When I think of social justice singer/songwriters, especially an artist that advocates for Latinos and indigenous people, there’s one that always comes to mind: Lila Downs. The Mexican songstress, by way of Oaxaca, has been bringing audiences prideful Mexican culture and music since the early ’90s. Her music resonates because of her powerful lyrics and voice, and she’s using that to bring awareness to the injustices happening at the border.
Her new single titled “Clandestino” revamps the Manu Chao original to bring a beautiful rendition in which she takes on immigration by targeting the U.S. government and their appalling treatment of undocumented children. According to a press release statement, Downs “airs political grievances with U.S.-Mexico immigration policies and the detention centers holding migrant children.” In the song, she poses the question “If we don’t fight for the children, what will become of us?”
The song will be featured on her new album Al Chile set to be released on May 3. Her latest album release is produced by Camilo Lara and mixed by Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys).
“This time around,” Downs said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “I mention the immigrant children in the detention centers and sing from the feminine perspective, about the thousands of women and children who migrate today.” She adds, “Ten thousand years ago, the first humans came over the Bering Strait. Human immigration has been the universal human story.”
Check out the single below.
This is not the first time Downs has taken on immigration or the Trump Administration. She’s been speaking out against Trump and his racist anti-immigrant, anti-Latino agenda. In 2016, she released the song “Demagogue” and sang “Do not be fooled by this man’s foolish talk/He’s the symbol of the monster we no longer want to be.”
Back then, the Grammy-award winning artist said in an interview with ThinkProgress, “Did I know he was racist? Yes,” she said. “He’s promoting this notion that the ‘others’ are coming to take away the spot of those in power. The problem is that these are hard-working human beings that deserve respect and dignity.”
She’s been speaking against Trump ever since. She says that as a “border person,” Trump’s hateful rhetoric is hurtful. In an emotional interview with the BBC, Downs speaks about how her music aims to unite people.
“Here we have [Trump] contradicting what I have been working on all of my life,” Downs said in 2016. Watch that interview below.