La Frontera (The Border)

The above image is by Tony Webster, and licensed via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0; it has not been altered in any way.

Performance by Illinois Wesleyan University Collegiate Chorale, conducted by J. Scott Ferguson

Instrumentation: SATB choir and piano
Duration: 4:30
Premiere: 01/30/2022
LA Master Chorale
Walt Disney Hall
Los Angeles, CA

View SATB Score | View SSAA Score | View TTBB Score | Purchase Music

Program Note:
La Frontera (The Border) is a poem by an undocumented immigrant youth held in an American maximum-security detention center. Sadly, we cannot know the identity of the author due to governmental restrictions.  I was drawn to set this poem because it captures the stark realities of the immigration process as well as the powerful desire to immigrate to America. Given the frequent cruelty in the treatment of immigrants, I wanted both to bear witness to the problem and to help bring more attention to the issues of immigration.

As the granddaughter and wife of immigrants, indeed as a citizen of the United States, I am deeply aware of both the astonishing and ongoing contributions of immigrants as well as the despicable treatment so many experience. Why do we forget our own status as immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and yet deny the status of those who descend from indigenous peoples?

This poem, and the others published in the collection Dreaming America, were written during workshops held for immigrant youths in detention led by poet Seth Michelson. Some were created in collaboration with students from Washington and Lee University; others benefitted from visits by guest artists Jimmy Santiago Baca and Ricardo Dominguez. Larry Moffi, the publisher of Settlement House Books, brought the book Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum Security Detention to fruition and kindly granted permission to set this poem to music. Profits from the book sales were donated to the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, now called the Amica Center for Immigrants Rights. I am donating 100% of score sales to their children’s program.

*La Frontera (The Border)
Translation by Seth Michelson

un lugar a que todo el mundo vamos
al tener un sueño
y ver a mi familia feliz

pero no nos dejan llegar a la frontera
por ser de otro país

y me pregunto por qué
si todos somos seres humanos
somos los mismos
no tenemos papeles
porque estamos en el mismo mundo
tenemos sentimientos iguales

el color de piel es diferente
pero eso no quiere decir que no somos iguales
es que en este país en mi país
hay mucha gente racista

el ser blanco, el ser negro
no quiere decir

que somos iguales
somos todos iguales
tenemos la misma mente
la misma meta

el caminar dias por el desierto
al inmigrar nos agarra

a place the whole world goes
when we dream
and want to see our families happy

but they don’t let us reach the border
because we’re from other countries

and I ask myself why
if we’re all human beings
if we’re all the same
don’t we have papers too
because we’re all in the same world
have the same feelings

though our skin colors may differ
but that doesn’t mean we’re not the same
it means that in this country in my country
there are lots of racists

to be white, to be black
doesn’t mean we are unequal

we’re equal
we have the same thoughts
the same goal

to walk for days across the desert
called to immigrate

*From Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention, used by kind permission of poet Seth Michelson and Larry Moffi, publisher of Settlement House Books, First Edition, ©2017

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