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My car seems to bring up many musical memories. I wrote earlier about the song that makes me sing out loud and act like a human bobblehead every time it comes on the car stereo. Today, a song I detest came on as I was driving, bringing back fond memories of my two years in Mexico. That made me reflect on the string of often-mediocre songs that have become my musical memory of countries who can’t always even be blamed for the music.

The entire time I was in France on a one-month exchange in high school, a 14-year-old Vanessa Paradis (that’s almost-Mrs. Johnny Depp to you now) was on top of the charts with Joe le Taxi. At least she is, in fact, French. And so very, very 80s in this video:

When I was in Peru, Manu Chao’s music was everywhere. He is French and Spanish, but something of a Latin American hero, a musical Che Guevara:

On that same trip to the Andes, we heard a familiar melody several times. Our guide in Bolivia assured us that it wasn’t a region populated with Simon and Garfunkel fans, but rather Paul Simon had used a South American melody set to English words for El Condor Pasa (If I Could). That song never fails to bring my Bolivian adventure to mind:

Poor Mexico drew the short straw in this musical memory tour, with the song that inspired this reflection. When I first arrived in 2000, Bolivian group Azul Azul’s smash hit La Bomba was everywhere – blaring in buses, stores, bars, homes. Everywhere. All the time. And this is the song, much as I hate it, that conjures so many fond memories of Mexico, a country that should not be blamed for its existence: