Immigration is a heated subject in America, and it can be difficult to filter what comes at us via the media, the government, or table talk at a local restaurant. As people line up to take sides, the very personal experiences of the Mexican people seem to lose their humanity. Recently, I was moved to tears by Texas songwriter, Danny Santos’, song “El Coyote.”
My job, my tax dollars and my personal resources are precious to me, but I’ve never had to struggle just to eat or sleep in a safe place. I’ve never been exploited through poverty or corruption. My political opinions come in a hermetically sealed protective container called “The First Amendment.” So do Santos’ opinions, so whether his song is a political statement or simply a slice of tragic life, his words remind us that our anger, name calling, posturing and threats are very often about immigrants who struggle like none of us will ever know. In the song, “El Coyote” Santos introduces us to the human trafficker. These are people who take large sums of money from people in order to illegally smuggle them into the United States. They may pack immigrants into tractor trailers, or sealed containers, or they lead them through scorching desserts or treacherous river currents. Many die at the hands of these smugglers. The trafficker doesn’t care because he has their money. He is “El Coyote.” He is merciless, but people put their lives at his mercy for hope of a better life.
Santos sings that the immigrant takes this risk so he can bus your table from L.A. to Washington. He sings about those who aren’t looking to deal drugs or steal or take away skilled jobs. He sings about those who will suffer under the radar in order to reduce the suffering they endured in Mexico. The song doesn’t take political position. It simply paints the specific story from the specific heart and mind of the poor and hopeful. When we hear the story in the context of those at the mercy of the trafficker, it seems to shift the definition of who is the “bad guy” in this struggle. Would the immigrants come without the coyote? Yes. Would they perish in the dessert without the coyote? Yes. But they can perish with his help, too.
Santos is a Mexican American. Where he personally has not experienced “El Coyote,” it’s hard to know whether he knows people who have. It’s understandable that he would take a sympathetic view to the plight. It is his heritage that is being vilified in Arizona. It is cliché to say so, but we are all part of the history of immigration. Certainly, some of us are descendants of wealthy, educated travelers, but some of us are from the history of slaves. Each of us could probably trace our lineage back to unimaginable struggle. Therefore, I encourage everyone to put feelings aside and simply listen to “El Coyote.” You can pick up your opinions when you’re through, but at least you’ll know, in the corner of your heart, that no matter how strongly you feel about it, you’ll never suffer like an immigrant at the mercy of “El Coyote.”
“El Coyote” is featured on Danny Santos’ latest CD, Say You Love Me Too.