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Mallory Yu is an assistant producer. She came to NPR as an intern for the arts desk in 2012, then became a production assistant where she cut her teeth mixing arts and culture pieces. In addition to working on the show’s coverage of daily news, she’s doing her best to bring her love of nerdy pop culture to All Things Considered.

In New Smyrna Beach, Fla., the petition drive to save Kmart hit a standstill last week when organizers failed to gain the support of the city commission and mayor, even though roughly 6,000 people had signed on. While there is a brand new Super Walmart a few miles away, unlike Kmart, that store isn’t accessible by public transportation. Some worry that those who don’t have cars will be out of luck once Kmart is gone.

It is precisely thefamiliarity of the tune and the simplicity of thechorusthat gives the song its universal meaning, according to aficionados of Mexican music.”It’s both a lament and a cry for joy,” saysLeticia Soto Flores, the founding director of one of Mexico’s first schools dedicated to mariachi music.And some say the song is perhaps more important now than ever. As the country faces a surging murder rate, corruptionand a tense relationship with theUnited States under President Trump,Mexicans are craving symbols of national identity,said Alejandro Madrid, a musicologist at Cornell University who is originally from Mexico.”Mexicans are trying to latch onto anything that actually creates a sense of unity,” Madrid said.All the more remarkable, then, that it was originally just a love songwritten some 130 years ago as a simple serenade for CatalinaMartnez, the wife of its composer, Quirino Mendoza Corts.Mendoza Corts worked as a music teacher and a church organist, according to a 1977 biography bySergio Espinosa Cordero.”Inspired by his idyllic feeling when looking in the distance at Popocatpetl and Iztacchuatl,” two volcanoes in Mexico, the composer “recalls the sweet legend of his love affairs, the image of the bride and the sweet vision of the virgin,” writes Espinosa Cordero.The song’s verses include references to “a pair of black eyes” and “that mole you have, pretty sweet one, next to your mouth.”Other lyrics in the song have sparked a debate over whether the song’s origins, or at least the composer’s inspiration, might have been drawn from Spain, not Mexico. For example, the song references the “Sierra Morena,” a mountain range in Spain.One of the firstphonograph recordings of “Cielito Lindo” is believed to have been in 1919, performed by three men with guitars, Soto Flores said.

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