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How Ranchera Music Helped 1 Woman Fall In Love With Her Mexican Culture

Feb 13, 2018
Originally published on February 14, 2018 12:22 pm

Before Valentine's Day, love is in the air. But sometimes, love hurts. It's a harsh reality that many Mexicans deal with by listening to rancheras, traditional songs from Mexico's countryside that you can put on when you need a good cry. One young woman found a connection to her ancestors through the sounds of guitars and tears.

A longer version of this story originally aired on NPR's Latino USA.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On this day before Valentine's Day, love is in the air. And for some, so is heartache. Listening to music can be a way to deal with it. In Mexico, when you have had a couple of tequilas and you need a good cry, the music you put on is rancheras. NPR's Adrian Florido brings us the story of a woman who fell in love with her culture through this music.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: When Beatrice Garcia Meade was 13, her family moved from a working-class Mexican neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, to a mostly white neighborhood with a country club.

BEATRICE GARCIA MEADE: And in my quest to fit in, I guess I aligned myself with all the people that I was surrounded by and so was very disconnected from being a Garcia, if you will.

FLORIDO: She didn't speak Spanish. Sometimes she hid the fact that she was Mexican.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR TU MALDITO AMOR")

VICENTE FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: But her parents were like many Mexican parents. And during Sunday chores or at parties, they would blast ranchera songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR TU MALDITO AMOR")

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: Rancheras are traditional songs from Mexico's countryside. Garcia remembers how emotional her parents would get when they played them.

GARCIA: I hate to say this, but it was kind of embarrassing. It was just so over-the-top.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR TU MALDITO AMOR")

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF LINDA RONSTADT SONG, "YOU'RE NO GOOD")

FLORIDO: As a kid, Garcia was listening to rock and pop. She liked singers like Linda Ronstadt

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE NO GOOD")

LINDA RONSTADT: (Singing) I'm going to say it again. You're no good. You're no good. You're no good. Baby, you're no good.

FLORIDO: What Garcia didn't know was that Ronstadt, too, was Mexican. One day the late-'80s...

GARCIA: I heard my father talking about Linda Ronstadt's "Canciones De Mi Padre."

FLORIDO: It was Ronstadt's album of Mexican music, rancheras.

GARCIA: And it piqued my interest. And I remember going and finding the CD and listening in secret (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR UN AMOR (FOR A LOVE)")

RONSTADT: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA: And I loved the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR UN AMOR (FOR A LOVE)")

RONSTADT: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: The album starts with Ronstadt singing about a lost love. Because of that love, she sings, I've cried tears of blood straight from my heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR UN AMOR (FOR A LOVE)")

RONSTADT: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: For the first time, Garcia understood the lyrics because the album's liner notes had them in English.

GARCIA: And feeling for the first time that connection and the stories, the passion, it really - it struck me deeply.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POR UN AMOR (FOR A LOVE)")

RONSTADT: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Canciones De Mi Padre" was Garcia's gateway to the music but also to exploring her Mexican identity. Eventually she went off to college where one of her roommates was Mexican, and together they went to bars that played rancheras. By now it was the mid-'90s. The Internet was taking off. So Garcia dialed up and looked for translations. Garcia remembers it wasn't that long after that she cried to a ranchera for the first time. It was on one of those visits to the bar.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUCO SANCHEZ SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

GARCIA: And as the night wore on, as the beers were consumed and feeling this love for our culture, our people, for being Mexican...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

CUCO SANCHEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA: ...That's when the tears start flowing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

SANCHEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: Since then, she's cried countless times listening to rancheras. And now at family parties, she and her dad and her uncle - they belt them out together, and Garcia knows what she's singing about.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

SANCHEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: Adrian Florido, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

SANCHEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KELLY: You can hear a longer version of this story on NPR's Latino USA podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANCION MIXTECA (QUE LEJOS ESTOY)")

SANCHEZ: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.