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The Weaponization of Corrido’s by Homeland Security: The Enforcement of Traditional Gender Roles

Updated: Mar 8


By Ashley Merchant


This blog post reflects the opinions of the contributor(s). It is part of an ongoing capstone project with CLAS at Georgetown University, which examines Migra "Corridos."


Background: This song is a Migra “Corrido" produced by the U.S Customs Border Protection Agency as part of a campaign called the “Border Safety Initiative.” This initiative was developed in 2008 to discourage Mexican migrants from illegally crossing the border into the United States. Consequently, an album and YouTube channel named “NoMasCruces” was created that featured official lyric videos synchronized with tracks from the album. Within this channel, interviews and testimonies were also produced, featuring children, women, and men of diverse ages. It is important to highlight that throughout the series of interviews, the identity of the interviewer is undisclosed. The videos portray individuals with brown skin whose faces are twisted in pain as they are forced to reflect on the loss of their loved ones or their journey to the United States. The background is also visible to viewers, from the brick-chipped walls, unfinished floors, and incomplete staircases. This leads me to surmise that these are individuals from humble backgrounds. Every individual also featured in these videos is a person of color. They all share a brown complexion, and a dark hair color, and speak Spanish. There are also multiple references to nature throughout the videos, from a waterfall to the hot desert. Interviewees make references to the unforgivable nature of the desert from its rough terrain to its sweltering heat, establishing nature as the main enemy of a migrant. The video also emphasizes how coyotes are criminals who cannot be trusted. This is established by referencing one of America’s deadliest smuggling incidents that took place in Victoria, Texas, in 2003 when 19 immigrants were abandoned to die in a truck.


                                                                                   

Viuda me dejó ese desierto 

E hizo de mi vientre una tumba,

de mis ojos dos mares con olas

que incansable rompen con saña en tu memoria.

 

In “No Hay Hombres,” the first-person singular describes her pain as a woman who has just lost her husband and son. Because these songs were produced anonymously, we don’t know whether the speaker is actually a woman or not.  She declares the desert as the culprit who killed her husband, a human body that could not withstand its wrath and elemental forces. In fact, the desert possesses a wrath so powerful that it was able to kill the child she carried in her womb from thousands of miles away. In addition, the desert’s expansive temporal power is so great and so profound that it penetrates every beautiful memory she shares with him. While this stanza ostensibly depicts the clash between man and nature, it actually places woman against nature in its specific identification of reproductive damage. Here, nature emerges victorious in the end.

           

The anonymous writer focuses on nature as the culprit instead of identifying political instability, poverty, or lack of employment opportunities as reasons why her husband left. Therefore, this is a strategy for removing culpability from governments or different powerful players responsible for migration.

 

At the same time, isn’t migration itself a natural phenomenon? Isn’t the pursuit of freedom and hope part of a broader natural flow of human movement? According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), individuals from all over the world decide to cross the Mexican-American border, which is considered to be the deadliest land migration route. People do this to seek refuge from political instability, gender-based violence, political persecution, the effects of climate change, and a lack of employment opportunities.

 

While we know that people migrate for many urgent reasons, the speaker criticizes her husband for migrating in vain or without reason.

 

¡Qué necedad de buscar lo que no has perdido!

¿Poe qué aceptaste convertirte en presa de coyotes de dos y cuatro patas?

¿Qué te hicieron amor, esas serpientes con tatuajes en la cara?

 

In this stanza, even though the speaker refers to one situation, the song implicitly rebukes and ignores the millions of migrants forced to leave their homeland in search of more. 

The speaker also highlights the power imbalance between the coyote and the migrants. This is done by referring to migrants as prisoners, immigrants who are trapped and at the mercy of the coyote, who is often characterized as a trickster. The purpose of this stanza is also to instill doubt and fear in migrants who are hoping to cross the border with the help of a coyote. He wants the migrants to ask themselves, Can I put my life in the hands of someone I don’t know? The objective of the last line in this stanza is to further highlight coyotes as criminals, for the listener to ask themselves can I trust someone with facial tattoos to lead me on this journey and believe when they tell me they won’t leave me to die? The song paints coyotes as criminals. In this stanza, it also refers to the coyote as a serpent. Reptiles are usually associated with slyness and hidden, unfriendly intentions.

