Inside: Spanish songs about immigration: a playlist.
While researching for a post on immigration, I decided to look into songs. And wow– I came across some amazing music. These shouldn’t be missed, so I’m devoting a whole post to them.
I think it’s hard to teach a unit on immigration. If you have a large population of immigrant families, the topic obviously hits close to home. For other classrooms, the temptation to apply stereotypes and generalize is huge. If our resources are lopsided, just one story gets told: it’s easy for students to walk away assuming every undocumented immigrant has a similar back story, or that most immigrants are undocumented.
In reality, people move countries for varied reasons, and under many circumstances. With these songs, I hope to offer more than “one story,” so your students can connect to varied artistic voices and perspectives.
(If you’re looking for more lists, see my Songs in Spanish page.)
Spanish Songs About Immigration
I attempted to attach a level to each song– hopefully it’s accurate. By saying a song is novice-high, I don’t mean that a NH student will immediately understand every word. I mean that with some teacher support, the song will be useful and largely comprehensible. The students could read it over it and get the gist.
(PLEASE be mindful that several songs here will be difficult to watch, especially for families that have been affected by deportation experiences.)
1. Pobre Juan
Maná wrote this song in 2002, around the time that border crossings were at an all-time high. It’s written in story-form, and heavy. Maná says this:
“Pobre Juan” … es una triste realidad que sucede todos los días, una historia de Juan y miles de inmigrantes mexicanos y Latinoamericanos que fallecen en la lucha de cruzar la frontera (y) fallecen o desaparecen.
(Level: Intermediate-Low and up, narrated in past tense.)
2. Fronteras – Gaby Moreno
While not officially an immigration song, the themes (“fronteras,” “esperanza,” and “yo pertenezco aquí“) lend themselves well to the topic. The song shows scenes and stories from Guatemala, which is where was Gaby Moreno was born before relocating to the U.S.
I like using this one because it offers hopeful language and music, while showing beautiful scenes and strong characters from Guatemala.
(Level: Novice-High and up, mostly present tense.)
3. Un Besito Más – Jesse y Joy
This one is powerful. Un Besito Más shows the story of a couple attempting to make a new life in the U.S. after crossing the border, and the terrible complications of children who have citizenship being separated from undocumented parents. It’s written from the perspective of a child who stayed in the U.S. after her parents were deported.
(Level: Novice-High and up. Lots of imperfect tense and present tense.)
While working with this song, I made some slides with screenshots from the video that narrate the story, using mostly past tenses. Feel free to use! (The editable version is available as part of my Voces de los inmigrantes Song Pack.)
4. ICE El Hielo – La Santa Cecilia
Ice El Hielo gets a bit more political, and was produced as part of the #Not1More series. The video shows vignettes of Latino immigrants living the U.S., who later get taken by ICE and deported. Hard to watch, for sure, but reflects the reality and uncertainty of living and working without documents here.
(Level: Novice-High and up, with support. Mix of tenses.)
I also made some slides for this one, using simple language for novices, in the present tense. Feel free to use! (The editable version is also available as part of my Voces de los inmigrantes Song Pack.)
5. Ave Que Emigra
Another Gaby Moreno favorite, this song describes her personal experience of emigrating to the U.S.
“Recuerdos desde mi infancia
Que a veces parten el alma
Mi Guate nunca la olvido
La llevo siempre conmigo…”
(Level: Intermediate-Low and up, due to some low-frequency phrases. The video works well for discussing present life vs. past experiences.)
6. A Las Tres – Enanitos Verdes
A Las Tres is written from the perspective of an immigrant working far away from his family, and sending money home to support them. This is a powerful perspective on the conflict of wanting (or needing) the opportunities found in the U.S., while yearning for home.
(Level: Novice-Mid and up. Mainly present tense and comprehensible phrasing.)
7. Mis Dos Patrias – Los Tigres del Norte
Los Tigres del Norte have several immigration-themed songs (Mojados Tres Veces, Jaula de Oro), but I included this one because it explores a lightly different theme: actually living in the this, as a new citizen, and feeling split between two identities.
(Level: Novice-High and up, I think. With some support upfront, the song is pretty accessible.)
Songs 1-7 are available part of my Voces de los inmigrantes Song Pack. Check it out if you’d like some ready-to-go printables and activities, or keep scrolling!