Sunday, November 15, 2015

#BoTB: Por Mujeres Como Tú (aka The Mexican Chauvinist Anthem)

Welcome to another Battle of The Bands! Get your sombreros and your bottle of tequila, because it doesn't get any more Mexican than this.

Us Mexicans, we take the sombrero very seriously.

When I say serenade, what's the image that comes first into your head?

a) Moonlit night, starry-eyed Juliet on her balcony, starry-eyed Romeo below singing sweet songs of everlasting love with a soulful guitar?

b) A broken-hearted drunk with his staggering-drunk buddies shouting up abuse at an empty balcony?

A, right? Of course. That's the image perpetuated by Tom & Jerry and black & white movies of the 1940's. And, in truth, it can be like that.


But, more often than not, at least in Mexico, it's B. Though, admittedly, the abuse comes (thinly veiled) in the form of a song. A ranchera song, ideally. (Which is the correct name for what the rest of the world calls mariachi music.)

In Mexico's macho culture, men aren't supposed to show emotion (other than anger... anger isn't just acceptable; it's respected). Unless they're drunk. Which is why, when heartbreak strikes, the dude will go out and get bombed in order to have an excuse to bawl his eyes out. And to go wail his heartbroken-ness up to a silent window. Which explains the prevalent popularity of ranchera music.

"... We're set. Call her."

Ranchera literally means, as you might've guessed, from a ranch. It is unsophisticated music, both musically and lyrically, although several have pretty powerful poetic lines. But they use simple language and popular (as opposed to classically poetic/romantic) syntax. And they basically boil down to this:

You broke my heart, you were unfaithful (or somehow betrayed me and my righteous love... the point is, it's your fault), but... I WILL SURVIVE. (But I'll keep suffering. You just won't see it. Ever. I won't give you the satisfaction. Pass me another Kleenex. And the tequila.)

Today's song, Por Mujeres Como Tú (1998, written by Fato for singer Pepe Aguilar), is a prime example of this macho, entirely chauvinistic pathos (translation in italics):

Sing us a song about stoic forbearance in heartbreak, Pepe.
Photo credit: The Grammy Museum

Me estoy acobardando y lo ha notado,
I'm becoming a coward and she has noticed,
y eso no es muy bueno para mí,
and that doesn't bode well for me,
si quiero retenerla entre mis brazos
if I want to keep her in my arms
será mejor que no me vea sufrir.
it's best that she doesn't see me suffer.

Estoy estacionado en los fracasos,
I'm parked in my failures,
y hoy voy a remediar la situación.
and today I'm going to resolve the situation.
Será que siempre he dado demasiado
Maybe I've always given too much
y en el exceso siempre salgo dañado.
and in the excess I always get hurt.

Por mujeres como tú, amor
It's because of women like you, love
hay hombres como yo,
that men like me exist,
que se pueden morir por dignidad
who will die for dignity
mordiendo el corazón.
biting their hearts.

Por mujeres como tú, amor
It's because of women like you, love
hay hombres como yo,
that men like me exist,
que se pueden perder en el alcohol
who can lose themselves in alcohol
por una decepción.
over a broken heart.


So... In order to keep her, he will hide his suffering. He will "remedy the situation"... How? By "biting his heart"? And, somehow, through all this the sense remains that it's her fault. "Because of women like you"... But like what, exactly? What has she done? Nothing!

(Chauvinist pigs.)

You know what the worst part is, though? That women in Mexico (yes, myself included, before I soaked up some healthy European level-headedness) see these songs as tributes to their feminine wiles. So the whole thing is a vicious circle, feeding on itself.

(Chauvinist pigs, I say. Both men and women.)

**End of Rant**


Contender #1: Pepe Aguilar (the traditional ranchera)



If the video above doesn't work, maybe this one will. (Thanks, Lee! You're a hero for noticing, and finding a solution!)




Contender(s) #2: Poder Del Norte (the Norteño or banda version, typical of the northern states)




So. What do you think? Do either of these match your idea of heartbreak music? What sort of picture do these versions paint for you? Which one feels closest to the image of a guy sitting at a cantina methodically downing a bottle of tequila? Can you, with your fresh perspective, can make sense of what the woman in the song has done to drive this man to "bite his heart"? And, finally, your vote: you're at a small village in Mexico with only two bars, and you're dying for a cold beer. At one place they're playing the Pepe Aguilar version, at the other the Norteño one (both on repeat, no chance of escape). All else being equal (such as the price of beer and general company), which bar would you go into?

