Superman Meets His Match: Los Hermanos Ortiz

By Jerry Kammer, April 28, 2011

The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that the latest edition of the Superman comics series has the superhero renouncing his American citizenship, declaring he is "tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy."

But in the world of Spanish-language corridos, the ballads that give voice to the experience of illegal immigrants, Superman's citizenship has long been in doubt. That is mostly due to the group known as "Los Hermanos Ortiz," the Ortiz Brothers, in the catchy and clever "Superman Es Ilegal".

By turns funny and poignant, it claims that Superman has no authorization to fly and probably doesn't even pay his social security taxes.

The story begins with a variation of the famous trio of cries from the dazzled citizens in the street: "It's a bird! It's a plane. It's Superman!" But here the final observation is a deflating admonition: "No, hombre, es un mojado." Superman is a wetback.

The ballad continues with this account, driven by a bouncy, norteno beat. "He came from the sky and not by plane. He came from Krypton in his ship. And from the looks of it, he isn't American, just another undocumented like me. So, Immigration man, he shouldn't work. Though it hurts to say it, Superman is illegal."

Michelle Mittelstadt, the accomplished former immigration reporter who is now with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, sent me this comment after I told her about the song: "Perhaps this will spawn an 'earther' movement to challenge Superman's terrestrial credentials." I advised Michelle to consult a copyright attorney, pronto.