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Q&A with 2013 Corrido Contest Third Place Winner: Iván J. Orellana

The Poetry Center recently sat down with Iván J. Orellana, third place winner of the 2013 Corrido Contest. Iván had great insight into the Corrido Contest process, from entering the contest, to practicing for the performance, to performing at the Concert and Awards Ceremony. Below is our Q&A with him. The deadline for this year's Corrido Contest is December 2nd at 5 p.m. For more details and to submit, please visit our website.

Q: In your wonderful corrido, "La Gloria," you write from the perspective of a man who leaves his pueblo, and his wife and children, in search of a better life in the United States. Can you talk more about how    you inhabited the voice of this narrator?

A: Well, first of all, I thank God I have not been through that experience in my life, but a person I admire, which is my father, did years ago. Although he did not leave a family behind, he made the dangerous journey, like many others. Another fact about this corrido is that I don't specify from which country the immigrant is coming from. I did this intentionally because the "immigrant" can be from any country, whether it's El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and the list goes on and on. To inhabit the voice of the narrator, I had to take the responsibility of a father; I had to think like one and act like one. So I made a fusion of stories my father told me and the result was "La Gloria.”

Q: The ending of "La Gloria," is refreshing and a new, more realistic perspective on the "American Dream." Can you talk more about the ending?

A: Yes of course. An ending of a story, a novel, or a song, depends on the writer. In this case, I like to be a little optimistic because we know that the American Dream can result in a nightmare. The narrator made it in the corrido, and the ending can be interpreted in two ways, one; he is in the U.S. and working hard in able to bring his family, or he is returning to his town with a little money. It depends on the reader/listener where they can create their own conclusion.

Q: The Corrido Contest is about more than just winning a contest, right? It's a process! Can you talk about the steps that were involved for you, for those who may be unfamiliar with this contest?

A: Absolutely. The experience is invaluable because you have a chance to express yourself in any subject you want, and the best part with music! Well, for me, I think it was kind of funny because there were no steps; I just wrote over the cousre of three days, and I was working under pressure because this corrido was also a final for the first semester. After I turned it in, I totally forgot about it.

Q: You collaborated very closely with the musicians, who set your Corrido to music. In fact, you were one of the musicians, too! Can you talk about your collaborative experience with Alfonso?

A: Yes, I did. Well, first, it was impossible for me to write a corrido without music. So, I picked up my guitar and began composing. The corrido was monotonous, so when I met Alfonso, a great musician for which I am thankful, he put in some ideas and working with him was incredible.

Q: You did a fantastic job performing your corrido. What was it like to see your words transform into music, and then transform into a performance...by you!?

A: Thank you, and like I said before, I couldn’t have written this corrido without my guitar, so I kind of had an idea of how it could be. Well, my performance, at first, I was afraid of presenting a work of mine, performed by me, and I wasn’t sure how public was going to respond.

Q: Last year was rare in that all three Corrido winners were from the same high school, in this case: Rio Rico High School. Can you talk more about what it was like to share this honor with your friends?

A: I think it’s a huge coincidence! I think every participant put forth a huge effort on this contest. I think it was an honor to put our school in that place and with people I already knew.

Below is Iván J. Orellana's corrido in its entirety, in both English and Spanish:


Welcome ladies and gentlemen
I am here to tell the story
Of what many people have lived through
As they tried to search for "glory"
Working with their hearts and hands
For the promise of a new land

At two in the morning
I said a prayer for my mother
For my wife and my children
I was leaving them without a father
I left them sleeping where they lay
And from my pueblo I crept away

I jumped on the northbound train
With hundreds of companions
Some of them were Mexican
And the rest from other lands
A single priority we held dear
To see everything bright and clear

A hundred pesos in my pocket
Was all I had to bring
My dreams stuffed in my backpack
And these verses that I sing
They came right from my soul
To keep me calm and whole

The ugliness I survived
I wouldn't wish it on anybody
Living through hunger and thirst
Treated like you're a nobody
In my pueblo I was my own man
King my ox, my shovel, and my land

It's time to say farewell
At my pueblo I have arrived
My wife and children
Will soon be by my side
That is my philosophy
Thank you for your company

--Translated into English by Wendy Burk

La Gloria

Sean bienvenidos señores
Al relato de esta historia
Que mucha gente ha vivido
Por querer buscar la “gloria”
Y han cambiado su maíz
Por el de un nuevo país

A las dos de la mañana
Yo pedía por mi madre
Por mi señora y mis hijos
Pues los dejaba sin padre
Dormiditos los dejé
Y del pueblo me alejé

Me subí al tren rumbo norte
Con cientos de compañeros
Uno que otro mexicano
Y los otros extranjeros
Una sola prioridad
Ver todo con claridad

Cien pesos en el bosillo
Era lo único que traiba
Los sueños en la mochila
Y estos versos los cantaba
Pues salían de mi alma
Para mantener la calma

Es feo lo que viví
No se lo deseo a nadie
Pues el hambre y la sed
Sólo eres un don nadie
En mi pueblo yo era la rey
De mi pala y de mi buey

Ya con esto me despido
Pues al pueblo he llegado
Mi señora y mis hijos
Pronto estarán a mi lado
Ésa es mi filosofía
Gracias por su compañía



  Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.

Created on: 
Monday, October 28, 2013
Arizona Board of Regents