UCLA has launched the Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican-American Recordings, which contains about 41,000 recordings made between 1905 and 1955. If you’re on the UCLA campus or a UCLA student, you’ll be able to stream entire songs, but if you’re a Web visitor you’ll be able to stream only 50-second snippets. The archive is available at http://digital.library.ucla.edu/frontera/ .
As you might expect, you can search in either Spanish or English with this archive. You can also browse by the start of song names or by subject — everything from Abuse to Xenophobia. I did a simple keyword search for dance and got 101 results. (If the basic keyword search isn’t doing you any good, try the advanced search which allows you to do up to four fields’ worth of searching at a time.) Results are presented six to a page with a picture of the center of the recorded record, the titles, and links to play snippets or full versions (if you’re UCLA-affiliated.) If you click on the image you’ll get a larger image and details of the record, including relevant subjects, artists, and sometimes a summary of the song. (“This corrido is about the death of Lucio Vazquez who was killed at a dance by his rival…”)
The song snippets are in RealAudio. I could not get them to play. I tried two different browsers and any number of plugins and addons, but I could not get any audio out of this site. I was going to skip the writeup entirely and then I thought, “It might be just me” so I’m presenting it anyway with the caveat that I could not figure out how to get audio out of this audio archive…
In summary: Huge amount of material, being able to browse by title AND subject AND do two types of searching was excellent, I’m just sorry I couldn’t get the actual audio to play.