The Radio

Not every house has a TV, but it seems like just about everyone has a radio.  
Doña Elena next door has a radio that she turns on around  6:30 a.m.  Because of the design of her kitchen, the sound is amplified and is easily heard on the street, for the morning sweeping ritual. She turns it off at 8 because the progamming changes from the rancheras that she likes, to a different style. In fact, when the programming changes to “banda”, she ruthlessly turns off the radio mid-phrase. Doña Elena has a favorite song, Que Me Lleve El Diablo, and whenever it is played, she sings – very loudly, and tunelessly – in her yard.

The radio stations in Mexico are of different types, just like in the US.  There are stations that play modern pop, some that play banda music (imagine a German tuba band playing music in Spanish), rap and dance music, cumbias and other Latin dance music, mariachi music, talk stations (mostly pro-goverment), etc.  The  style of music that I most like to hear  on the  radio is ranchera.  There are beautiful songs and some very good voices, from the forties and later.  Another wonderful genre is trio music from the forties and fifties.  The songs are very much like what are called standards in the US, with gorgeous extended harmonies. They are composed and performed by male trios with very, very  good guitar playing.

The sixties and seventies in Mexico produced excellent pop music. Much of it originated in the States. Imagine hearing, in Spanish, Twist and Shout, Going To The Chapel,  Tan Shoes With Pink Shoelaces, The Name Game, With Just A Hundred Pounds Of Flesh, I’ll Do My Crying In The Rain, Won’t You Be My Baby!  I recently heard Neal Sedaka sing in Spanish Next Door To An Angel! Many excellent songs were written during these years in Mexico, Spain and other Latin American countries, as well as Italy.

There were many good Mexican actors and actresses, too, from that era, some of whom came to the US to make films.  (Dolores Del Rio, Anthony Quinn, and El Indio Fernandez are some that are known in the US.)

After Doña Elena turns off her radio, we turn ours on, and at about 8:20 every day there is a dramatic serial called Porfirio Cadena – El Ojo De Vidrio, from the fifties.  Imagine the announcer with lots of echo and effect introducing the program.  The story is described as “violent, audacious, etc.” It is an episodic story about a (in)famous (imaginary) bandit.  He is called El Ojo De Vidrio because he has a glass eye.  His entire family was killed by a traitorous acquaintances when he was a child.  He saw the killings, and afterwards the killers tortured him by cutting out his eye with a sharp branch.  Porfirio  lives to take his revenge on his powerful enemies, and accumulates an enormous treasure. The character seems to soften as he ages, but when he is young, and beginning his career as an outlaw, he is cruel and violent, although fair, wreaking his own concept of justice.

At night, at 10:30 p.m. the same station plays another serial adventure called Caliman, El Hombre Increible, the incredible man. The current story is called The Black Widow.

The voices of the actors are quite dramatic, typical of the fifties,  and both serials are very entertaining.  The sound effects and the incidental music are wonderful. After each episode ends we speculate about how Porforio or Caliman will escape from his most recent capture or predicament, and what is happening with the other characters.

There are annoying commercials, just like on the radio stations in the US.  I particularly dislike hearing childrens’ voices say “Wow!” and continue in Spanish. The government touts itself in endless commercials, bragging about “transparency”, “equality” and “fairness”.  There are many ads for drug stores, and for natural health products, which are very popular here.

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