Study Guide Lesson 4

DVD Feature: Shadow Play
Chapter 4: El Corrido


Immigration Themes: The Mexican Revolution, Why People Move, Forced Migration

General Themes: Mexican Corrido, poetry, musical composition, storytelling with music

Arts Expression: Personal Journey Mapping through writing and visual art, Oral History Interviews, Digital Storytelling, Photography and Text Display, Original Shadow Puppet Play, Book making, Music History Research, Songwriting 

The Mexican Corrido
The corrido is a musical form developed in Mexico during the 1800s and originally sung throughout the country. Although still popular in Mexico, over time it became known as “musica de la frontera” (border music) because it was especially popular along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. This musical-poetic form continues to be popular wherever Mexicans and Mexican Americans live. (The Kennedy Center)

The Mexican Corrido is a form of musical folk ballad that has been a typical expression of Mexican life for well over a century. The narrative character of the corrido is demonstrated by the fact that it sings its tale in the first or third person and reflects the popular sense of notable events effecting Mexican society such as violent murders and other spectacular crimes, the daring feats of revolutionary soldiers and bandits, natural catastrophes, train wrecks, love affairs, political intrigues, various humorous episodes, etc. But the lyric quality is what distinguishes the corrido from other forms more than any other for it is the voice of the people singing from the heart, most often accompanied by the lyre's modern Mexican equivalent: the Spanish guitar. The term corrido comes from the Spanish word correr--to run--and refers to the fact that the words of each of the stanzas of four eight-syllable lines characteristic of this genre are sung through without any interruption. []

Forced Migration: Refers to the coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region. It often suggests violent coercion such as slavery and human trafficking, and can also refer to those displaced by conflict or natural disaster.

Mexican Revolution:
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that took place roughly between 1910 and 1920, and is recognized as the first major political, social, and cultural revolution of the 20th century. It began with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat [ruler with absolute power] Porfirio Díaz. Over time the Revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war, and after prolonged struggles, its representatives produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917. (, Wikipedia) 

Throughout history and across cultures, art and music have been used to tell stories. In Mexico, the musical folk ballad, the corrido, is used to tell many stories of the people, but in particular, border stories. In this lesson, students explore these concepts while telling their own journey story through writing and the visual arts. There is a series of possible final projects that include collecting oral history interviews of people who experienced forced migration, researching social consciousness in music history, and writing your own corrido.     

●      “El Corrido” Video of Play
●      “El Corrido” Documentary Film Segment
●      World Map (large scale or smaller copies, one per pair of students)
●      Copies of El Corrido de los Espantos Lyrics  (downloadable pdf coming soon)


Begin by screening the video of the scene “El Corrido”, and be sure to have the Ghosts of the River documentary film ready to show the related section after discussing this scene.

Before pressing play, let students know that they will be hearing a story about a journey in a traditional Mexican song called a corrido. Share the definition of a corrido and tell students they will be telling the story back to the group after the song is over so to take notes if necessary to catch all parts of the narrative. 


Ask students, “What do you think is the story in this corrido?” Allow them to piece it together as much as they can, then screen the Ghosts of the River Documentary clip about “El Corrido”.

Once students have viewed the film clip that shares background from the artists who created “El Corrido”, invite students to pair up and share what new information they learned. As a group, discuss the new information (if there is any), and share anything that may have surprised the students. You may share that this time of migration in Mexico’s history is an example of forced migration as the Mexican families crossing the border were fleeing the violence and war of the Mexican Revolution. 


Note: This activity can focus on several different kinds of journeys including students’ trips to class/school or immigration journeys. You can use this mapping framework to capture many kinds of journeys such as:

·· The journey from home to school/ class
·· Emotional journeys (growing up, coping with loss, etc.)
·· Immigration journeys
·· Ancestral journeys

Ask students to focus inward individually and to free write or sketch about a personal journey. They can focus on their journey to school, or think of another personal journey—moving, immigrating, growing up, etc. Using words, images or symbolic abstract depictions, ask students to write/sketch a loose outline or ‘map’ of their journey. 

As an optional tool, consider displaying a world map (or give out copies of a detailed map to each pair of students.) Let them know they may use the map to show their journeys if they include physical and global locations, but remind them that their journey can be any kind they like and that all are welcome. (NOTE: Some students, in particular foster or adopted youth don’t always know their ancestral stories. Be sure to be sensitive to students who may feel anxious about not having information, and encourage any kind of journey by sharing an equal number of good examples of each kind.)


Provide a safe space for students to volunteer to share their journey ‘maps’. 


After the share out, consider the following project and curricular extensions:

  • Oral History Project:  Embark on an oral history project with people in your community who have fled persecution or violence from their home countries. Using these interviews and personal narratives, create an arts based manifestation of the story or stories through:

○       A series of online audio podcasts  

○      A shadow puppet play

○      A photo and text exhibition

○      A self published book

  • Music and Politics Project: Have students embark on a research project that explores how music has expressed social and historical consciousness, both in the US and abroad (i.e. US Civil Rights Era, German Post WWII, British Punk and Feminism, South African Freedom, Zimbabwean Revolution, etc.) The goal being to learn more about the role music played for society, from patriotism, to social critique to outright protest. You may also explore how censorship and wartime have affected the ways music is treated.


  • Mi Corrido: Using the structure, style and rhythm of the song “El Corrido de los Espantos”, students may write one or more stanza’s of their own corrido about a personal journey. Their journey map could serve as a starting point.  Consider recording the songs and with student permission, share with the school community.
  • Structure of a Corrido: The stories that corridos tell, either fictional or historical, must be sung in the vernacular language of the people in order to be remembered (whether in English, Spanish or a mixture.) There is some variation in the poetic form, but most corridos have the following structure:

○      36 lines (6 stanzas of 6 lines each or 9 stanzas of 4 lines each)

○      7 to 10 syllables per line (sometimes the lines are repeated)

○      Rhyme scheme that varies but most commonly uses an ABCBDB form in a six-line stanza or

○      ABCB in a four-line stanza. (Sometimes couplets are used: AABB.)

○      By tradition, the first stanza provides a setting for the story by either giving a specific date or naming a    place.

(The Kennedy Center Arts Edge)