Ranchero music: Take two cups of Spanish, add four cups of country music, two table spoons of whining, three tablespoons of off key crooning, 12 fat men wearing horrendous matching cowboy outfits complete with fringe and sequins, and throw in a couple of accordions to taste. Mix thoroughly. Best when served with a side of bobbing.
This is Guatemala’s favorite music category. It’s the Spanish equivalent to country music. It certainly has the “my wife cheated on me, broke my heart and left me for a rich yuppie” theme down. Most songs either relate to illegal immigration or being left by a cruel hearted wench. My favorite is a song about running from La Migra. They do an excellent and hilarious imitation of a gringo accent. As much as the music can be amusing, five songs into a bus ride I get the urge to go on an accordion killing spree. (¡Gracias a Dios por iPods!) I thought they went extinct in the early 1900s, but it’s become clear they just migrated to Mexico and Guatemala. There is certainly no shortage of them here.
It is beyond me how any of these bands become famous. The lyrics are nothing special, the songs contain about three different guitar chords and the band members are all fat, short, old men with mustaches and cowboy hats whose size increases in relation to their ever increasing egos. They decorate their music videos with incredibly good looking women whose boob sizes increase in relation to the size of the cowboy hats. It’s really mind boggling! … But, then again, so is country music. The videos tend to focus on the lead singer, customarily an overly dramatic and poor actor, but each of the 12 to 200 band members gets a close up shot. I’m not entirely sure why there are so many band members. I’m not even sure they all play instruments.
The best part, however, is the dancing. Whoever started the rumor that all Latin Americans can dance was seriously deranged. Dancing in Guatemala, unless you are on the coast or in a major metropolis, consists mainly of bobbing back and forth. Directions: Bend arms so hands are at a 90 degree angle from shoulders. Make hands into fists. Peg elbows to waist. Shift weight from one foot to the other on beat with the music. Add to the bobbing effect by slightly bending at the waist toward which ever foot your weight is on. Now you’re dancing like a Guatemalan!
We, ranchero music and I, have a love hate relationship. As long as you’re with another appreciative soul you can spend hours entertaining yourself watching the videos (just mute the television). If you’re on a bus by yourself it can be torture. But Peace Corps is all about sharing and learning about a new culture, so I’m collecting CDs of ranchero music like there is no tomorrow. I plan on exposing everyone to the rich musical creations of Guatemala and Mexico upon my return home. Guard your stereos; you never know when the need to bob might hit me.