'Chicano Woody Guthrie' entertains ENMU-R students

April 27, 2011 • Local News

Every foot was tapping and every head was bopping in the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell auditorium the moment Dr. Jesus “Chuy” Negrete, also known as the “Chicano Woody Guthrie,” stepped onto the stage Tuesday afternoon.

“Everybody go yoooo-hooo,” Negrete instructed the 50-strong crowd of students and faculty in between riffs on his guitar and breaths into his harmonica.

“Yoo-hoo!” the crowd yelled back.

Negrete, a nationally recognized entertainer and educator who lives in Chicago, stopped by ENMU-R as part of his two- to three-week-long Southwest tour in which he recounts the Mexican and Mexican-American experience through storytelling, poetic [auth] song and “corridos,” or running verse ballads. He performed in Ruidoso on Monday and will perform in Las Cruces today.

Negrete says he hopes he can restore “historical balance” to young college students by narrating the Mexican experience through song and ballads.

“They have cultural identities, but they don’t have historical identities because they don’t think of their behavior in historical terms,” Negrete said of college students. “Historical identity is far more important than cultural identity.”

Negrete has toured across the U.S. with this mission in mind for the past 35 years, performing mainly in universities. He studied educational anthropology and ethnomusicology, or the comparative study of music of different cultures, at the University of Chicago and Chicago State University, in addition to his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

In his story, Negrete traces the history of Mexican-Latino experiences from pre-Columbian times to present, mentioning César Chávez, a Latino civil rights activist, the thousands of Mexican immigrants who came to the Southwest to work in 1942 and the Mexican Revolution.

“I have been the bloody revolution,” he crooned. “I was the victim, and I was the vanquished. I had killed and I had been killed… the year was 1928.”

Students responded by singing along to the refrain and clapping along to the beat.

“It’s a different way of telling history,” Marely Castro, 20, a sociology student, said.

“He’s funny,” Oscar Guerrero, 19, another sociology student, added. “He knows how to make it interesting.”

Rick Scifres, a sociology teacher at ENMU-R, brought his class to see the performance since they will be studying migrations and populations next week.

“I’m fairly confident this will help tie some of that stuff together,” Scifres said.

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