Big Jim: After the race was over ...

2014-03-18T00:00:00Z 2014-03-21T08:47:53Z Big Jim: After the race was over ...Jim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Leonardo Yañez, “el Nano,” composer of the corrido

Begs pardon of everyone. There is no doubt that

The chestnut from Agua Prieta won,

And the Moro de Cumpas lost.

When I asked Sr. Yañez about this last verse of his corrido, he told me that he had advised all his friends to bet on el Moro!

There had been heavy betting on the race, with el Moro being the favorite. I have been told that large sums of money and even ranches changed hands, and that some people who had driven to Agua Prieta that day had to walk home. Trini Ramírez, Relámpago’s jockey, said that someone slipped a pistol under his belt when the race was over, saying “They’re looking for you!” El Moro’s backers demanded and got a re-run, with the same results as before. Apparently el Moro just couldn’t handle the 500-meter course.

The two horses continued to be in the public eye, especially after Yañez’ song came out on record and became popular. El Moro was brought to all sorts of charitable events, with attendees paying small sums to get their pictures taken with the famous steed. Relámpago achieved even greater fame when he ran a race against an American horse named Chiltepín. It was at the time of a hoof-and-mouth epidemic, and neither horse could cross the border. So the race was run with one horse on each side of the border fence! The winner? Relámpago.

photo

Eventually both horses died. El Moro’s body was placed on the bed of a truck, covered with flowers, and driven through town in a procession, with mariachis playing. I was told that his beautiful white tail trailed off the back of the truck and dragged in the dust. Relámpago contracted cancer and had to be put down. Sr. Romero had his head stuffed and hung it in his living room, where I was permitted to photograph it in 1984 (right, photo by Jim Griffith).

Sr.Yañez wrote another corrido after the death of the two horses. In it he alluded to their later careers in service of charities:

The two horses ran in many celebrations

Sacrificing energies, lending noble services

For the betterment of their towns...

A statue of el Moro stands at the junction where the road to Cumpas turns off from the main highway. On Calle 4 in Agua Prieta, at the finish line of the great race, is a bust of Leonardo Yañez, with a suitable plaque. However, I’m not quite sure that the title of this essay is entirely accurate. Every time that well-known song is sung, the two horses run against each other again, and once in a while you can hear someone tell a band “Play ‘El Moro de Cumpas’ until the Moro wins!”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

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