Arts, Culture & Media

Chicago's mayoral challenger gets the hero treatment in a Mexican ballad

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Jesus Garcia.jpg

Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and his wife, Evelyn, arrive at a restaurant for lunch on February 24, 2015, the day of the Chicago Democratic primary.

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Jim Young/Reuters

Many corridos, or Mexican ballads, start with the same line: "Let me tell you a story."​ But a new corrido may be the first to try to tell the story of a Chicago mayoral candidate.

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That candidate is Jesús "Chuy" Garcia, a longtime progressive Chicago politician who's now the underdog challenger for mayor. He came in second in the Democratic primary in February and will face the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, in a runoff on Tuesday.

Catalina Maria Johnson, the host of Chicago Public Media's Beat Latino, was thrilled to hear a corrido being used outside the context of a Latin music show. "The minute I heard it, I was like 'Wow, [it] was absolutely perfect,'" she says.

Corridos, she argues, have "always been the perfect political, story-telling campaign tool." These epic ballads often tell the life story of a person from beginning to end, so they're a perfect way to introduce a hero — or antihero, in some cases.

Garcia's ballad, written by a fan, traces his journey, from his birth in Durango, Mexico to his move to Chicago at age 9, all the way to his career as a community organizer, political activist and politician — a perfect subject for a corrido.