
Y las palomas van volando al pedregal
Bonitos toros llevan hoy al matadero
Qué buen caballo va montando el caporal.

Ya las campanas del santuario están doblando
Todos los fieles se dirigen a rezar
Y por el cerro los rancheros van bajando
A un hombre muerto que lo llevan a enterrar.

En una choza muy humilde llora un niño
Y las mujeres se aconsejan y se van
Sólo su madre lo consuela con cariño
Mirando al cielo llora y reza por su Juan.

Aquí termino de cantar éste corrido
De Juan ranchero, charrasqueado y burlador
Que se creyó de las mujeres consentidas
Y fue borracho, parrandero y jugador.

(English Translation)

I will now sing you a well-known ballad
Of what once happened in the Hacienda of the Flower
The sad story of a love-struck rancher
Who was a drinker, a carouser and gambler.

Juan he was called and nicknamed "Scarface."
He was brave and daring in love.
He went after the prettiest girls
And in those fields, he picked every flower.

One Sunday, he was drinking and having fun
Into the saloon, they ran in to say,
"Be careful, Juan, they're looking for you
Many man are coming and they plan to kill you.

No time to jump on his horse
With a pistol in his hand, his shots rang out
"I may be drunk, but I'm a brave man!" he cried
When a bullet ripped through his heart.

The cornfields grow with the rain near the corral
And the doves fly to the rocky heights
Pretty bulls are taken to the slaughterhouse
As the foreman rides about on a pretty stallion,

The bells of the church are ringing
The faithful wend their way to pray
And from the mountains the ranchers come down
The dead man they carry off to bury.

In a humble dwelling, a baby boy cries
And women come to comfort and then they leave
Only his mother, with love, cradles him
Looking to the heavens, crying and praying for her Juan.

And here I finish singing this ballad
Of Juan, the rancher, the scarfaced prankster
He believed himself the darling of the pampered ladies
Who was a drinker, a carouser and gambler.