The corrido of Joaquín Murrieta
As the greatest popular hero of the Chicano in California, Joaquín Murrieta could not go unnoticed in the corrido. Given the reputation he has always enjoyed, however, the dearth of versions of the Corrido de Joaquín Murrieta is surprising as is the absence of a single study on this corrido.35 By contrast, Gregorio Cortez, the popular Texan hero, has been immortalized by Américo Paredes in his well-known book With His Pistol in His Hand. Perhaps this is due to critics not regarding the song dedicated to Murrieta as a true corrido. By l957 Professor Merle E. Simmons, in his book on the Mexican corrido, makes a passing observation regarding the fragments that Vicente S. Acosta collected in Arizona in l947 and l948:
Mention should also be made of two fragments of a Corrido
de Joaquín Murietta (sic) (Acosta 46), which deal with an
outlaw who terrorized the gold-rush settlements of California
during the l850s. Though one of the fragments is twenty-six
lines long, it is written on a single note of boastfulness
expressed by Murietta in the first person. Hence, though it is
an interesting composition and important as a link in the his-
tory of the corrido, it does not show the close relationship
with the modern corrido which we detect in Leandro Rivera.
In his Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems, José Limón notes that the incomplete versions of the “song” of Joaquín Murrieta have unknown origins and that they are not true corridos (l992: ll7). The only versions (simple fragments) that he mentions are the ones collected by Acosta, of which Limón says: “Murrieta’s exploits in defense of his right and honor passed into legendry and balladry. We have only incomplete versions of the latter, and they are technically not true ballads but rather descriptive songs such as this one” (l992: ll7). Here he includes his own translation of the second fragment (l948), and he continues to point out: “The origins of this song are unknown”; and adds: “Acosta collected this corrido-like song in southern Arizona in May l948, but he provides no information concerning the song’s origins or likely compositional history” (l992: l99).
The versions cited by Limón, found in Acosta’s master’s thesis, are two short fragments from the Corrido de Joaquín Murrieta, recorded in Los Angeles during the winter of l934 by the Sánchez and Linares Brothers, and collected by Chris Strachwitz in the collection Texas-Mexican Border Music, volumes 2 and 3, Corridos, Parts l and 2 (l974), with the text, annotations, notes, and translation into English by Philip Sonnichsen et al. This version, the most complete known, consists of seventy-two verses divided into twelve sextains.