This is the second in a series of articles remembering the Texas Farmworkers Union “March For Human Rights” of 1977. Specific details and nuances on the march not covered in this story will be further explored in future installments. This week we will take a look and focus on the famous corrido by Esteban Jordan.
As the commemorative march was going through downtown San Juan, Texas, on Feb. 26, one of the megaphones started blasting “Marcha del Campesino” and “Siguieron Los Campesinos,” a two-part corrido that narrated the march that we were remembering. In those 8 minutes and 2 seconds, we learned, with colorful verbiage and wild accordion runs, about the Texas Farmworkers Union’s “March For Human Rights” that was launched 40 years earlier in San Juan on Feb. 26, 1977. A piece of history, all wrapped around the words and sounds of the Elsa-born, accordion genius that is the late Esteban Jordan.
How did Jordan first learn about the march? He learned about it from a friend of his from San Antonio.
“One of the marchers Jorge Zaragoza knew him and told him about the march,” said Norma Ramirez, who was involved with the TFWU and is the daughter of Claudio Ramirez. “That’s how he got interested.”
For Jordan, it was something personal. His background, coming from a migrant family that lived in Elsa, Texas, played a big role in wanting to get involved. He first did a fundraiser in Austin when the march was going on. Then as the march concluded in Washington, D.C., he decided to do a composition, as it connected him to where he came from.
“That’s the key of the whole trip, ya know,” said Esteban Jordan, in his uniquely hip dialect, in an April 18, 1982 interview with Linda Fregoso on the Mexican-American Experience at the University of Texas in Austin. The episode of that radio show was titled Profile Of Chicano Musician Esteban Jordan. “Right now I’m playing music that I used to play then [as a child]. It seems to me that history does repeat itself, in that sense, entiendes? We are going to go so far and then come back to the roots.”
He soon started recording the pair of songs for Omega Records, which was based out of San Antonio, where Jordan was living at during that specific period of time. “Marcha del Campesino” covered the march as the TFWU left San Juan and arrived in Austin. “Siguieron Los Campesinos” told the tale of the journey from Austin to Washington, D.C. Each piece was 4 minutes and 1 second long. It was released on vinyl at the end of 1977, both on an LP titled “That’s My Boy” and on a 45. “Marcha del Campesino” was later re-released in 1986 by Universal Music on a CD titled “The Return of El Parche”.
The song also appeared in several films relating to the TFWU. One was a documentary short about the march, while another was Valley of Tears, which focused on the Raymondville onion strike of 1979.
Jordan passed away 33 years after the march on August 13, 2010. As far as comments, during interviews, relating to the corrido, I could only find the lone interview I previously quoted from the Mexican-American Experience.
“It would be like declamando,” Jordan explained, using that word to describe his corrido. “I talk of realities, I’m not hip in anything. I sing the song the way it was. What I put out, the verse that was put out, it’s the real thing. You don’t read between lines, you know what I’m saying? When you make a song like that, it’s the real thing. There’s no two ways about that song. Sometimes you might be saying one thing, but you mean another [thing]. But when it comes to reality, you only say it the way it is. It sounds ‘political’ but it ain’t. Not the way I’m trying to say it. I just want to say, ‘This is what happened, and I think we should get together, Chicanos, and organize ourselves a little more, among ourselves.’ Can you dig it?”
Yes we can, Jordan. Yes we can.