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Illegal Bar Rainey Street Austin, Texas

I have loved Mexican rancheras since the age of three when my parents and I moved to the Gulf coast of Mexico. I heard rancheras on the radio and danced to them with our maid and her hot, 12-year-old son, Miguel. I saw musicians singing rancheras live on the street and at fiestas. Whether I could distinguish Javier Solís from Vicente Fernández I cannot say, but I did have a preference for the super campy, drunken wailing versions. They just seemed so funny to me (and were probably sung by José Alfredo Jiménez).

Decades later, pregnant, I listened obsessively to Cuco Sanchez, the only ranchera album my family still owned. To this day, my Canadian-born son feels an almost patriotic passion for Mexican Spanish.

Recently, a friend delivered a wonderful presentation on the Mexican corrido, a close musical relative of ranchera. She introduced us to their poetry and meter, tracing their origins to Spain and the story-telling traditions of the troubadour. Spun, not surprisingly, to my own early days, I spent the following weekend binge-listening to rancheras on YouTube. “Rancheras and Tequila” is my humble tribute, with gratitude for the memories.

~~~

Rancheras and tequila I’m enjoying
with an old friend who’s in town just passing through.
I am texting this from Rosalí’s Cantina
just to tell you we’re not talking about you.

The moon is full, fish tacos are sabroso;
our friend still has that lust heat in his eye.
From my cheek he wipes a love smear of chipotle
while the great José Jimenez makes us cry.

Ai, ai, ai, aiii, we could have been the toast of Guanajuato,
your killer looks, my brains the perfect pair.
With lonely hearts an ever-growing market,
we dreamed a way to heal the great despair.

We talk, my friend and I, until the moon sets
and our bottle of Don Julio has run dry.
We chase each other laughing to the seashore,
throw our clothes off, to life’s problems sing goodbye.

We’re kissing while our legs float out behind us,
when suddenly he shouts, “Un tiburón!”
I cannot see a fin through all my splashing,
nor the glint of antique silver from his gun—

Ai, ai, ai, aiii, we could have been the toast of Guanajuato,
your killer looks, my brains the perfect pair.
With lonely hearts an ever-growing market,
we dreamed a way to heal the great despair.

These days I hang in Rosalí’s Cantina
and imagine us together, you and I.
Most patrons cannot hear my sad rancheras,
believing the tequila makes them cry.

The shark, he doesn’t visit like he used to.
He’s famous now—what need has he of me?
But one day while he’s cheating some pareja
of their fortunes, he will hear a sultry voice,
“Oh look, a honey bee!”

Ai, ai, ai, aiii, we could have been the toast of Guanajuato,
your killer looks, my brains the perfect pair.
With lonely hearts an ever-growing market,
we dreamed a way to heal the great despair.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

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