Part story, part song, part poetry, and part picture, corridos accounted for a large part of José Guadalupe Posada’s output. Corridos are narrative folk ballads, both written and sung, that have a long tradition in Mexico and Spain. Frequently they tell the story of a crucial current event, social conflict, or a larger-than-life personality, the lyrics often changing as the story is retold. Corridos continue to be an important art form in Mexico and in border towns in the United States, with more recent corridos devoted to Barack Obama, Patty Hearst, and 9/11. Posada’s broadside is a corrido mourning the death of the bullfighter Antonio Montes, who was the subject of a number of these narrative folk ballads. Press play to listen to a 1911 wax cylinder recording of a ballad about Montes.
Antonio Montes, performed by Francisco Casales. Edison Blue Amberol, 1911, cylinder. UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive.
The iconic image of after-life revelry that Posada used for his Calaveras zalameras de las coquetas meseras (Ingratiating Calaveras of Flirtatious Waitresses) shows the skeletons dancing the jarabe tapatio, the most famous of Mexican folk dances. Better known in the United States as the “Mexican Hat Dance,” the jarabe tapatio is in fact a dance with several regional variations, many of which do not involve a hat. The central theme of the dance is courtship, with the female partner initially rejecting the advances of her male partner but warming up to his wooing as the dance progresses. Although relatively tame by our standards, the Spanish authorities outlawed the jarabe tapatio in the 1790s deeming it morally offensive. The ban backfired as the dance continued to thrive in village festivals and celebrations. By the time Posada created this print the dance had become an expression of Mexican cultural identity and a symbol of national independence. The first film of Mexican dance ever made is of a couple dancing the jarabe tapatio in 1896 at Lake Chapala, in central-western Mexico, filmed by envoys of the Lumière brothers. It was subsequently shown at the world exhibition in Paris in 1900. Press the “play “button to view the film.