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,

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

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)

Ni el tiempo ni la distancia

ni la ausencia de no verte,

por ninguna circunstancia

yo he dejado de quererte.


Soy preso en este aposento

sólo por quererte amar,

oigo las olas del mar

que no cesan ni un momento.

Not time nor distance

nor the absence of not seeing you,

under no circumstance

have I ceased to love you.


I am prisoner in this cell

just for wanting to love you,

I hear the waves of the sea

that never stop even for a moment.

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)

Mañana me voy de aquí

para que mi nombre borres,

Entonces te digo así

que ni los vientos que corren

razón te darán de mí.


Me gusta la carretera

la carreta y su curvita,

pero más me gusta a mí

la carretera chiquita.


Déjala que vaya,

que ya volverá,

si amores la llevan,

celos la traerán,

el amor y los celos

siempre andan juntos,

como los sacristanes

con los difuntos.

Tomorrow I leave here

so that you’ll erase my name,

So I tell you this,

that not even the winds that blow

will give you a trace of me.


I like the highway,

the road with its curves,

but I like more

the little byways.


Let her go,

she’ll come back.

If she leaves you for love

Attachment will bring her back,

For love and attachment

always go together,

like sacristans

go with the dead.

The Video
(password: frontera)


Webthing brings you to navigation links
Website Copyright © 2019 Ursula K. Le Guin
Updated Tuesday, 18-Jun-2019 10:14:28 EDT