A Look Into Mexican American Music and Memes

Music Senior Mia Danielle Ibarra Begins Her Research

What does it mean to be Mexican-American in 2021? How does the content we consume shape our perception of others? How is a community shaped by public perception? These are the questions being asked by Reed’s sole senior music major, Mia Danielle Ibarra. Ibarra spoke with the Quest this week about her upcoming thesis, her inspiration for her research, and her hopes for the future. 

Ibarra highlighted Associate Professor of Music Morgan Luker’s Latin American Popular Music ethnomusicology class as a big influence in her choice of research topic. “I did a project about online spaces talking about K-pop fandoms, and it made me think about using social media [in my research].” 

In taking the class, Ibarra found that she connected to the material, and was inspired to dive deeper into ethnomusicology in the context of her hometown. Luker has been a valuable resource in mapping out her research and is her thesis advisor. 

Ibarra first became interested in these questions when she took Luker’s class, but she soon started to look inward and homeward for inspiration. A native of Brownsville, Texas, Ibarra is privy to a culture of truck-customizers in the Rio Grande Valley called Tlacuaches (literally opossum). They are often the subject of a very niche genre of music (also found in the Rio Grande Valley) called Corridos Tumbados. Corridos Tumbados was popularized by Natanael Canno and branched off from the traditional Corridos. Canno’s music often makes fun of the “meme” of macho truck enhancers. 

Ibarra’s research attempts to dissect several elements of this situation. First, what is the historical context for Corridos Tumbados, and how does it relate to Mexican-American culture and identity? Second, what — if anything — is behind the meme of the Tlacuaches, and how are they representative of a different element of Mexican-American culture?

Ibarra plans to conduct this research by using social media, mostly Facebook and TikTok. “I want to go through the Corridos Tumbados music tags on apps like TikTok and see what I can find.” As someone that’s observed this complex cultural experience first hand, Ibarra has a special insight as well as access. She hopes to visit a truck meet-up when she returns to Texas over the break. 

Ibarra joked that her main goal for this year was to finish her thesis on time, a sentiment echoed by many seniors. She is unsure about her plans post-Reed, but is hopeful that her research will provide the opportunity to learn more about herself and her culture. 

On a more personal note, she spoke about how a big motivation to do this project was that there is such limited academic writing about Mexican-American culture that doesn’t have to do with immigration. She emphasized that border towns contain more than one narrative of Mexican-American identity. Ibarra’s research attempts to tell another story. 

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