Singing Down the Wall

By Emelina Rosa

Aerial view of folks setting up for the Concert without Borders. Border wall down the middle. U.S. to the left, waiting for a stage. Mexico to the right.

HAVANA TIMES – Every summer I sing with a chorus during the annual Concert without Borders, an event staged on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border at once. After months of rehearsals, we place our singers on each side of the border fence, on stages just a few feet from the fence itself, and we perform together.

Here, next to the customs and border crossing between Agua Prieta, Sonora, and Douglas, Arizona, the wall is not solid but is made of upright steel posts, a few inches apart, with room for a kiss between.

The 2019 concert featured the Binational Chorus of Cochise College, the University of Sonora chorus, a chorus of migrant children from the local shelter, along with two dance troupes, the Bisbee High School Band, and individual singers and instrumentalists. The repertoire included traditional Mexican songs such as “La Llorona,” classical works by Vivaldi and Villa Lobos, the protest song “Matador,” an audience-participation round of “Love is Love,” lots of ballads and boleros, and ended with a dance-along cumbia.

The concert begins just before sunset and creates a festival atmosphere with people mingling, snapping photos, playing chess through the fence, and planning future actions. Vendors set up to sell artwork, bacanora (the cactus liquor of Sonora), tacos, books, and t-shirts.

The Concert is supported by Cochise College, the Mexican consulate in Douglas, the cities of Douglas and Agua Prieta, the Binational Arts Institute, and community members near and far.

The first Concert without Borders was performed in 2012. We sing to show that borders can’t divide us, that as musicians we share one vast, eclectic, universal musical tradition, and that we are one community despite the immense absurdity of the wall between us.

Here’s the video of the event. 


“Love is Love” on the US side.  In the video you can see the conductor reaching through the fence to conduct on both sides at once.

Emelina Rosa

Emelina Rosa is a long-time resident of the US-Mexico border area who recently began volunteering once a week at the Migrant Resource Center [Centro de Recursos para Migrantes] in Agua Prieta, Sonora. The Center was founded in 2006 to provide support to migrants who had just been deported from the US, supplying basic needs such as clean socks, food, phone calls, medical attention, and help getting home. Today, with hundreds of migrants arriving at the border every day requesting asylum from the US government, the Center is working with a local shelter (C.A.M.E., Centro de Atención a Migrantes Exodus, Center for Attending to the Migrant Exodus) to protect and support asylum seekers waiting in this border city to cross into the United States. Migrants and asylum seekers are threatened by criminal cartels who extort, kidnap, and force them into criminal activities. The U.S. government continues to treat their suffering with callous indifference

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