(As a side note, I used four lines of this song in THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS—and, as publication date grew closer, the publisher asked me to provide copyright info. You wouldn't believe the hassle it was to get it, and to figure out whether we could use it or not. If you're interested in the ins and outs of the legal ramifications of quoting a freaking song in a book, or if you're just interested in reading about my consistently clueless decisions, here's a post on that.)

Had fun listening? Hop over and visit these other Battle of The Bands participants; excellent face-offs happening there. And a huge thanks to Stephen and FAE for keeping the Battles going!



Thanks for the visit, and happy Sunday!

36 comments :

  1. Hi Guilie .. I prefer Pepe Aguilar .. it had a softer sound ... interesting to hear the different versions though .. cheers Hilary

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    1. First vote goes to Pepe! Thanks, Hilary... Glad you enjoyed these :)

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  2. This is a tough one for me as I enjoy banda music and have a number of albums of that style of music. You really hear the German influence in this type of music.

    But in the end for this song I'm going with Pepe's original. I always like strings in the back up. The horn section reminds me of a song that I seem to recall Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass doing--don't remember the song though. But it evokes more memories.

    I'm not into raucous downing of Tequila like they're doing in the cantina across the street, but it has it's fun time when I'm in the right frame of mind. For now though I'm drowning my tears in my beers and I'm voting for Pepe Aguilar.

    For those who weren't able to access the Pepe video in the U.S. here's another version:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1V4pnq7iQw

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Definitely German / polka-ish influence in banda / norteño music, Lee! I'm so glad you enjoy it... I don't know many people who do, even in Mexico, and even though it's not my listening choice 90% of the time, I do believe that, as the product of a special kind of syncretism, it has huge value in both cultural and historical contexts. Thanks for the vote; one more for Pepe :)

      And thank you again for letting me know about the inaccessibility of the first Pepe video, as well as for providing an alternate link... You're a star :)

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  3. I vote for Pepe. I think his sound suits the genre. Poder del Norte and the tuba sounds as if it's leading to a polka.Gosh, that reminds me of John Candy in Home Alone. Interesting how one thought takes us to a memory. I still miss John Candy.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I MISS JOHN CANDY, TOO!!!!!!!

      Vote #3 for Pepe has been duly recorded, fellow J-Candy fan ;)

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  4. I'm voting for Pepe Aguilar because I like his voice and the style of his version. It's very fitting of a broken heart. But if I heard both versions and was about to choose which bar to go into, I'd go into the one with Poder del Norte because it sounds more fun.
    Still my vote for this battle goes to Pepe.
    Good battle Guilie!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Great reasoning, Michele. Yup, I agree... The Norteño guys sound like a party, and I think I'd choose that bar, too. But it doesn't really meet the wallowing-in-a-broken-heart situation, does it? Cool. One more vote for Mr. Aguilar :)

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  5. Oh my-these men like their women like good ole June Cleaver. I would take the cleaver to that man I tell ya. Poor boy probably didn't get his steak on time. Anyhoo, I like Pepe Aguilar better because it is more in keeping with his heartbreak over the lost steak he didn't get from his lady. The 2nd band sounds more like the drunks in part 2 who thought German Oom-Pa-Pa sounds like an improvement..I think that is the tequila talking. My one friend, sober now, told me of a drunken tale where he had too much tequila in a bar and took off his clothes and started dancing on the tables.

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    1. LOL, Birgit... "his heartbreak over the lost steak he didn't get"—love it :D And the German Oom-Pa-Pa describes Norteño exactly, hahahaha... In Mexico we call it Choon-ta-ta—close enough :D And yes, tequila makes one do strange, strange things. The hangover's pretty bad, too... Though I'm not sure if it's the physiological or psychological effects that are most devastating :D

      Thanks for the visit! One more vote for Pepe! (Will this be the first shut-out on Quiet Laughter? Hmmmm...)

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  6. Hi Guilie!

    Wow! First let me say - great write up! If I wasn't into Tequila before today - don't worry - I adapt well (smile). Secondly, I am more understanding of my own little community - now.There's a small Cantina where the men hang out on Fridays. The overspill into the parking lot is outragious. More than once I've thought to grab my accordion and invite myself to a jam session. (Yup). Until today, it all seemed possible. What a flipping battle! (That's a compliment.)

