Carlos Vega of Argentina, Lauro Ayestarán of Uruguay, and Vicente T. Mendoza make the triumvirate of reigning Latin American folklorists. How wide a net “folklore” casts in their writings can be judged from the inclusion in the present anthology of J. Antonio Gómez’s A Elisa, Narciso Serradell’s La golondrina, Ricardo Palmerín’s Las golondrinas, Manuel M. Ponce’s Soño mi mente loca and Lejos de tí, Melesio Morales’s Guarda esta flor, Agustín Lara’s Adiós, Nicanor and María bonita.
According to a strophe in the cancioncilla La pasadita (310), the first English phrase that the Mexican War taught the Margaritas in the capital was, Yes, mi sabe de monis. The present anthology includes historical songs praising Morelos (303) and denouncing Miramón (311), extolling Juárez (322) and Madero (338), and lampooning the “perfidious invader at Vera Cruz” (309). Drinking, soldier, prisoner, and student songs enter the collection also. But by far the largest number treat the love theme in some one of its myriad aspects. Although Mendoza strives to classify most of the songs on the basis of subject matter, he groups those in section 3 on the basis of musical form, 4 on meter, 7 on geographical origin, and 11 on the rhythm of the accompaniment. Since he is left in 14 with Miscelánea, it would appear that neither Ralph Boggs, Juan A. Carrizo, nor he has yet found a watertight classification scheme. Without one, it is not surprising that considerable overlapping occurs.
The music, evidently copied by Mendoza himself, is reproduced in widely varying sizes. At times he curiously omits necessary flags, accidentals, ledger lines, and dots. “I-IV-V” harmony, though rarely written out, is everywhere implied. Passing modulations to the dominant such as Stephen Foster inserted before the last phrase of Beautiful Dreamer are rare (exception at 154). Major is the rule, minor less usual, and what would seem to be a “modal” song—El vaquero (575, apparently phrygian)—probably results from nothing more than omitted accidentals. Several songs start with instrumental introductions (148-149 = plates 12-13, 376, 463) and some “songs” are purely instrumental (sinfonas, 175-176, discante, 176). Apparently, every song in the collection—even the dull “indigenous” songs from Nayarit, Tlaxcala, and Yucatán (129-134)—requires instrumental accompaniment. What this shall be varies from violin to accordion, but is usually the guitar (plates between 632 and 633).
Like Mendoza’s many previous collections, this one is based on oral informants and previous written transcriptions, rather than on phonograph and tape. If, as seems likely, his purpose was to present a “Mexican Songbag” analogous to Carl Sandburg’s “American Songbag” he has succeeded with his usual éclat, and has placed all future compilers in his debt.