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Ranchera Legend Pepe Aguilar Is the Mexican Man We Need Right Now

Mexican malehood has been in crisis mode for decades now. Time was when the country urged its young hombres to live by the moral code of the charro, the virile archetype of honor, courage, a sombrero and a fabulous mustache. Like Zapata, he's the brown knight on horseback, defender of Mexicans from invaders and all evil while doing so with dignity: machismo at its most chivalric.

The charro is the manifestation of mexicanidad that the country broadcast to the world for decades via song and film, but it now has as much relevancy to modern-day Mexicans as Tom Mix has to gabachos. Because over the past two decades, a far more sinister national avatar has emerged: The narco, the person for whom honor is only found at the tip of a cuerno de chivo, who pledges loyalty not to the Virgin of Guadalupe and country, but to cartels and ultraviolence. Whereas the narco's ancestor, the bandito, was ostracized in popular culture, the narco is now hero, a reflection of Mexico's chaos and an aspirational figure now that the charros have gone the way of El Tri's chances of winning the World Cup.

But keeping the charro flame alive is Pepe Aguilar. For here is a man who is of Mexican royalty: Son of ranchera superstars Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans of Mexico known as much for their wholesome image as for their music, films and road shows. "My father and I shared respect for tradition, but not just the musical ones," he's quoted as saying in the program notes for his residency at the Segerstrom this weekend. "Also the traditions of family, of history, of certain forms and ways of being that we find indispensable."

Who speaks like that anymore?