SoCal corrido legend pens song to El Salvador’s controversial president

Nayib Bukele poster
A supporter of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele hoists a poster of the controversial leader during a rally in MacArthur Park earlier this year.
(Soudi Jiménez / Los Angeles Times en Español)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 11. I’m Gustavo Arellano, reporting from Orange County and filling in all this week — wait, don’t leave!

Stay along. I plan to do quick dispatches that touch on the big news we’re all going through but also some random randomness, as I always do in my column. We’re gonna have what we Mexicans call a puro pinche pari — a nonstop fiesta.

Just like Pedro Rivera.

The Southern California-based producer of Mexican regional music calls himself “El Patriarca del Corrido” — “The Patriarch of Corridos,” a humblebrag only matched by the facts. He’s the father of the late superstar Jenni Rivera and her brother Lupillo, grandfather to singer and perpetual escándalosa Chiquis Rivera, and remains head of Cintas Acuario, the Long Beach record label that launched the career of Chalino Sánchez, the singer-songwriter who continues to tower over Mexican music 30 years after his murder.

Now 79, Pedro could understandably bask in the royalties of his artists and family during the autumn of his life. Instead, he’s courting geopolitical desmadre by releasing a corrido about El Salvador’s controversial president, Nayib Bukele.

The first-term leader is probably best known worldwide for making El Salvador the first nation to allow cryptocurrency as legal tender. But critics think of him as something else: an autocrat, a diss only matched by the facts.


Bukele’s legislative allies dismissed all members of El Salvador’s Supreme Court last year and replaced them with apologists. He has mocked opponents on social media in ways that would make Donald Trump seem as sober as Pope Francis. Bukele has launched investigations into critical press outlets and has blasted the Biden administration for allegedly funding a communist plot to overthrow his regime.

If any of that bothers Pedro Rivera, he sure doesn’t show it in his song.

El Corrido de Nayib Bukele” is pro forma balladry: A birthdate, a semblance of a rhyming scheme, shoutouts to ostensible victories. Rivera praises Bukele as a “grand, intelligent man” who has “accomplished what he promised”: an end to violence, delinquency and the jailing of all gang members. Rivera even pulls off a pun by using the meaning of El Salvador (“The Savior” in Spanish) to, um, paint Bukele as Jesus?

Yet “they keep criticizing him, saying he’s a dictator,” Rivera concludes in his clear-but-flat voice.

“El Corrido de Durango” this is not. At least the backing banda sinaloense is tight.

Cintas Acuario offered no reason for the song drop, but I suspect it’s for the usual reasons Rivera does business: He knows the market. Despite all the scandals, Bukele is wildly popular in El Salvador and in the diaspora. That’s why Rivera debuted his corrido on Sunday at MacArthur Park, which saw its third pro-Bukele rally this year.

El Salvador’s president, unsurprisingly, accepted Rivera’s love on Twitter despite admitting he hadn’t heard “El Corrido de Nayib Bukele.” Instead, he autographed a Salvadoran flag that he plans to send as a gift to Rivera and tweeted out photos of the grand occasion.

Man, imagine if Bad Bunny had done something?


And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Dramatic new 6th Street Bridge opens, delivering a ‘love letter’ to Los Angeles. Unlike most bridges built mostly to sustain the weight of big rigs barreling down them, the new bridge is meant to hold massive celebrations — and did it hold ‘em this weekend. Los Angeles Times

Pachucos on the 6th Street Bridge
Frank Sifuentes, left, and Manny Alcaraz display their vintage cars during Saturday’s 6th Street Viaduct community celebration.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

How the Dodgers made beach balls at the ballpark the new national pastime. Best part of this delightful story from this delightful publication: When this paper used to give free beach balls to any kid who could convince the adult in their life to buy a two-month L.A. Times subscription. Maybe that’ll get us more subscribers than a buck for six months? Mel Magazine


Will California churches build affordable housing ‘In God’s backyard’? A legislative move to entice houses of worship to develop their land holdings (Proverbs 3:33, folks). Sojourners

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California taxed millionaires to fix its mental health crisis. Why it’s fallen so short. $29 billion in total since voters approved the tax in 2004. And ... nada. Los Angeles Times

Brooke Jenkins in as San Francisco D.A. A Q&A between Chesa Boudin’s replacement and libertarian-ish writer Nancy Rommelmann. Make More Pie

Here’s how you can be part of Long Beach’s budget process. No more city monies on defunct Soviet subs, you know? Long Beach Post

Faith leaders urge Sacramento to stop towing vehicles used as shelter by homeless people. Next time your woke friends try to tell you Kevin de León is some heartless anti-homeless monster, tell them to drive up to Cow Town. CapRadio



She promised babies at bargain prices using surrogates in Mexico. Now the FBI is investigating. San Diego resident Lilly Frost kept her operation going even as mounting failures made clear that her business plan was too good to be true. Los Angeles Times

La Luz del Mundo dissidents pressure authorities, seek more charges against ‘apostle.’ The Mexico-based evangelical megachurch’s leader, Naason Joaquin Garcia, has pleaded guilty to three criminal counts of sex abuse in exchange for a reduced sentence of nearly 17 years in prison. Survivors say that’s not enough. Los Angeles Times

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Firefighters continue the battle against a blaze threatening giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park. May I not have to devote a newsletter this week to the developing calamity ... Los Angeles Times

Sequoia tree near fire
A firefighter protects a sequoia tree as the Washburn fire burns in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park on Friday.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Monkeypox spreads in L.A. County, but vaccine shortage persists. What to know. Coronavirus says: Hold my Paxlovid. Los Angeles Times


Meet the mother of the Gazebo, one of the internet’s first trans safe spaces. More than the co-founder of Trans Day of Remembrance, Bay Area resident Gwendolyn Ann Smith also created one of the internet’s earliest havens of trans affirmation. Them.


Eastside Dreams: Highlighting the history of East San Jose. An exhibit at the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library examines the history of San Jose’s historic Latino neighborhood. San José Spotlight

Once a symbol of binational unity, Friendship Park could close to cross-border reunions forever. Migra will always migra, but can’t blame this one on Trump, Dems. Los Angeles Times

“How the hell can Walt run a studio without us?”: Behind the Disney animation revolt of 1941. An excerpt from a new book about the time the Mouse turned into a Pinkerton. Hollywood Reporter

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Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 82. San Diego: mostly sunny, 71. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 67. San Jose: sunny, 89. Fresno: sunny, 107. Sacramento: sunny, 103.


Today’s California memory is from Cyn Taibbi:

It was the summer of 1966. The plan? Visit cousins in Costa Mesa. Starting point? Boston, Massachusetts. We were mom, dad and three kids under 12, squeezed into a ‘64 Ford with no air conditioning. After nearly five days on the road, when we finally reached the California border in Needles, my mother had an ingenious idea to help beat the heat. My dad bought an enormous bag of ice at a convenience store, and with windows wide open, we drove through the desert rationing ice cubes. One for each of us every 15 minutes. It worked!


If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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