Música Norteña

Mexican Migrants Creating a Nation between Nations

By Heather M. Akou, Cathy Ragland
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Temple University Press, 2009

ISBN 9781592137473

268 Pages


Música norteña, a musical genre with its roots in the folk ballad traditions of northern Mexico and the Texas-Mexican border region, has become a hugely popular musical style in the U.S., particularly among Mexican immigrants. Featuring evocative songs about undocumented border-crossers, drug traffickers, and the plight of immigrant workers, música norteña has become the music of a "nation between nations." Música Norteña is the first definitive history of this transnational music that has found enormous commercial success in norteamérica.

Cathy Ragland, an ethnomusicologist and former music critic, serves up the fascinating fifty-year story of música norteña, enlivened by interviews with important musicians and her own first-hand observations of live musical performances. Beyond calling our attention to musical influences, Ragland shows readers the social and economic forces at work behind the music. By comparing música norteña with other popular musical forms, including conjunto tejano, she helps us understand and appreciate the musical ties that bind the Mexican diaspora.



1. Mexicanidad and Música Norteña in the “Two Mexicos”
2. Regional Identity, Class, and the Emergence of “Border Music”
3. Border Culture, Migration, and the Development of Early Música Norteña
4. Modern Música Norteña and the Undocumented Immigrant
5. Los Tigres del Norte and the Transnationalization of Música Norteña in the Working-Class Mexican Diaspora
Selected Discography


Cathy Ragland is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Department of Music and Dance at the University of Texas, Pan American. She is a former music critic for the San Antonio Express-News, Seattle Times and Austin American-Statesman, where she wrote about Texas-Mexican music and música norteña, among other popular genres. She also cofounded the Mariachi Academy of New York, a community-based music program for youth in East Harlem.

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