(I’m just going to sneak this one into the middle of all these traditional music posts. It doesn’t really belong here, but it’s worth taking a moment for nonetheless)
I made this recording surreptitiously, with an app on my phone. The quality is consequently not great but fidelity was beside the point. It was made November 15, early on a Tuesday afternoon, in Nogales, Sonora, the Mexican city just across the border from Nogales, Arizona. The song is a church hymn, a simple tune sung by a small gathering and accompanied by the strumming of guitars.
Many times in both Latin America and Asia I’ve come across Christian songs performed in precisely this manner, with guitars and singsong melodies, and they have always struck me as admirable in their modesty and earnestness, as well as dazzling in their effectiveness – what better way to instill some godly belief then embedded in the lyrics of an easily-learned and infinitely singable melody such as this one?
Circumstances surrounding this particular recording, however, were not just a simple affirmation of a belief. The song recorded here was sung by a group of people all gathered under a blue tarp raised on a rickety framework set in the parking lane of Calle Internacional, the street running adjacent to the red iron wall that separates Mexico from the United States. Accompanying the people under the tarp was a crowd of onlookers, most standing on the sidewalk out of the sun and across the street from the shelter. Some people made videos on their phones, most just looked on somberly. The gathering this afternoon was a memorial service, the location was just a few blocks west of the DeConcini port-of-entry, i.e. in busy downtown Nogales, with its plethora of pharmacies and dentists, barber shops and salons, restaurants and souvenir shops.
On the sidewalk across the street from that wall there occurred the event for which the memorial service was being held. A cross, festooned with flowers, marks the exact spot – the spot where Jose Elena Rodriguez, a Mexican teenager, fell dead after being shot eight times in the back by an American border patrol agent … an agent who was positioned on the American side of the wall. Some four years later, in February 2017, the agent will stand trial on murder charges, an unprecedented action as never before has an agent been tried for shooting a man across the border.
There are plenty of articles online about this shooting. If you read one of these articles, you will learn of the agent’s claim that he shot the Jose Rodriguez in self-defense because the young man was throwing rocks at him. If so, please have a look at the picture below. Rock-throwing situations have been described as dangerous by Border Patrol before, but I dunno – it is difficult to imagine that a rock thrower would present too grave a danger to an agent behind that fence. But the jury will decide that one in February.