Music is a universal language, and it is used to describe all sorts of human emotions and experiences. Including resistance and protest. Powerful lyrics have inspired change, encouraged those going through the struggle, and revolutionized the world. When major events have taken place in history, it was always accompanied by a soundtrack.
We wanted to share 20 Latinx songs that were born out of the struggle, that carry important messages, and aim to inspire the masses. Songs that say no mas to political corruption, give the voiceless a voice, and stand as examples of courage. We are including some lyrics for each jam, and therefore their important messages. Check it out, learn about it, and pass on the knowledge.
“Shock”/”Shock in Arizona,” Ana Tijoux
Sometimes when a message is important, you reiterate it. That’s what Ana Tijoux did with the song, “Shock.” It was first created to show solidarity for the 2011 student protest in Chile for public education. The following year, the Chilean-French artist released another video for the track, this time against the treatment of immigrants in Arizona.
“Venom: your monologues,
your colorless speeches,
you don’t see that we AREN’T alone,
millions from pole to pole!
To the sound of a single chorus,
we will march with the tone,
with the conviction that THE THIEVING STOPS!!
Your state of control,
your corrupt throne of gold,
your politics and your wealth,
and your treasure, no.”
“Afilando los Cuchillos,” Residente, iLe, and Bad Bunny
Puerto Ricans showed the mainland that when you want a corrupt leader out, you take the action that is your right to take. Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his position as the governor of Puerto Rico after multiple mass protests. “Afilando los Cuchillos,” a protest song, by Residente, Bad Bunny, and iLe, let Ricardo know how the island felt about his betrayal:
“The people cannot stand more injustices
They got tired of your lies and the manipulation of the news
Hey, hey, all the groups, all the hoods, we are our own militia
You will not take advantage of us again
You are a corrupt man who takes corrupt advice”
“The Demagogue,” Lila Downs
It is not surprising that there are several Latinx songs that speak up against Trump and what he has done to our people. Lila Downs’ “The Demagogue” is the Mexicana’s 2016 musical answer to what the now President stands for (including wanting to build that wall):
“He’s the symbol of the monster we no longer want to be
(what we used to be…)
The earth trembles with these names
Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Pinochet
No respect for woman, no respect for race
No respect for anything that lives, the human race
But he cannot buy our soul
NO A ESE MURO”
“Flores,” Danay Suarez
“Flores,” by Cuban artist Danay Suarez, is about resisting “stones” with “flowers,” a lesson in fighting intolerance and aggression with love:
“Resistance to change
in my position there is no
there’s no room for grudges for me
In the molars that I have, humility
Question with stones I answer with flowers
flowers for losers”
“Despierta,” Snow tha Product
Chicana rapper Snow that Product gave Latinxs a political wake up call in her 2016 song, “Despierta.”
“If we have the same goal, but Hispanics crush each other
Here we have no plan of attack but to remind you that there is a lot of resentment among you…
I’m Mexican and I’m not scared
All the Latinos are one, if they do not wake up soon the chamuco will take us”
Somos Mas Americanos,” Los Tigres del Norte
In the song “Somos Mas Americanos,” Los Tigres del Norte school listeners on how a big chunk of the United States was once Mexico, which makes Mexicans more American than Anglos.
“They yelled at me a thousand times
that I return to my land
because I didn’t fit here.
I want to remind the gringo :
I did not cross the border,
The border crossed me.
America was born free, man divided it.
They painted the line
for me to jump her
And they call me invader .
It is a well marked error,
They took eight states.
Who is the invader here?
I am a foreigner in my land and I don’t come to war,
I am a hardworking man.”
“We’re All Mexican”/”Todos Somos Mexicanos,” Emilio Estefan and Various Artists
In “We’re All Mexican (“Todos Somos Mexicanos”), Emilio Estefan presents several artists, including wife Gloria Estefan, Wyclef, Wisin, Carlos Vives, Eva Longoria Baston, El Piolin, Whoopi Goldberg, Rita Moreno, and more, to sing and state that all of us stand in solidarity with our Mexican brothers and sisters:
“You gonna become a fan when the trumpets join in the mariachis band
I love your moves
Hands on your waist
You bring the flavor to United States
We don’t stop, we keep fighting, Striving for greatness, we’re doing it, Manos pa’rriba
We are succeeding, I love you America!
