The 10 Best Songs About Illegal Immigration

Categories: Español Music

Los Tigres del Norte: champions of mojados
Over the past decade, a slew of art devoted to the cause of amnesty for illegal immigrants has flourished across the United States (check out the work of my former KPFK-FM 90.7 producer, Long Beach chingón Julio Salgado), everything from music to YouTube videos, posters to poems. It follows in the grand tradition of Mexican protest songs about la frontera and migra, a genre that goes back a century and has produced some of the most touching (or, conversely, hilarious) songs in the Mexican canon. Following are the 10 best, going back decades and involving some of the biggest names in music. Enjoy!

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10. "Ilegal en Estyle" by Pilar Díaz

Nowadays going by María del Pilar, this 2010 pop ditty came about at the height of America's most recent anti-immigrant madness. Written by the former frontwoman for cult group Los Abandoned, the song encourages undocumented folks to live "en estyle"--that is, to not feel ashamed of their status and to come out of the shadows. Don't dismiss the cutesiness of the video--Pilar's tune offers a playful subversion of roles, and an unabashed celebration of ser un ilegal.

9. "Superman es Ilegal," by Los Hermanos Ortiz

"It's a bird! It's a plane!'s a wetback." So starts this hilarious reinterpretation of the all-American Superman, whom people always conveniently forget was sent into this country by his parents without asking for permission...hey, was Superman the original DREAMer? A novelty song, but a trenchant one.

8. "El Corrido de los Mojados," by Los Alegres de Teran

I like conjunto norteño pioneers Los Alegres de Terán better when they're not accompanied by horns, but I will not deny the power of this song, which functions on many levels: as an indictment of American immigration policy, as a celebration of the cunning of Mexicans to cross into the United States at will, as an offering of a novel solution to the plight of mojados: all of them should marry a gringita, then divorce her once the Mexican gets a green card--HA! Extra credit goes to Los Alegres for also working in an insult toward gabacha welfare queens, too!

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