The US Government Is Trying to Use Music to Hold Back Illegal Immigration

The flood of illegal immigrants across the US’s southern borders has been called the Obama administration’s “Katrina moment”–or worse. Maybe it’s because they’re not using the right music.

The US Customs and Border Patrol has seeded Mexican and Central American radio stations with specially-commissioned songs with messages designed to deter people from heading north.  One of those songs is “La Bestia,” which is about a highly dangerous freight train that many hop for the ride north.  The Daily Beast takes a look:

“Migrants from everywhere, entrenched along the rail ties. Far away from where they come, further away from where they go,” singer Eddie Ganz croons in Spanish over the Caribbean beat of the marimba, a wooden xylophone-like instrument from Guatemala. “They call her the Beast from the South, this wretched train of death. With the devil in the boiler, whistles, roars, twists and turns.”

People throughout Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador call their local radio stations to request this song, a harrowing tale of violence and death set against the backdrop of Central America’s traditionally upbeat cumbia music. “La Bestia,” or “The Beast” refers to the notoriously dangerous freight train upon which thousands of migrants ride from Southern Mexico, risking robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder just to make it to the U.S. border. It’s a familiar tale told by an expected source. In fact, the popularity of “La Bestia” owes itself in large part to the fact that its audience is not aware of its origins. The song, and others like it, are part of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection campaign to deterring illegal immigration to the United States.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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