Las Cumbias del Coronavirus

¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment - Daniel S. Margolies

Daniel S. Margolies [+-]
Virginia Wesleyan University (Emeritus) and Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
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Daniel S. Margolies is Director of Strategic Initiatives, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, Texas, and Emeritus Professor at Virginia Wesleyan University. He is the author of Henry Watterson and the New South: The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, and Globalization (University Press of Kentucky, 2006) and Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations: Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and Beyond, 1877-1898 (University of Georgia Press, 2011); editor of Companion to Harry S. Truman (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and co-editor (with Umut Özsu, Maïa Pal, and Ntina Tzouvala) of The Extraterritoriality of Law: History, Theory, Politics (Politics of Transnational Law) (Routledge, 2019). Margolies has written numerous history articles on a wide array of subjects as well as interdisciplinary studies of Mexican migrant music and articles and essays on cultural sustainability and other aspects of Texas-Mexican conjunto music. His article “Latino Migrant Music and Identity in the Borderlands of the New South,” was awarded the 2010 Carl Bode Award for Outstanding Article in the Journal of American Culture in 2009 by the American Culture Association. Margolies has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea, a Faculty Fellow at the American Center for Mongolian Studies in Ulaanbaatar, and twice a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California-Berkeley. He is founder and Artistic Director of the Festival of Texas Fiddling, which features son huasteco and Tejano music, and is an advising consultant to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center for the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio. More information is at
J.A. Strub [+-]
University of Texas, Austin
J.A. Strub is a dissertator in ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on questions of community pedagogy and participatory culture in música huasteca. J.A's writings on music, foodways, urban studies and participatory democracy have been featured in the Atlantic, CityLab, the Nation, Edible Queens, Democracy Journal, StarChefs Magazine, and publications by the Roosevelt Institute, the Russel Sage Foundation, and the Walt Whitman Forum on Culture. He has presented at various conferences including the Fourth International Conference on Participatory Budgeting, Frontiers of Democracy 2016, El 13ro Encuentro de Son Jarocho, Son Huasteco, Huapango, Fandango, y Trovada, and the virtual Sounds of the Pandemic Conference. Strub has been awarded grants by the Rainwater Foundation, the Bruno Salazar Network, the William H. Macaulay Opportunities Fund, and the Goldsmith Foundation. He is a development consultant for Mexico Beyond Mariachi, a teaching arts and traditional music research organization based in New York City, and is the founder of the Foro de Cultura Huapanguera en Texas, a showcase of huapango music, regional gastronomy, and scholarship on the culture of migration. Strub is an avid listener and active performer of traditional and vernacular Latin American musics, including son jarocho, son huasteco, vallenato, salsa and timba.


A Mexican quick hit writer named Mister Cumbia understood the commercial potential of a song about the coronavirus very early, and released his catchy and ubiquitous “La Cumbia del Coronavirus” on YouTube on January 22, 2020, a week before the World Health Organization even declared a public health emergency. Soon, countless songs about coronavirus were being released throughout Latin America, many of which were built around catchy samples, pre-made beats, and other hallmarks of viral content creation. This chapter begins by asking why the earliest manifestations of coronavirus music from Latin America most frequently took the form of a cumbia, a rhythm and style with roots in coastal Colombia that has since been regionalized across Latin America. The transnational cumbia sound serves as a “blank slate” a danceable, instantly recognizable, and easily remixed format that, like a global, airborne virus, is privileged by its adaptability and infectiousnesss. This chapter charts the history of popular topical cumbias about tropical diseases (ebola, zika, chikungunya, dengue) while framing the spread of the transnational cumbia in epidemiological terms. It also examines the ways in which two non-musical recordings of the human voice uploaded to personal social media accounts by recording artists Cardi B and Anuel AA took on lives of their own as they were remixed, sampled, and circulated around the world in new musical contexts. By interrogating and unpacking the increasingly-significant metaphor of “viral media” in the context of cumbias about disease and the schizophonic memesis of the human voice via social media, this chapter demonstrates how the interconnected world-system that facilitated the global coronavirus outbreak simultaneously facilitates the unpredictable spread of hybridized cultural products.

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Margolies, Daniel; Strub, J.A.. Las Cumbias del Coronavirus. ¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Mar 2024. ISBN 9781800503977. Date accessed: 23 Mar 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43037. Mar 2024

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