Vicious Attacks on
Mexican Musicians
On December 18, The New York Times reported attacks on several popular musicians in Mexico. The article was entitled, "Songs of Love and Murder, Silenced by Killings." It told of violent deaths of a dozen or more famous singers.

Reporter James C. McKinley Jr. opined that the killings may be related to the cross-border cartels. He referred to the music as a "country beat about love, violence and drugs in modern Mexico."

Obviously Mr. McKinley knows nothing about contemporary Mexican music, nor its performance, since the form itself may be responsible for chilling some of our most popular and beloved singers.

Mexican vocal artists are often hired to perform in discos, at public parks or at the outdoor facilities of hotels. Sound equipment, which includes drum, guitar, bass and voice amplifiers, are powered by high-wattage speakers which may tower to ten or twelve feet, "bocinas" that sometimes can be heard out to a distance of ten or twelve miles.

This equipment is set up in the early evening of the concert. The fiesta itself commences sometime before midnight, and will often go until five or so in the morning. The music is not considered to be music unless the amplifying system runs up into the 150 - 200 decibel level, comparable to that of a jackhammer, a Peterbilt at top speed, or a jet engine.

Just as I am settling in for the night, the Hotel Fiesta across the street from my house chooses to hold a wedding party on its patio. The music will shake the very foundations of the house, including me, my bed, my long-suffering wife, my children and dogs: all will join the dance, rising and falling to the beat of "La Mula Bronca" or "Nieves de Dinero." A call to the local patrulla will result in nothing more than sneering references to "pinche gringo viajales."

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One of the advantages of old age, along with getting up six times a night, is the astonishing inability to sleep, no matter what pharmacopoeia is offered. At night we will lie there for hours, reflecting on the joys of our few remaining golden years. The song "Tiro de Gracia" at two or three in the morning does force one to consider the alternatives.

There is a fantasy of me and my various geezer friends in the neighborhood (we suffer equally from this nonsense). That is, to hire a limousine operated by two Mexican heavies in which we will drive up to the door of the hotel, dismount, and, puffing out our tiny chests, push our way onto the dance floor where we will attack the eight-foot Selenium and Freddy Fender speakers with our canes, crutches, and walkers, turning them to a mass of tangled plastic and burbles; reducing the musicians, if not to tears, at least, we would hope, to ire. Our guards would then protect our asses as we retreat, hobbling out the door with our twisted, dented orthopædic equipment.

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Thus we can advise the authorities (and the media) to stop blaming these murders of popular musicians on the drug cartels who, we assume, have their hands full financing state and congressional PACs to beef up the drug-law penalties. Any investigative reporter worth his salt need only circulate among those gringos who have the misfortunate to live within five miles of a Mexican disco or a popular hotel, those who foment noisy all-night celebrations known as "bodas" or "quinceañeras."

Among these disgruntled neighbors, you will find, stashed away, neither AK-47s nor dynamite, but high-quality rage. Brewed, coming to full ripeness in the hearts of the palsied and splotched set who had retired to Mexico hoping to die in peace, suddenly finding what was left of their hearing now assaulted, in the early hours, by a noisy Ranchero version of "The Cocaine Blues."

--- Carlos Amantea
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