MEXICO CITY -- The titles of her songs speak volumes: Wicked Men, Low Blow, Pure Pain and Hypocrite.
Then there's her mega hit: Two-Legged Rat.
Rife with tales of abusive husbands, impotent lovers and cheating boyfriends, these lyrics have made Francisca Viveros Barradas -- better known as Paquita la del Barrio -- much more than an artist. She has become a sociological phenomenon.
Paquita is an idol to millions of women in Latin America, the United States and Spain, but also an object of scorn, even hatred, to as many men.
''I am defending women. It is very important. I am a woman. I speak of my experiences,'' Paquita said in a recent interview with The Miami Herald.
''We Mexicans have this machismo situation. Women are always hurt by what men do to them,'' she added. ``I don't sing what others sing. I sing the truth, even if the gentlemen don't like it.''
Paquita, born 61 years ago in Alto Lucero, state of Veracruz, Mexico, picked up the torch for all women who have known the pain of love gone wrong early in her career. Her themes not only explode with feminine rage, but also poke fun at the inadequate lovemaking and the insufficient heft of virile attributes of various partners. Her message does not stay at the level of lament. Instead, the passive suffering is replaced by forceful anger and the promise of female revenge and survival beyond humiliation.
David Foster, Regents' professor of Spanish and Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University, has written a paper analyzing the qualities that set Paquita apart. Paquita's songs, Foster said, go beyond mere love stories to capture a harsh social reality.
``There is a strong tradition of romantic ballads in Mexico that sings about the glories of romantic love. Paquita cuts right through that to tell you that most of the time you are just going to get the dregs and a woman has to learn to deal with it. In her case it means `get the bum out'.
''This is a very feminist principle,'' he added.
HERE SHE COMES
Miami audiences will get a chance to listen to Paquita Oct. 18 when she debuts at the American Airlines Arena as the opening act for Mexican star Vicente Fernández.
Five of her albums have sold more than 100,000 copies. In a performance two years ago in the Zócalo, Mexico City's central plaza, she drew a crowd of 130,000.
A month ago, Paquita released her 30th album. In the lead song, Women Rule, she urges women to break free of the indignities brought on by a male-dominated society.
Paquita's own story could be fodder for one of her songs. She eloped at 15 with 44-year old Miguel Magaña, only to learn when she was pregnant with their first child that Magaña had another family.
The union lasted seven years and produced two sons. As Paquita tells it, when she ran into Magaña a few years after leaving him, all she could wonder was: ``Is this what I fell in love with?''
Paquita and her sister Viola came to Mexico City in 1970 to try their fortune. When the duet broke up, Paquita retired for a few years. She bought a lot on Zarco 202, in the heart of Colonia Guerrero, a working class district of Mexico City, and built a restaurant and performance hall where she cooked for the clientele. The business is closed as Paquita plans her next moves, but she still keeps an apartment on the floor above.
The place is decorated with Liberace-style accents, including hyper-ornate crystal chandeliers and a collection of Rococo china figurines. A family of steel tigers is arranged on the tile floor in the living room, and a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe hangs in one of the bedrooms, alongside a portrait of a mermaid that strongly resembles Paquita.