What are the canons that govern us?

El jarabe en ultratumba

Ivan Lopez

As we all know, Mexican identity has always been uncertain. I am referring not only to musical identity, but to very identity of the Mexican being. It is very possible that in Mexico, a new nation was forged. Far from being indigenous in their totality, far from being “Españoles” completely, the Mexican is still looking for or rather continues to have doubts about his offspring. Historical facts have also marked a line between which we are, I mean the process of Independence and also that of the Mexican Revolution. This gives to a search for our nationalism as such.


Which is what identifies us as a nation and what musical elements we find in the composers who have marked the canons of our music? The composers that at first mark an identity as such use the folk or popular music as a connection between the people and the concert music. The music of that time, speaking of the end of the nineteenth century, was used in the gatherings, in the dance halls, in the streets of Mexico City in specific. But not only heard that, there were those who used to attend the theater, concerts of classical music that played European music. Carlos Monsivais said that we could not talk about Mexico without mentioning Stravinsky, Charles Chaplin, Rossini, and many others that without being of Mexican origin are part or were part of our culture. Will they be part of our canons? What is the beginning of our canons? The Spanish heritage, our indigenous ancestor, or our foreign tastes and preferences. The influences that had Manuel M. Ponce, Carlos Chavez or Silvestre Revueltas of Europe, are printed in our Mexican music?


If we think of what is truly Mexican we always relate to the popular. Popular songs, rhythms such as “Son”, mariachi music, “el Jarabe” or “La Valona”, without a doubt we catalog it as Mexican but, who dictates that ? If those influences do not have their origin here, then, who owns us? The work that composers have done at the beginning of the twentieth century, led by Chávez, has been the trampoline to meet us with that music that identifies us as Mexicans. Should we continue to identify them with the canons dictated by them? If we think well, we are neither indigenous nor Spanish. We are not revolutionary and we are even very attached to what we heard and see in other places, like in the United States for example. What are the canons that govern us?


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