The Songs

The 1940s gave rise to the first stars of Mexican music in California, from singing actors Pedro Infante and Antonio Aguilar to the vocal dueto Las Hermanas Padilla. The songs these artists sang were diverse in style and substance, and included boleros, rancheras, and above all corridos. Whether they paid tribute to heroes or recounted natural disasters, corridos documented shared experiences within the Mexican American community and became an integral part of the state’s musical life.

These songs were the oral headlines of Mexican life in California, providing performers and listeners alike a shared lens for understanding their lives north of the border. But corridos were only one part of a diverse musical landscape that also included mariachi, orquestas, Latin swing, and Chicano rock and roll. In the next section, we’ll dig deeper into these styles and the artists who pioneered them.