The Video (password: frontera)...
…was taken on Saturday 14 July 2012. The Fandango fronterizo (Border fandango) takes place every year, normally in Spring but this year they were re-doing the border fence so it had to be delayed a couple of months. This was the 5th time it has been held.
In the Veracruzan son jarocho tradition, a fandango is a community party with music and dance. Traditionally fandangos go all night long, amply sustained by nothing more than the energy of playing, singing, and dancing. They are all about creating human contact in real time, which is why this is such an apt cultural form for the border.
‘All night long’ is not an option on the USA side of the border fence, so the Fandango fronterizo takes place from 11 AM-3 PM on a given day, painstakingly set up in advance with the Border Patrol by the organizers in San Diego and Tijuana. They have a FaceBook page, https://www.facebook.com/fandangofronterizo.tijuanasandiego
What you see in my video was filmed entirely from the USA side. (There are some videos on YouTube taken from el otro lado). To get to the now-incredibly-ironically-named ‘Friendship Park,’ you drive South about 45 minutes from San Diego, take the last USA exit on the 5, and proceed about 3 miles West. There’s a parking lot and a locked gate. You get out and walk through desolate, lonely sand and scrubland about half a mile to the sea. Then another 3/4 mile South along the beach. You can’t go South any further on foot at the point because there’s a fence, the fence that has such a presence in my video. ‘Friendship Park’ is a bit inland from there.
It didn’t use to be ironic at all; it was created as a place where people separated by the border could go to see one another, reach out, hold hands. There’s an image from that period at http://friendshippark.org/
It’s pretty different now. You’ll see the place in the video where the Patrol guard asked me to turn off the camera. Once it was off he told me, with evident pride, that the new fence is 18 feet tall and 1400 yards long. And as the video makes clear, you can barely see through it. The metal bars are too close together for a child to get a finger through.
In the video you see people dancing, playing and singing traditional sones. (You can at least hear them from el otro lado too). It shows parts of three, El Buscapiés, El Ahualulco, and the iconic La Bamba. In reality we did quite a few more but I only filmed those three. I wanted to fandanguear too!
At the end, while the Border Patrol was already closing in, a señor on the other side did a set of décimas—improvised poetry on a 10-line formula dating back to the 16th century, intoned over a musical accompaniment, and traditionally used to praise or commemorate an event. He’s paying elaborate flowery tribute to everyone present, for being present. I was lucky enough to be able to capture almost all of that special gift on video.
The sones that I used for the opening and closing credits were chosen because the poetry refers to the sea, to absence, and to longing (themes often linked in this tradition, which has its roots in the trans-Atlantic trade in goods and human beings). Below are my transcriptions of what’s being sung, which expresses this appalling situation better than I can.
From “Las olas del mar” (traditional, recuperated in the 1980’s; the performers are unnamed on this 1992 recording)
From “La carretera” (this is a modern son, though the first verse you hear is traditional; it was written and is performed by Patricio Hidalgo and the group Chuchumeé)
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