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La Bestia: Hit Song Warning Immigrants Was Made for U.S. Border Patrol
Many Central American immigrants catch freight trains on the way to the U.S.-Mexico border. These trains are commonly known as "La Bestia." A song of the same name refers to the dangerous journey many find aboard such trains.

There’s a new hit song in Central America. It’s called “La Bestia” and people in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are requesting it from their radio stations.

But guess what? The U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioned it.

“La Bestia” refers to a dangerous train called “The Beast” where thousands of immigrants ride to cross the U.S. – risking assaults, robbery, murder, kidnapping and rape. The catchy, upbeat cumbia song is part of Border Patrol’s multi-million dollar Dangers Awareness Campaign, meant to deter immigrants from entering the U.S.

Sung in Spanish by Eddie Ganz, a wedding and Bar Mitzvah singer, the U.S. government hopes to spread the word about the dangers of the journey from Central America to the states. The Texas Standard’s David Brown spoke with “La Bestia” songwriter Carlo Nicolau from New York City.

Although, Nicolau is not an immigrant himself, Elevation, an advertising agency based in Washington D.C., approached him to write the song.

“For the last 23 years, I’ve been writing music for advertising. So I’m pretty well known in the multicultural advertising world of writing music for commercials. The creative director at the agency has worked with me,” Nicolau says.

The song is essentially a propaganda effort to influence Central Americans from crossing the border. But is this a bad thing on the U.S. government’s part? Nicolau disagrees.

“At first, when I was approached to do this, I was very clear that I really wanted to be a part of a propaganda effort, as long as it was a good and valid effort," Nicolau says. "Yes, it is discouraging people to immigrate to the United States, but for the right reasons. So in that sense, I thought it was a helpful thing that the U.S. Border Patrol is doing this.”

The song does not come with a disclaimer, so Central Americans are not aware that the U.S. government created this song specifically for them. Nicolau believes that Border Patrol left out the disclaimer for good reasons.

“I think [the disclaimer] was going to offend people who despise the Border Patrol and steer them away from listening to the song,”Nicolau said. “It’s unfortunate that that happened. It would be good [if] people know that the Border Patrol is doing something good for them.”

Listen to the entire track below:

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
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