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¡El que no brinque es migra!

By Javier Huerta

My first creative attempts as a child were narcocorridos. Influenced by movies and songs like La Banda del Carro Rojo, my friends, cousins, brothers, and I played “narcotraficantes,” a game that always ended in the heroic tragic death of the narcos. As we lay on the ground, I composed corridos that narrated the events of our role-play. My father made it his goal in life to become notorious enough to have a narcocorrido written about him, preferably by Los Cadetes de Linares. His exploits didn’t land him a song; no, they landed him in a Jalisco prison for the last two decades. Perhaps the desire to write that song for my father is what drove me to write poetry in the first place. With the special role that the corrido has played in my life, you can understand why when my friend Oscar Bermeo alerted me to the news that the Border Patrol is now in the business of producing corridos I felt as if something essential had been stolen from me.



For nearly a century, the agency’s mission has focused on flexing its law enforcement muscle to halt illegal border incursions, but over the past decade, it has conducted a softer, lesser-known campaign to dissuade migrants from trying to cross in the first place.
The “Border Safety Initiative” created new units of medically trained agents, now totaling 212 who are spread along the Mexican border, assigned to search-and-rescue missions for stranded immigrants, particularly in the deadly Arizona desert.
The BSI campaign ushered a series of public service announcements dubbed “No Mas Cruces,” which means both “No More Crossings” and “No More Crosses” meant to make people think twice before heading north.
The effort has paid off, Lee noted, pointing to the steady decline in crossing deaths from a record high of 492 in 2005 to 390 last year.
The migra corridos are the latest version of these ads, though you wouldn’t know by looking at the CD jacket that it’s paid for by the U.S. Border Patrol.
The funding source was kept secret because the agency feared losing Mexican listeners if they discovered la migra was behind the message.
The songs are of harrowing border-crossing stories, from Rafael and Abelardo’s failed desert trek to a mother raped and beaten by a smuggler who then kills her 6-year-old daughter, and another of a migrant suffocating to death in an airtight tractor-trailer.


