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How Mexico Learned To Polka
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How Mexico Learned To Polka

Music Interviews

How Mexico Learned To Polka

How Mexico Learned To Polka
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Legendary norteño group Los Alegres de Terán, in a promotional still from the 1976 documentary Chulas Fronteras. i

Legendary norteño group Los Alegres de Terán, in a promotional still from the 1976 documentary Chulas Fronteras. Courtesy of The Arhoolie Foundation Frontera Archive/UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of The Arhoolie Foundation Frontera Archive/UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press
Legendary norteño group Los Alegres de Terán, in a promotional still from the 1976 documentary Chulas Fronteras.

Legendary norteño group Los Alegres de Terán, in a promotional still from the 1976 documentary Chulas Fronteras.

Courtesy of The Arhoolie Foundation Frontera Archive/UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press

A casual listener would be forgiven for not knowing one kind of accordion music from another. But where two cultures in particular are concerned, the similarity comes with a century-old backstory involving immigration and imitation.

On the 76th birthday of Flaco Jimenez — one of the instrument's most celebrated living players — Morning Edition asks how the accordion-heavy folk music of northern Mexico came to sound so much like the polkas and waltzes of Eastern Europe. Hear the conversation, featuring Felix Contreras of NPR's Alt.Latino and Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records, at the audio link.

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