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YuMex or Yu-Mex: Mexican music in fifties Yugoslavia

For me, everything started with the cover of the gramophone record I found at the local flea market:

Milić Ljubomir and Paloma: Divorce

I realized that I keep on seeing this kind of records all over flea markets of ex Yugoslav countries; Serbs, Montenegrins, Croats and Macedonians dressed in fake Mexican costumes singing sometimes in Spanish but mostly in their own languages about the beautiful country of Mexico where, no doubt, they have never been to. The records were made in the years of communist regime and even closed borders.

Miroslava Mrđa and Paloma: Why Do I Have to Love You

At first, nothing …

Then, people start remembering. Everybody of certain age remembered their parents being fans of this kind of music and to be a rocker in Yugoslavia meant to hate it. A owner of a night club from Sweden wrote me that when they’re totally drunk and closing time is getting near, customers from ex Yugoslav countries start singing Mexican songs. Small patches of information started coming together.

Pleas started arriving: “My father is dying and he wishes to hear that song from that film again. Do you have it?”

What song? What film?

At the same time, my imagination started constructing a story, set in the times of the hardest state terror when people can’t do anything except escape into the promised land, totally made in their imagination: Yugoslav Mexico.
A story, set in the land of commissars, soldiers and agents where singing guys in fake Mexican dresses suddenly appear.

So, I wrote a novel called Paloma Negra (read more about it).

When doing a research for the novel Paloma Negra, I talked with YuMex singers and realized that their stories must be documented, so I made a TV documentary called YuMex – Yugoslav Mexico (read more about it).

Finally, the story about Yugoslav Mexico

In 1948, the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito (May 7, 1892 – May 4, 1980) broke up with the Soviet leader Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin (Dec. 21, 1879 – March 5, 1953). Yugoslavia was suddenly between the two blocks (in the making). Tito’s regime imprisoned many Soviet sympathizers (real or just suspected). Russian films were not so popular anymore.

Yugoslav authorities had to look somewhere else for film entertainment. They found a suitable country in Mexico: it was far away, the chances of Mexican tanks appearing on Yugoslav borders were slight and, best of all, in Mexican films they always talked about revolution in the highest terms. How could an average moviegoer know that it was not the Yugoslav revolution?

Emilio Fernández’s Un Día de vida (1950) became so immensely popular that the old people in the former republics of Yugoslavia even today regard it as surely one of the most well known films in the world ever made although in truth it is probably unknown in every other country, even Mexican web pages don’t mention it much.

The Mexican influence spread to all of the popular culture: fake Mexican bands were forming and their records still can be found at the flea markets nowadays.

Take a stroll through the gallery of record covers; if you have time just for one of them, try this one. For those in a hurry: Mama Huanita was a song every mother loved to hear on the radio for her birthday. Ay …. Chabela the dance bands still sing in the hotels all over former YU countries. The most charming Mexicans were  Nikola Karović and Slavko Perović; while the most determined was Ljubomir Milić (with his whole family). Ana Milosavljević was the queen and the dark voice of  Nevenka Arsova her first companion.

This is a small homage to hundreds of performers who covered themselves with sombreros to become Slavic Mexicans.

Yu-Mex: Gallery of record covers

Milić Ljubomir and Paloma: Divorce

My wife is talking all the time
how I just drift around
and don’t care about her
that I come home at the dawn

What can I do
when beautiful women are after me all the time
and at least one
is pulling me by the shoulder

Every morning when I return home
my wife bables to the evening
Oh, enough!
I’ll apply for divorce!

Paloma: Let Me Suffer If I Love Her

May I hug you?
Sorry – so young and already married!
What can I do but return to my woman
let me suffer if i love her.

Rade Marić and Slavko Perović: When You Hear the Trumpet

Divna Gvadalahara
Wonderful Guadalahara
I sing for you now
because you’re my second home.

Ana Milosavljević: Holidays in Mexico

I will get on my knees if I have to
I will beg you devoid of shame
Go to her if you have to
but as long as I live
you will be in my broken heart.

Trio Paloma: Granada

Sing guitar
sing the song of the dawn
la la la la la la la
I was born to be silent
on the day I’m still suffering for
la la la la la la la
man is born to suffer and to be silent
la la la la la la la

Palome: My Life is so Bitter Mother

My life is so bitter mother
because you’re gone.
Now I know you gone
I’ll be sad for ever.
Everyday I sing a song you loved
because there is not a person in the world
as good as you were.
I carry your photo with me all the time
because it’s all that I have
now that I don’t have you.

Paloma: Ay …. Chabela

I drink from the cup of bitter tears
I drink for our love and happiness
you’re running away like my tears
I still can see your hands waving
Ay, ay, ay, ay!!!

Miroslava Mrđa and Paloma: Why Do I Have to Love You

Kao neka tiha reka
Like a quiet river
my days are passing
and my sad eyes
just tears come to visit.

Milić Ljubomir with Paloma: Who the women think they are/I believe in the predictions of coffee

I hope I can find
the one that I want
because I’m well known
I’m idol in my village
there isn’t a bad season for me
because every woman yearns for me.

You know you’re not ugly
give me some happiness.
I think you could be happy
if you come out of hiding.

Is it possible that
I can’t find the one I want
now I’m calling anybody
to give her my love
let her come any way
so I won’t have to leave the hard way!

Paloma: Lonely boy

I love women, black and blonde
I love old ones, I love young ones
and if I’m without them
I’m sad.

Trio Paloma: Granada

Ana Milosavljević: The end of love

Posle druge čaše
dAfter second glass
you came to sing to me
and confess your feelings
while gently playing the guitar.
Yes, tequila is the drink worth the money
it should be drunk by the people who are not gifted for love.

Trio Paloma: Ave Marija

Kvartet Paloma: Song for mother

Trio Tividi: Ay, Jalisco

Let your attentive eyes
always shine with this warm glow.
and let this greeting be
just for you mama Juanita!

Nevenka Arsova: Paloma negra

Carbine you old gun
tell about your glorious days
all heroes remember you
many of them carrying the wound you gave them.

If somebody wanted my hot blood,
I would shed it gladly!

Tenori: My hat my sorrow

My Mexican hat
is the biggest in the world.
When I’m walking below it
I know I’m very handsome.
And every tries to
touch my hat,
because it brings her luck,
that’s what people think!

My hat is beautiful!
My hat is beautiful!
I’m giant with it!
My hat is beautiful!
Without it my life is colorless.

I gave my last peso
for it
while I walked the fair
on Sunday with her
and I paid a couple of glasses
for my friends
because I knew this hat will break everything!

Manjifiko: Tenori – El Dorado

The piece of bread on the table
a goblet of fresh water only
if you want to love me
come alone
all this will be yours
one day, one day …

Slavko Perović: I’m selling black eyes

Milić Ljubomir: Don’t get married

Trio Tividi: At their best

Trio Tenori: Bala perdida

Predrag Gojković: Mama Huanita

Slavko Perović: Carbine song

I’m the real Mexican
the pride of my community
I’m loved where ever I go
… I have the horse and sombrero
I love the song of my heart
all the nights belong to me
because that’s the way I live!

Slavko Perović: The Cup Of Bitter Tears

I gave you my life my darling
I gave you all of my days
and I never, never realized
how much my heart loves you!

Slavko Perović: Marika

Nevenka Arsova: Brave Torero

Đorđe Masalović: Good Friends

Milić Ljubomir: If Only You Were Mine

Nikola Karović: Sad Mexican Girl

Nikola Karović: Wonderful Mexico