    Contender # 1 is 'biting his heart,' but I'm feeling nostalgically romantic (yuck), while contender # 2 is jamming en masses.... much like 'group therapy'!! Ole`, I'm in!!

    Contender # 2 for me. My accordion is ripe for plucking. (smile). Ha!

    Dixie

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    1. "Nostalgically romantic (yuck)"—you echo my feelings exactly, Dixie :D And Norteño as heartbreak group therapy is brilliant!!!!! Thank you for the compliments... After feeling this close to a shut-out, I'm thrilled to hear it—and to record your vote for Poder del Norte!!! Thanks, Dixie! The banda boys (which is nothing like the Venga Boys) appreciate it ;)

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    2. Oh, and I'd try the accordion jam session thing. These chauvinist "regulations" are paper thin in reality, and you won't be the first non-Mexican woman to shred them to bits. (Which the men tend to love, somehow. It's all a twisted psycho power struggle, if you ask me. And, deep down, they know who's boss :D )

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  7. When I say serenade, what's the image that comes first into your head? hahaha; b is my answer, but I'm weird. Actually, its more like three mexican or italian muchachos helping out the poor slob drunk and in love, with their accordion, maybe a horn of some sort. Throw in a violin and instant serenade. Ever watch Lady and the Tramp? The spaghetti scene always comes to mind for a serenade :)

    As for the "serenade", you descriptions made me smile. Women can be such fools; as much or as worse than men. I doubt its the lyrics that sway their hearts into forgiveness though. The rhythm of the music, and the emotion (angst) in the man's voice is more likely the reason they love it. Well, when I listen to this, its what affects me, lol.

    Both versions were pretty good; but I think the second one seems more like the sentiment of the serenade, the apology, the getting drunk before.

    Thanks for the write up too. That was awesome, real romance in my view.

    Later Guilie!

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    1. Donna, you must've lived in Mexico :D Yep, three friends helping out the poor slob drunk and in love... Perfect description. (You're not weird. If you're weird, then I'm weird. Okay, poor argument.) YES on the spaghetti scene! Hahahahaa... Love that movie.

      Good point on the rhythm and emotion being more potent than the actual lyrics... I think you're right. The thing is, these songs aren't meant to sway the woman into forgiveness; they're an accusation, an indictment of her wrong-doing. She's at fault, she screwed up, she was disloyal or unfaithful or hard-hearted or whatever, so it's actually the man — from the man's perspective, of course — who should be doing the forgiving. These aren't romancing songs as much as post-break-up; an early version of drunk dialing, if you will :D So what gets me is that women consider it a badge of honor, of sorts, to have been sung one of these (or several)... As if that speaks to their female "prowess"... Mexico is a twisted country. I won't deny it :D

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  8. Que se pueden morir por dignidad! Indeed! I dont' have enough dignity to die for it, I'm a geek and a snarkasaurus. Thank you for including the lyrics and translation; the words MAKE the song for me.

    Of the contenders, I have to pull up a chair next to PEPE! I'll slide my vote over to him in between the tears and beers.

    Great job! And you live in my favorite city!

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    1. Hail, fellow geek and snarkasaurus! No, I've lots of dignity for lots of stuff... including not dying over someone who left me. Seriously :D

      I'm so glad you liked this, Cherdo! Yeah, lyrics really make a song for me, too, though it's not something conscious; I notice it most often with music in a foreign language, when I don't understand and feel something's missing. (Which is why I include the lyrics for these weird song choices, hehe.)

      Thanks for your vote! After a brief interlude, Pepe is back in full strength :)

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  9. Pepe's version gets my vote better smoother sound!

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    1. Thanks, Mike! Another vote for Mr. Aguilar!

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  10. HEY, BABY, QUE PASO?

    >>... "Because of women like you"... But like what, exactly? What has she done? Nothing!

    Oh, don't kid yourself. She did PLENTY! He's just not mentioning it in order to save her reputation. But she's guilty as sin, believe you me! She was practically born guilty! [:o)}

    Someday I'm gonna use The Texas Tornados in a BOTB installment. My Brother turned me onto them years ago and I dig 'em. I have them in my Spotify collection.

    Well, in this Battle my vote goes to PEPE. I didn't really care for the lead singer's voice in the other. It was sort of vinegar-y like that red Tabasco sauce, rather than the green jalapeno Tabasco, which I greatly prefer.

    Tequila... Happy Poison. The only time I went to jail in Mexico, I had been drinking, and Drinking, and DRINKING Tequila. Coincidence? I don't think so! (Had I stuck with Tanqueray, Jack Daniels, and Cutty Sark, I'd have been OK.)

