Event—Scholarly Seminars

Teresita Lozano, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, and Erin Murrah-Mandril, University of Texas-Arlington


Corridos Para El Santo Coyote: Ghost Smuggling Ballads and the Undocumented Migrant Pilgrimage, Teresita D. Lozano, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley

Based on musical testimonies circulating social media, undocumented Mexican migrants are sharing a collective ghost story marked by themes of religious devotion, transborder survival, pilgrimage, and an apparition who smuggles them cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Since 2007, a new phenomenon of corrido (ballad) composition, which I define as ghost smuggling ballads, narrates the near-death experiences of migrants and their encounters with the ghost of Saint Toribio Romo. Saint Toribio, who migrants have adopted as the Holy Coyote (Smuggler) and Patron Saint of Immigrants, was a priest killed in 1928 in Jalisco during the Cristero Rebellion, the 1926-1929-armed revolt of Cristeros against the Mexican government. Migrants unable to return on pilgrimage to his shrine in Jalisco use corridos to document a culture of music and cyber-devotion shared with devotees and future migrants. These corridos serve as intangible votives and transform social media platforms into digital altars to the Holy Coyote, unobstructed by geopolitical borders. The Catholic Church canonized Saint Toribio in 2000 but has never recognized him as the patron of immigrants. Drawing on ethnographic work in Jalisco and on platforms including YouTube and Facebook, I explore how folkloristics evident in corridos reveal a secondary canonization bestowed by migrants. This secondary canonization transcends religious and cultural boundaries, venerating Saint Toribio as both a Catholic and folk saint whose mission evolved decades after his death. Rooted in immigration politics and cultural memory of religious persecution, ghost smuggling ballads contribute to Saint Toribio's increasing transborder devotion. I demonstrate how these corridos redefine and transform the role of the coyote into a “divine companion” (Hagan 2008) of the migrant journey.

Birthing the Borderlands: Latina Midwives in the Early 20th Century, Erin Murrah-Mandril, University of Texas-Arlington

Early 20th century midwives, or parteras, in the borderland inhabited a woman-centered space and carried cultural knowledges that would come to heavily influence Chicana feminism in the latter half of the 20th century. While parteras’ work is local and communal, their knowledge and training reveal routes of intellectual and physical migration intertwining Catholic and indigenous epistemologies with folk healing and industrialized medicine. This paper examines women’s testimonio, diaries, Spanish language newspapers, and fictional narratives to argue that parteras acted as transnational brokers of cultural exchange in the early 20th century along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Respondent: Desirée Martín, UC Davis