Calle 13 – “Pa’l Norte”
Puerto Rican rapper Calle 13 takes on a rebellious and positive approach to the experience of many immigrants. Highlighting the strength and resilience of people looking for a better life, the lyrics state: “Being an immigrant, that is my sport. Today I go up north without a passport without transport. On foot.” The music video heavily centers on immigrants who have to cross the desert, walking for long hours. The lyrics also reference the Catholic faith with the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Mexican people adopted “Santo Toribio” as the immigrant saint for border crossers.
Los Tigres del Norte – “Tres Veces Mojado”
The Mexican norteño group dedicates this song to immigrants who have to cross three borders, from El Salvador to Guatemala, Mexico, and finally the U.S. It tells the story of an immigrant leaving El Salvador given the corrupt political and economic situation, as the song says, “For many there’s no other solution than to leave their country.” The word “mojado,” which translates to “wetback,” is a derogatory term for undocumented immigrants that refers to the multiple rivers they had to cross.
Manu Chao – “Clandestino”
The bohemian lyrical tone from the French-Spanish musician Manu Chao tells the story of a clandestine immigrant “lost in the grand Babylon,” as the lyrics describe, giving the protagonist a wanderer-like feeling to the song. His background story is said in one line of the song: “My life, I left it between Ceuta and Gibraltar.” The line is a metaphor of the dual or “in-between” state of mind many immigrants experience. It is also referencing two cities in Morocco and Spain which are regions divided by the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans where a lot of undocumented immigration occurs. From Ceuta and other African countries, many immigrate north to Gibraltar, Spain and the rest of Europe.
La Santa Cecilia – “El Hielo (ICE)”
In this song, La Santa Cecilia references the Immigrant Customs Enforcement Agency of the U.S. and portrays it as a dark entity loose on the streets. The band sings of characters Jose, Eva, and Marta as they go about their day while fearful of not returning back home for simply going to work, driving, or going to school. The final line of the song, “One stays here, one stays over there,” captures the separation of families by ICE, when parents are undocumented but their children are citizens.
Molotov – “Frijolero”
Mexican rap rock band Molotov takes on another popular derogatory term to highlight the violence, racism and political issues between Mexico and the United States. The song combines norteño music and the western “cowboy” mood, showing that the two are very similar cultures. Drummer Randy Ebright, who is from the United States, was inspired to write this song after an incident in an American airport. TSA agents tried to check his daughter’s diaper for drugs simply because she had Mexican traits and was with Ebright, who is Anglo-Saxon.