Red and yellow stripes streaming in the wind, holding hands with strangers and dancing in the street, feet on shoulders holding up one another, the success that only hard work can bring, beautiful buildings adorned with flowers, the coast running up to meet the mountain, being independent and flourishing in it, always being mistaken for something else, yet always standing firm in being yourself.
Patrick Morrissey, born May 22nd
of 1959 in Lancashire,
to a working-class Irish migrant family, Morrissey grew up in
Manchester where he established
the well known band The Smiths in 1982. Six years later he would
launch his solo act as Morrissey which is still going on. He has been
acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists in the history of rock
with themes that diverge from the typical Rock themes of bravado and
glorification. Morrissey is often referred to as one of the most
influential artists of modern times, he has been a gay icon and
animal’s right activist…but did you know he is also the cult icon
of a strange Mexican subculture?
all the bizarre connections in the world of music, one of the
strangest by far is that of Morrissey and Mexican people. In a
culture that is notable for its firm machismo that despises anything
that has to do with feelings and expression…why is Morrissey so
popular? The answer is in the question, the toxic masculinity of the
Mexican culture can only go so far before men themselves begin to
feel asphyxiated by it. When you are taught from an early age that
men don’t have feelings and men don’t cry and they have to be tough
as nails, something snaps. In comes Morrissey singing of that sense
of estrangement and longing that can be found in traditional Mariachi
and Ranchera songs of Mexico…the only difference is that men are
allowed to feel.
Rancheras often speak of heartbreak and hurt in the only way they
are allowed to without showing any emotions that are not manly, this
often reduces the themes to anger. Anger that she left, anger that
she is sleeping with another. Then the protagonist gets drunk and
maybe fires a gun or rides a horse into the sunset. Well everything
is different in Morrissey’s lyrics, they have the sentiment of a true
Ranchera and the hurt and heartbreak, but it can be manifested in
sadness and longing that is not patriotic or hyper-masculine.
Basically Morrissey tells us that Boys cry too, and it’s OK.
the spring of 2000, after seven years of silence, Morrissey decided
to tour Latin America for the first time ever. The ¡Oye
was obviously aimed at his extensive Latino-based fans which had
grown out of proportion during those seven years. John
Schaefer, host of WNYC’s “Soundcheck,” said about that run of
dates. “At a time where he couldn’t get a record contract, here
was this audience that was loyal and perhaps kind of unexpected, and
he went and played to them. For many of us, that was the first
inkling we had that there was something unusual and peculiar going on
new found awareness took music critics by surprise, they started to
question why was Morrissey such a huge deal south of the border?
Some made the association between Mexican folk music and Morrissey’s
music. Others noticed how Morrissey’s style makes an appeal to the
greaser culture of Hot Rods–and-pompadours that’s also quite
popular among certain Latinos. Some ethnographers decided to look
closer to home and found another answer in the Chicano community. A
new generation of American born Mexicans felt displaced in their new
land. With Latin roots and traditions but lost at sea in a country
where you are not wanted felt the same angst that Morrissey was
singing about; a deep-seated melancholy about where to belong. It’s
easy to see how many of Morrissey’s lyrics deal with that identity
crisis, with a sense of alienation, of being an “other” appeal to
the entire Chicano community.
took notice of this and for the past 15 years he has been making this
link very explicit. His most famous recognition of this was during
where he declared in the middle of the concert “I wish I was born
Mexican, but it’s too late for that now.” Other examples include
him strutting around wearing the uniform of the Mexican soccer team
Chivas de Guadalajara, rocking shirts with the most iconic Mexican
saint La Virgen de Guadalupe. And then there’s Mexico,
one of Morrissey’s newer songs which could double as an anthem of
Chicano love for the homeland.
the other side, in Mexico there are countless Morrissey and The
Smiths tribute bands, most of them created by kids that call
themselves neo-Mozzers. There are conventions, clubs and events with
the only purpose of venerating one Steven
Morrissey’s love affaire with Mexican people legitimate? or only a
shrewd business strategy? Only time will tell but the love that
people south of the border feel for him is true and is pure as a
light that never goes out.
A grain of rice, like a grain of sand, sifts through your hands with a mysterious and lovely sameness. Mostly white or tan, hundreds or thousands of grains pour smoothly out of buckets, out of burlap, into bowls, with a sound like small waterfalls. Rice seems so simple, really. And yet, because it plays a central role in world cuisines, these modest grains can carry the weight of history. Sometimes that history is deeply surprising.
Trinidadian ethnobotanist Francis Morean is living that surprise. The 56-year-old grew up in Trinidad’s Palo Seco hamlet, helping his mother and grandmother plant “hill rice” in the garden once the late-spring rainy season had begun. They would punch checkerboard-style holes in the ground with stakes fashioned from tree branches, and drop the rice seeds in. After harvesting, they would dry the rice plants on large cloths sewn together and laid in the sun. The dried rice plants were shredded by dancing and stomping on them barefoot, the hulls removed in homemade mortars and pestles. The rice stored well for years and was, says Morean, a cherished dish at the dinner table.
“In Sierra Leone and many West African nations, rice was an essential part of every meal,” Morean says. “So being able to produce one’s rice was a major plus for persons of the African diaspora.”
And this particular rice, in the words of David Shields, author of Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine, was “the most historically significant African diaspora grain in the Western Hemisphere.” Last month, Morean joined Shields and assorted rice geneticists, scholars, growers and chefs in Charleston, S.C., to attend a day-long tasting and presentation on the history of this unusual African rice that is, nowadays, causing a bit of a stir.
It’s a rice that traveled from Africa to low country — the sea islands and coastal plains of the American Southeast – and was grown widely in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky. While it was not a major commercial crop on plantations, for the enslaved Africans who worked them, it was a vital, edible link to the homes they and their ancestors had been wrenched from. It was then brought to Trinidad by formerly enslaved people called Merikins — a variant of “Americans” — where it thrived even as it vanished from U.S. fields. It is a seed that followed the slave trade, and its repatriation now may help fill in a critical missing link in Southern, African and Trinidadian foodways.