 

En este pueblo no hay hombres,

todos partieron p’al norte.

Abandonaron casa y parcela

Y en el camino plantaron huérfanos,

viudas y deudas.

 

En cuanto se despiertan las niñas

“Los buenos dias” me dan con un

“¿y papi aun no ha vuelto?”

“Pronto regresará,” yo les miento

y lo repito queriendo creerlo.

 

In the third stanza of this song, the speaker reflects on how all the men in her village have left to migrate to the United States. By doing so they abandoned their responsibilities. They left their families to fend for themselves by abandoning their roles as husbands, fathers, and providers. On the fields these men once worked on to be able to feed their families, they have now left nothing but orphans, widows, and debts. The act of sowing is one that is done with patience, dedication, and hard work. In this stanza, the saying “What you sow is what you reap” comes to mind. The men who have chosen to leave have sowed strife and sorrow. The speaker carefully depicts migrants as cowards and unfit husbands and fathers, thus questioning their masculine identity.

 

In the following stanza, the speaker describes a scene of a young girl asking for her father and a mother who appeases her child with comforting words by saying that her father will soon return to them. It is important to highlight that the one inquiring with great desperation is a female, not a male. The speaker is able to emphasize the intensity of the yearning this child feels for her father’s presence in her life by portraying a girl who goes to sleep hoping to see her father the minute she opens her eyes to face the new day. Her greeting to her mother is always accompanied with a question about her father’s whereabouts. The purpose of this is for listeners to reach the conclusion that a young girl needs her father, and simultaneously place in doubt the character of any father who would leave. After all, what kind of father can leave his daughter behind? What if something bad happens to her? This stanza represents the fear of a young girl sexually maturing and not having her father to protect her. Thus, instilling fear regarding the future of a girl and her need for a male parent is the purpose of this stanza.

 

On the receiving end of these daily questions is a grieving mother who has to tell her daughter and herself that her husband will soon return. The author portrays this young girl and mother as two individuals in need of protection and that without the head of their household, they are unable to do anything but wait.

 

Coronas de azucenas, campanas de duelo,

el olor de Muerte impregna el pueblo.

A mi puerta tocan fantasmas de antaño, 

vienen por mi hijo como por su padre y su abuelo.

 

“No te vayas, mi niño, 

no te amortajes, 

ni me vistas de negro.”

 

In the final stanza of this song, the author describes in detail a scene of mourning and engages the human senses to depict death. The bereaved person can see wreaths, and hear the ringing of bells announcing that death is present, and an overwhelming stench of death penetrates the entire village. There is no other choice but to acknowledge that the specter of death has arrived. This is confirmed in the following verse where the mother of the deceased is visited by death. It is looking for her son the same way it came looking for her father and husband before.

 

It is intriguing that throughout the song migrants are always depicted as being male, overlooking the millions of women who have decided to migrate to the United States. This representation of men as migrants imposes conventional gender norms where women are the ones being left behind and abandoned. This song in general also perpetuates the stereotype of the brown dangerous man emphasizing that the men who decide to migrate are cowards who are running away from their familial responsibilities. Thus, the coyotes who help them flee are no more than common criminals who are aiding in the destruction of a family. The disempowerment of brown men is a recurring pattern that is present throughout the song.

 

In the final verse, the mother pleads to her child to not migrate to the United States. By stating no te amortajes, in other words, don’t kill yourself. The overall message that Homeland Security is trying to send to migrants is that for those who choose to depart from their homes, the only thing that awaits them is death.




 

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The opinions, thoughts, and viewpoints of guest author(s) do not necessarily reflect our organization's official policy or position. Any content provided by our guest contributors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone else.


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