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High school students compete in corrido contest

Citizen Staff Writer



Students at Desert View High School are learning to express themselves using a popular form of Mexican music.

Although most corridos tell the stories of people and places from Mexican culture and history, sophomore Luís Borboa chose Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century Transylvanian ruler and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, “Dracula,” as the subject of his corrido.

Borboa said the idea came after watching a History Channel program that looked at the life of the famous figure.

Borboa is among dozens of high school students participating in the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s ninth annual Bilingual Corrido Contest.

The deadline for entries is 2 p.m. Saturday. Last year, the center received 115 entries.

The corrido is a type of Mexican music rooted in the Spanish romantic ballad traditions brought to Mexico in the 16th century. Corridos have been written to remember great legends, mourn lost loves and scorn harsh betrayals.

“It’s a good thing to experience, something nice to try out. It gives you a chance to express yourself on whatever you wish,” said Desiree Montaño-Hopkins, 14.

Montaño-Hopkins and Borboa are students of Maria Elena Wakamatsu, a teacher at Desert View who made corrido writing an assignment for all her students.

For Gerardo Sanchez, 14, the corrido “is a way to merge two arts, poetry and music, together to make it into something that’s worthwhile and enjoyable.”

Freshman Jalina Vidotto, 14, had no idea what a corrido was, but inspired by a pet, she wrote a tale about Bernie the turtle and the adventure that eventually led him to her.

The contest has no limit on what topics students can write about and some of Wakamatsu’s students tapped their personal experiences.

Pamela Obedoza, 17, wrote about life as the daughter of someone in the Navy, and Brandon Awana, 16, wrote about his grandfather’s dog being put down for fighting another dog.

Kristen Honie, 14, is Hopi and enjoys writing poems about her culture. She approached the corrido as another way to express her Native American heritage.

“For me, just the name of the poem is what’s Mexican,” she said.

An English teacher at Cholla High Magnet School, Russ Healy, developed a corrido unit in 1999 and has had students participate in the contest since 2003.

Healy teaches the unit as part of a Latino literature course and “as a way of accessing culture.”

Desert View and Cholla high school students have won the competition.

Rabago wrote his corrido after watching a news story about an immigrant who rescued a 9-year-old boy wandering in the southern Arizona desert last year. The boy had been in a car accident with his mother, who died as a result.

He called it “Illegal Angel.”


The University of Arizona Poetry Center’s ninth annual Bilingual Corrido Contest is open to Arizona high school students. Corridos may be written in English or Spanish.

This year’s judge is Manuel Munoz, winner of a 2008 Whiting Writers’ Award and assistant professor of creative writing at UA.

The deadline is 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information call 626-3765 or go to the center’s Web site at http://poetrycenter.arizona.edu/.

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