Grito: The Longest Shout You'll Hear Today, With A History
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Some of our NPR colleagues have been traveling the U.S.-Mexico border - all of it, in fact. MORNING EDITION's Steve Inskeep and several colleagues made plans for a drive from the mouth of the Rio Grande, on the Gulf of Mexico, all the way to Tijuana on the Pacific Coast. And we're broadcasting their reports on people, goods and culture crossing the border on many NPR programs.
Steve is at NPR West in Southern California. Hey there, Steve.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
CORNISH: So far, how is the trip? How long is this trip again?
INSKEEP: It is 1,900 miles and a little more along the U.S.-Mexico border, if you follow the border exactly. But, of course, we were zigzagging back and forth across. And I counted I crossed the border 22 times, going one way or another. And it really was an amazing experience. We were going through this zone that we called the borderland, the region both north and south of the border.
And, of course, the U.S. and Mexico are very different places, but there's a lot of shared history and this common experience of the border itself. That's what we wanted to learn more about.
CORNISH: And 22 times, I mean what's the border showing you about both countries?
INSKEEP: Well, you have massive security on the border. Audie, as you know, there are far stronger, higher and longer walls than there used to be. There are thousands more Border Patrol agents. Sometimes you can wait hours crossing north into the United States. We waited well over four hours at Tijuana into get into the United States in Southern California. And yet, in spite of that security, you find people who communicate, who have families on both sides, who travel back and forth, who do trade.
It's an extraordinarily busy zone for trade between these two countries. You really do have a shared heritage as well as a shared present and a shared future in spite of the divisions.
CORNISH: And then, this morning you had this unbelievable sound from, I think it was called a grito contest. And you'll do a much better job explaining what that is.
INSKEEP: Oh, this was an amazing experience. I'd never heard one. We were at a bi-national festival in Brownsville and Matamoras, near the mouth of the Rio Grande in Texas and in northern Mexico. And a grito contest is a contest in which people shout, shout as long as they possibly can. It is in honor of the shout that was said to have started the Mexican Revolution in 1810.
But there are Anglos, as well as people of Hispanic descent, who perform this. And it's done at this festival in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. Everybody has had a beer, or many people have had anyway. And it's really this, well, there's really nothing to do except to play it. And I should warn: It's going to go more than 30 seconds, so just be prepared for that.
CORNISH: OK, duly warned.
INSKEEP: And it's from Clara Dawson of Brownsville, Texas. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CLARA DAWSON: (Shouting)
INSKEEP: We're just getting started here, Audie.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
INSKEEP: At this point, she's waving her arms, exhorting the crowd, still going.
INSKEEP: Are you feeling short of breath?
CORNISH: I know. How is she breathing?
(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)
CORNISH: Big finish.
INSKEEP: A big finish, big cheer from the crowd and she won. Now, after the contest, I talked with the second place finisher, Marisa Leal. She had previously been a 10-time champion. So we're talking here to the Muhammad Ali of grito contests in Brownsville, Texas. And I wanted to learn a little bit more about the craft of doing this.
Were you disappointed to lose today?
MARISA LEAL: No, it's all fun. It's all in good fun. I mean some people get upset. I don't. It's like, if you would beat me 10 years in a row, then I said OK.
CORNISH: And her grito is pretty good also and she has a coach, Audie. And I want you to hear Louis Lale(ph) because he's explaining how he told his wife to get into these contests and do a great grito.
LOUIS LALE: When she started, actually, her mom passed away in 1995. That's when she started. She did the first grito in 1996 and I told her, I want you to yell as if your mom just passed away 'cause she died with a heart attack. And that's what the grito is. It's a cry, a Mexican cry, a Mexican yell. I said, use that power, use that energy and she did. And I started crying because it - the way she yelled, it was like I felt it all over again.
INSKEEP: So the grito is a cry of pain, but it also brings out, as you heard, Audie, a kind of joy and I think that represents as well as anything the kinds of stories that we found along the U.S./Mexico border.
CORNISH: And we'll be hearing more of those stories on NPR News. Looking forward to it, Steve. Thanks so much.
INSKEEP: Glad to talk with you, Audie, as always.
CORNISH: And our ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host has been on the road this month, too. Melissa Block is traveling north of the border in Texas. She's reporting on how big energy and shifting demographics are transforming that state. We'll hear her stories in the coming week.
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