January 19, 1926:
José Alfredo Jiménez, one of México’s most well-known singer-songwriters, was born in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato
Yeah, yeah, I know Jiménez is not technically a Chicano. He’s as Mexican as you get being born in Dolores Hidalgo, known to all Mexicans as La Cuna de la Independencia Nacional. For the Spanish language challenged, the Cradle of National Independence.
While Jiménez wasn’t around in the 1800s and didn’t contribute to the fight for Mexican independence, one can argue that the dozens of songs he’s penned have influenced Mexican identity on both sides of the border.
As a kid, I listened to a lot of Jiménez. I remember watching my dad sing “Camino de Guanajuato” at the top of his lungs with various other family members. I’d sing along too, even though it was probably inappropriate for a kid to sing a line about life being worthless. In my 20s, “Camino” began to mean more as I explored my roots in Salamanca, Guanajuato and actually traveled and visited the roads and landmarks mentioned in the well-known song. One of my most vivid memories of being on my uncles’ ranch just outside Salamanca was singing “Camino” with about 40 other family members, with such pride and joy. It was pretty amazing.
For Chican@s, knowing or singing some of Jiménez’s most popular songs may show you’re not too much of a poch@. It might be a fun way to bond with the older generations or make you look like a badass at mariachi-oke (yes, that’s mariachi + karaoke) night when you don’t need the words to get through “Ella” or “Que Te Vaya Bonito”. Or it just might make a good buzz even better.
Six ways to celebrate José Alfredo Jiménez’s birthday:
- Drink some tequila, but not too much as you don’t want to end up with JAJ-like liver issues
- Sing your favorite Jiménez-penned song, if you need an idea for something else besides “El Rey”, check here.
- Request the roaming musicians play a romantic song like “Serenata Sin Luna” or “Si Nos Dejan” while out on a date
- Make a playlist of JAJ songs interpreted by old school artist and re-imagined by newer artists. Example: “Te Solte La Rienda” by Maná
- Watch one of the movies he acted in. [IMDB]
- Try your hand at writing a torch song.
It’s a school night, so no tequila shots for me. Plus, I’m all out lime. Instead, I’ll make a playlist of the four versions of “Camino de Guanajuato” and put them on a loop while going through my photo sets from trips to the motherland. As always, I’ll ignore Jiménez’s warning to avoid Salamanca, mi pueblo adorado.
¡No te rajes Guanajuato!
[Thanks to Think Mexican for the heads up about Jiménez’s birthday.]