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. I agree that prison-after-tequila story is not coincidence... That stuff brings out the evil gremlins, I swear.

      Sadly, that's about the only thing I can agree on with you here :D (Red Tabasco rules, man. Rules.)

      Thanks for the vote, Stephen! Pepe is killing the poor Norteño dudes... So much for that old adage about outnumbering the enemy, eh?

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  11. Ok, so.. the first one seems more, sad? I suppose. But if I had to chose one to listen to on repeat while getting drunk, I'll have to go with the second one. I tend to get into this type of music when drinking, I have no idea why haha

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    1. Hahaha... Madilyn, we'd have a blast if we ever met, I think :D Another vote for the banda guys — who love you for it, since they're getting hammered. (Pun not intended :D )

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  12. I'll try again tomorrow - no sound from any of the 3 videos!

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    1. I'm so sorry, Susan! Was it only the sound that didn't work, or the video also? I'll try to find some other links for you to try. My apologies :(

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  13. I'm going with Pepe Aguilar on this one. For me it sounded more Mexican ethnic. Call me crazy, but the second one (outside of the Spanish) sounded very much like a big German influence within the music. I almost felt like pouring myself a pint and shouting Prost! to everyone. Not that that's a bad thing. I rather love Oktoberfest. But for this battle, I'm voting what I feel sounds most Mexican to me. I caught the German influence in the first song a little, but not much.

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    1. No, not crazy at all, Jeffrey... There's definite German / Prussian influence in Mexican folkloric music (polka is an actual thing in Mexico... go figure). And you're right, the mariachi sound has become a signature for Mexican stuff... Pepe would be honored :) Thanks for the vote!

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  14. Guile, definitely my answer is (A) when I think of a serenade. I think Pepe Aguilar sang like a man with a broken heart. Fabulous vocals. He almost stole my heart with his cover and he definitely steals my vote! lol Nice battle!

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    1. Oops, I misspelled your name, dearie! I'm just SO tired this evening and I didn't realize I left the "i" out. *smack forehead*. :(

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    2. No worries, Cathy! It's an easy name to misspell :D Mr. Aguilar certainly has the voice to make us all swoon... Your vote for him is recorded!

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  15. I'll give this to El Poder Del Norte. I thought Pepe Aguilar's version dragged a little, plus El Poder had tuba and accordion in it. Brought me back to the old neighborhood in Chicago, which had its share of cantinas that played a lot of Norteño music.

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    1. Very cool, John! Your vote for the Norte dudes has been entered—and thank you!

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  16. This was very informative as a BoTB post. I had no idea ranchera music = mariachi music (until now). I also was unaware of this particular dynamic of the culture. (Alas, all cultures seem to have some unhealthy dynamic going on...)

    This battle is particularly tough in that you've asked us to evaluate the song from several different perspectives. Which sounds more heartbroken? Definitely Pepe. If I didn't know what the lyrics meant, I'd be able to tell the first one was a sad song. The other one... not at all. It sounds rather happy actually, which is ironic now that I know the lyrics. Seems to me those guys are saying "I'll be biting my heart... not really. Look at the FUN I'm having! *thumbs nose*"

    Which version would I sit in a cantina and listen to on repeat? Definitely the second one. I don't think I could take all that sadness endlessly.

    So, I'm not really sure which of these criteria I should use to give you my vote. I think Pepe's version is better musically. His voice is better. It sounds more heartbroken. The second one is more fun and actually makes me think "mariachi music." If I can only vote for one... hmmm... decisions, decisions... I'll vote for El Poder Del Norte since you specified that in the vote we had to choose the one we'd listen to on repeat. That's the cantina I'd choose!

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    1. I'm so sorry for making the voting harder, Robin... I wasn't trying to establish guidelines for it, just wanted to provide some food for thought, as it were... sorry for that. Loved the *thumbs nose* description :D And another vote for the Norteño guys!

      Thanks, Robin!

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  17. Give my vote to El Poder Del Norte, definitely sounds more like men embracing a bottle of tequilla at the cantina. Pepe's version is a bit too pretty to convey the images you spoke of.

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    1. Hehehehehe... I'm sure Pepe would be devastated to be called pretty, in any sense :D (But you're right, FAE; his version is a tad too studied, especially in the context of raw heartbreak.) Another vote for underdogs Poder del Norte!

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