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Every year, the Poetry Center holds their annual Corrido Contest. The corrido is a musical ballad form developed in Mexico in the 1800s and originally sung throughout the country. Although still popular in Mexico, over time it became known as “musica de la frontera” (border music) because it was especially popular along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. This contest for high school students encourages historical and cultural awareness and provides students with a vehicle to express themselves. All Arizona high school students in grades 9-12 are encouraged to apply by writing corridos in Spanish and/or English. For resources on teaching corrido in the classroom, visit our Teaching Corrido page. To enter in this year's corrido contest, please check out our website; the deadline for this year's contest is Friday, December 7th by 5 p.m.
With the Corrido contest deadline fast approaching, Wordplay had a chance to sit down with one of last year's Corrido winners--R.J. Mendoza--and ask him about his Corrido contest experience. Check out our interview with him below.
WP: How did you (and your family) re-act when you found that, out over 400 submissions, your Corrido was award second place?
RM: We were really surprised. After I got the call saying that I had wond second place, I called up my parents and we started telling everyone.
WP: When did you first hear about the Corrido contest? Who encouraged you to enter?
RM: I head about the Corrido contest about a month or so before the due date. I was looking on the Phoenix Library College depot site and found it in their scholarship list. My parents saw the scholarship as well and encouraged me to enter, throwing ideas as to what I could write about.
WP: Was the Corrido contest the first time you had ever written a corrido? What was this writing process like for you?
RM: The Corrido contest was the first corrido I'd ever written. When writing it, I was looking around to see what this kind of song style was like, what kinds of lyrics are in it. From what I saw, it was usually a slow and somewhat sad song. From there, I came up with the idea of writing it about my Nanas and putting the two stories together in a way that fit.
WP: Your corrido, "El Corrido de mi Nana," is a beautiful and deeply emotional poem about your beloved grandmothers who passed away. Was this a difficult poem for you to write?
RM: It was a little difficult to write the corrido, even more so to hear it sung. Sitting there in the front at the awards ceremony and listening to it put to song, I'll admit: I was fighting back heavy tears.
WP: What was the whole Corrido performance and awards ceremony like for you? Were you excited or nervous to read your wining poem aloud in front of an audience?
RM: I was excited for the awards ceremony; I was really excited to hear what the corrido sounded like when put to music. Standing up while reading it myself, I had a bit of trouble keeping my voice steady and calm while I read.
WP: In addition to being an accomplished writer, I hear you are also a budding filmmaker. Can you talk more about your film projects, past and present?
RM: My film making career started back in grade school, around 8th grade, when my friends and I wanted to make YouTube videos. We started with my parents' VHS camera and practiced with some lines form an Internet series we liked. As the years went by, I started to discover a love I had for making films and videos. I wanted to make more and try to put myself up with the top ranked filmmakers, staring first with YouTube then Hollywood. Since 2011, my group, "The Idiotic Five," has made a few more professional looking videos, ditching the old script, camera, and moviemaker edit routine. We started implementing green screens and special effects, using more advanced programs such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Suite. I've also made a branch of film production for myself called Phoenix Omega Film Productions and am planning for my first full-length feature film for a film festival.
WP: So you've graduated from Peoria High School, and you're currently in college, right? Which college are you attending, and what your plans for the future?
RM: Right now, I am currently attending Scottsdale Community College, studying Film Production. My future plan is to work my way up to become a major motion picture director and writer. Eventually owning a production sutdio of my own and hosting it here in the valley.