15 Poignant Spanish Songs About Immigration
If you’re learning Spanish, listen to these 15 poignant songs
The migration crisis is a crucial subject. It’s important to understand migrants’ conditions and circumstances. Refugees are hard-working people looking for a chance at a better life.
These popular songs about immigration are a homage to their journeys, bravery, and experiences.
Keep reading for a list of 15 powerful songs, including a summary of each song, and YouTube videos!
Table of Contents:
15 Must-Hear Songs About Immigration
1. Mojado – Ricardo Arjona and Intocable
This poignant musical poem in Spanish describes the experience of a Mexican who has to pray to get to the other side of the border.
Most songs about immigration are Mexican rancheras or norteñas (“from the North”). That’s why pop songwriter Ricardo Arjona joined his voice with one of the kings of the genre, Intocable (Untouchable).
2. La jaula de oro – Los Tigres del Norte and Juanes
This popular song about immigration tells a story about being a Mexican living in America. The singer is sad that his kids feel estranged from Mexico and don’t even speak Spanish.
He describes the U.S. as a jaula de oro (golden cage), meaning that they live a comfortable life but always wish to go back.
3. Pobre Juan – Maná
Pobre Juan (poor Juan) is about a boy who was going to get married but didn’t have any money, so he tried to cross the border before forming a family.
This song about immigration tells how people prefer to risk their lives looking for better opportunities before living in an undignified manner.
4. El Inmigrante – Calibre 50
The 17-year-old Mexican in this song about immigration is a hard worker who traveled to the U.S. illegally to look for a way to sustain his family back home.
He encounters many dangers and tragedies but his hopes and head are held up high. He risks his life to get his mother out of poverty.
5. ICE El hielo – La Santa Cecilia
La Santa Cecilia sings stories about honest, hardworking, illegal immigrants who have to live with fear of the constant raids.
Their freedom and livelihood may be compromised just by going to work. The result is families divided, one kid goes back, one stays alone and the parents are deported.
ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the singer relates it to how cold ice is. That’s why the name of this song is El hielo (ice).
6. Por si acaso no regreso – Celia Cruz
Por si acaso no regreso (In case I don’t return) is a beautiful son cubano by the legendary Celia Cruz.
You feel the nostalgia and characteristic homesickness through its rhythm, melody, and lyrics. Celia regrets not seeing Cuba liberated. She says it kills her to be far from her land and expresses guilt for leaving it behind.
7. Espaldas mojadas – Tam Tam Go!
The iconic 80s chorus of this song says:
Voy cruzando el río
sabes que te quiero
no hay mucho dinero
lo he pasado mal
I am crossing the river,
you know I love you,
there’s not a lot of money
I’ve been doing badly
8. El recuerdo de mi tierra – Claudio Corsi
El recuerdo de mi tierra (The memory of my land) is a ballad dedicated to the singer’s homeland. It has a beautiful melody with lyrics that apply to any kind of homesickness.
Using the mandolin and the harp, Carlos Corsi fights the distance and refuses to stop leaving places and people from his prior life, even if he cannot go back.
9. A las tres – Enanitos Verdes
Los domingos a las 3 sabes que te llamaré (Sundays at three, you know I will call you) is the the most important part of the life of the main character.
He had to leave his country and family looking for better opportunities, even if that means working multiple shifts as painter, cab driver, pizza deliverer, and whatever else he can do. Even if his plan was to go back at some point, he never does.
10. El niño migrante – Los invasores de Nuevo León
El niño inmigrante (immigrant boy) is a heartbreaking story of a kid who crosses the border and faces life by himself. While all of the other songs about immigration focus on adults’ experiences, many kids go to the U.S. by themselves.
The singer says that we cannot keep turning deaf ears or blind eyes to this situation. There’s a line that says “let’s have a conscience” and adds, “the boy begs to the virgin, those things governors are refusing to hear.” The singer is confident that the little one will be president one day.
11. Venezuelan in New York – King Changó
This is the Latin American version of Sting’s song, Englishman in New York.
King Changó denounces how people abuse immigrants all the time. Enjoy this song in Spanglish that bounces from one language to the other.
Hand-picked for you: What Is Spanglish? Is it a Real Language?
12. Somos más americanos – Los Tigres del Norte
This protest song about immigration draws attention to these three statements:
- Latin Americans are “more American than Americans” due to their native blood
- Latin Americans can’t be invaders since the country that invaded Mexico and “stole” eight states was the U.S.
- Borders are imaginary, man made lines
While controversial, this is the narrative that most Latin Americans agree with when speaking about migration to the United States.
13. La bestia – Kinto Sol
La Bestia (The Beast) is what Latin Americans call a train that crosses Mexico from south to north, with two convenient routes for many immigrants to get to the U.S.
The song starts with background noise that resembles the sound of a train. The Kinto Sol rapper recreates a journey of an immigrant who travels with his little brother and has already lost a cousin. They listen to terrible stories but eventually manage to escape the beast alive.
This protest song calls out politicians for creating these conditions that cause people to leave their countries and look for a more dignified way of life.
14. El ilegal – Joan Sebastian
Joan Sebastian remembers his friends from Mexico while living in the U.S. He has fallen in love with many cities and states and remembers how he got there: homesick and penniless.
15. Paso del norte – Antonio Aguilar
He barely remembers the faces of his girlfriend and parents and hates his destiny. Antonio says that once you are on the other side of the border, you slowly grow apart.
In the vocal transitions, he laments leaving Mexico.
Practice These Songs About Immigration!
Learning Spanish doesn’t have to be all about academics. Approach Hispanic culture by listening to these songs about immigration.
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