There seems to be a feeling that the “Migra Corridos” have nothing aesthetically pleasing about them. You can hear the songs for yourself here. Some of the lyrics (translated):
To cross the border
He put me in a trailer box
There I shared my suffering
With another 40 immigrants
I was never told
This was a trip to hell.
A crucial element of the corrido form is that it is written by the community for the community. The Border Patrol does not want its name on the 5-song CD because it knows the community would reject these songs as false corridos. We are told that this farce is for our own good, for our education. As if that immigrant taking his first step to El Norte is not already aware of the dangers; as if somehow a fucking song would change his situation. What hurts is that they’re not only stealing our traditions but also our tragedies.
When I discovered the anonymous immigration corridos from the 1920s, “El Deportado” and “El Lavaplatos,” I decided that if I were going to write corridos it would be in this tradition. So recently I’ve been working on “El Corrido de Apolinar Esquivel,” which is to be played on my friend Alejandro’s out-of-tune accordion and sung by my friend Jorge with his out-of-tune voice.
I leave you with a real corrido, “El Deportado”/”The Deportee”:
Voy a cantarles, señores,
Voy a cantarles, señores,
Todo lo que yo sufrí,
Desde que dejé mi patria,
Desde que dejé mi patria.
Por venir a este país.
Serían las diez de la noche,
Serían las diez de la noche,
Comenzó un tren a silbar.
Oí que dijo mi madre,
“Ahí viene ese tren ingrato
Que a mi hijo se va a llevar.”
“Adiós mi madre querida,
Adiós mi madre querida,
Echame su benedición.
Yo me voy al extranjero,
Yo me voy al extranjero,
Donde no hay revolución.”
Corre, corre maquinita,
Corre, corre maquinita,
Vámonos de la estación.
No quiero ver a mi madre
Llorar por su hijo querido,
Por su hijo del corazón.
Al fin sonó la campana,
Al fin sonó la campana,
Dos silbidos pegó el tren.
“No lloren, mis compañeros,
No lloren, mis compañeros,
Que me hacen llorar también.”
Pasamos pronto Jalisco,
Pasamos pronto Jalisco,
Ay qué fuerte corría el tren.
La Piedad, luego Irapuato,
Silado luego La Chona,
Y Aguas Calientes también.
Al recodar estas horas,
Al recodar estas horas,
Me palpita el corazón.
Cuando divisé a lo lejos,
Cuando divisé a lo lejos
A ese mentado Torreón.
Cuando Chihuahua pasamos,
Cuando Chihuahua pasamos
Se notó gran confusion.
Los empleados de la aduana,
Los empleados de la aduana,
Que pasaban revision.
Llegamos por fin a Juárez,
Llegamos por fin a Juárez,
Y allí fué mi apuración.
“Que’ onde vas que de’ onde vienes?
Que cuánto dinero tienes
Para entrar a esta nación?”
“Señores, traigo dinero,
Señores, traigo dinero
Para poder emigrar.”
“Tu dinero nada vale,
Tu dinero nada vale,
Te tenemos que bañar.”
Ay, mis paisanos queridos,
Ay, mis paisanos queridos,
Yo les platico no más.
Que me estaban dando ganas,
Que me estaban dando ganas,
De volverme para atrás.
Crucé por fin la frontera,
Crucé por fin la frontera,
Y en un renganche salí.
Ay, mis queridos paisanos,
Ay, mis queridos paisanos,
Fue mucho lo que sufrí.
Los gueros son muy maloras,
Los gueros son muy maloras,
Se valen de la occasion.
Y a todos los mexicanos,
Y a todos los mexicanos,
Los tratan sin compassion.
Ahí traen la gran polvadera,
Ahí traen la gran polvadera,
Y sin consideración,
Mujeros, niños y ancianos
Los llevan a la frontera.
Nos hechan de esta nación.
Adiós, paisanos queridos,
Adiós, paisanos queridos,
Ya nos van a deportar.
Pero no somos bandidos,
Pero no somos bandidos,
Venimos a camellar.
Los espero allá en mi tierra,
Los espero allá en mi tierra,
Ya no hay más revolución.
Vámonos, cuates queridos,
Seremos bien recibidos
De nuestra bella nación.
I’m going to sing to you, gentlemen,
I’m going to sing to you, gentlemen,
All about my sufferings,
Since I left my country,
Since I left my country
To come to this nation.
It must have been about ten at night,
It must have been about ten at night,
The train began to whistle.
I heard my mother say,
“There comes that ungrateful train
That is going to take my son away.”
“Good-bye my beloved mother,
Good-bye my beloved mother,
Give me your blessings,
I am going abroad,
I am going abroad,
Where there is no revolution.”
Run, run, little train,
Run, run, little train,
Let’s leave the station
I don’t want to see my mother
Cry for her beloved son,
For the son of her heart.
Finally the bell rang,
Finally the bell rang,
The train whistled twice.
“Don’t cry, my buddies,
Don’t cry, my buddies,
For you’ll make me cry as well.”
Right away we passed Jalisco,
Right away we passed Jalisco,
My, how fast the train ran.
La Piedad, then Irapuato,
Silado, then La Chona,
And Aguas Calientes as well.
When I remember these hours,
When I remember these hours,
My heart beats fast.
When I saw from afar
When I saw from afar
That infamous city of Torreon.
When we passed Chihuahua,
When we passed Chihuahua,
We noticed great confusion,
The employees from the customhouse,
The employees from the customhouse.
Who were conducting inspections.
We arrived at Juarez at last,
We arrived at Juarez at last,
There I ran into trouble.
“Where are you going, where do you come from?
How much money do you have
To enter this nation?”
“Gentlemen, I have money,
Gentlemen, I have money
So that I can emigrate.”
“Your money isn’t worth anything,
Your money isn’t worth anything,
We have to bathe you.”
Oh, my beloved countrymen,
Oh, my beloved countrymen,
This is idle conversation.
They were making me feel,
They were making me feel,
Like going right back.
At last I crossed the border,
At last I crossed the border,
And left on a contract.
Oh my beloved countrymen,
Oh my beloved countrymen,
I suffered a lot.
The white skinned men are very wicked,
The white skinned men are very wicked,
They take advantage of the occasion.
And all the Mexicans,
And all the Mexicans,
Are treated without compassion.
There comes a large cloud of dust,
There comes a large cloud of dust,
With no consideration,
Women, children, and old ones,
Are being driven to the border.
We are being kicked out of this country.
Goodbye, beloved countrymen,
Goodbye, beloved countrymen,
We are being deported.
But we are not bandits,
But we are not bandits,
We came to work like beasts.
I will wait for you in my homeland,
I will wait for you in my homeland,
There is no more revolution.
Let’s leave, my dear friends,
We will be welcomed
By our beautiful nation.
[translation, Manuel A. Tellechea]

Comments (2)

  • On February 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm Ryan wrote:

    I love the juxtaposition of “corre maquinita” in relation to border crossings, as if saying to the body, “run machine, run.”

  • On February 5, 2009 at 10:45 pm Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Gracias, Javier. Estarås en Chicago la semana que viene?


Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 by Javier Huerta.