United we stand up so we can be free”
“Hombre Gris,” Vakeró
“Hombre Gris,” by Afro-Dominican singer Vakeró, speaks on the automatic discrimination by Dominican police towards Black Dominicans:
“In his uniform you can see
The bad thing that can be
And the fear it causes instead of protecting
It causes me stress, I can’t see it
Toy that I take the other sidewalk so does not collide with him
He asks me for the ID (I give it to him)
He asks me for the license (I give it to him)
He asks me for the insurance (I give it to him)
But however I want (prisoner I’m going)”
“El General,” Willie Colon
Our next song of protest is by Willie Colon. “El General” is the Nuyorican’s musical statement against murderous militant regimes in Latin America, dripping with sarcasm (his accent in the song is said to be specifically Chilean, and the song reportedly got Colon banned in Chile):
“And you remember that Pablo Pueblo arrived tired from the factory
and found his house empty, his family disappeared
I wanted to thank you for a long time”
“We Are Mexico,” Becky G
After Donald Trump spoke badly about Mexican immigrants, Becky G fired back with her track, entitled “We Are Mexico:”
“Hard work, double time, over time, two jobs
Working ’til our heads hurt
But we ain’t never late to pay the bills
Mother said always follow your heart
Make sure to keep your head above the water
And I promised her I always will
I see fifty latinos, fifty latinas
That’s my crib on a weekend
That’s mi familia
Talking in Spanglish
I’m just here to let you know
If you don’t know, now you know
We are Mexico
It don’t matter where we go
“Desapariciones,” Ruben Blades
Panamanian Ruben Blades is another salsero who puts protests into his music. His song, “Desapariciones” speaks to the disappearing of people by Latin American governments:
“My mother’s name is Clara Quiñones.
She is kindhearted, doesn’t hurt anybody.
They took her as a witness
for something that’s just my business.
And I turned myself in this afternoon,
and now they say nobody knows who took her from the police station.
Last night I heard several explosions;
Shotguns and gun shots.
Speeding cars, screeching tires, screams…
the sound of boots hitting the pavement.
Door knocks, complaints, broken dishes and pleas…
The soap opera was on…
So nobody looked outside.”
“El Rebelion,” Joe Arroyo
Music can make you move, while also teaching you about history, and the injustices it often contains. Afro-Colombian Joe Arroyo’s salsa classic hit, “El Rebelion” speaks about the days of slavery in Cartagena, Colombia, and the rebellion that grew from it:
“I want to tell you, my brother, a bit
of black history, of our history, gentleman
In the 1600s, when the tyrant ruled
the streets of Cartagena, that history lived
When there came those slave traders, Africans in chains
They kissed my land, lifelong slavery
An African couple, slaves of a Spaniard
He treated them very badly
And hit his Black woman
It was then, that the heroic black man rebelled
He avenged his love
And you can still hear him yelling at the gates:
Don’t hit my black woman”
“No Es Mi Presidente,” Taina Asili
In the song, “No Es Mi Presidente,” Nuyorican Taina Asili lets the world know — in two languages — that Donald Trump is not her president:
We reject him
And we don’t fear him
We choose freedom over fear
Because our futures are interconnected
Black Lives Matter
No human being is illegal
Water is life
End sexist violence
He is not my president
He does not represent the voice of my people”
“Señor Matanza,” Mano Negra
Mano Negra, a French band with Spanish and Cuban heritage, had their own protest song with “Señor Matanza.” The 1994 song speaks against the corruption and violence that often occur at the hands of hypocrites in government (and was filmed in Bogota, Colombia):
“This city is the property of Mr. Matanza
That pot, that mine and that farm and that sea,
That paramilitary is owned by Mr. Matanza
That federal, that sneak, that toad to the union
And the bishop and general are owned by Mr. Matanza
Good jineteras and alcohol are under control
the school and the mount of piety are property of Mr. Matanza
He decides what goes, says what won’t be
Decide who pays say who will live
That and that land and that bar are owned
They are owned by Mr. Matanza”
“Vem Pra Rua,” O Rappa
Not all protest songs start out that way. “Vem Pra Rua,” by Brazilian band O Rappa was penned for a Fiat commercial during the 2013 World Cup, but it soon became the soundtrack for protestors that same year. The title of the track translates to “Come to the Street.”
“Come on let’s go to the street
It may come that the party is yours
That Brazil is going to be giant
Great as never before”
“Solo le Pido a Dios,” Mercedes Sosa
Mercedes Sosa is known as an iconic voice of protest, both in her native Argentina and beyond. One of her songs, “Solo Le Pido a Dios,” was released in 1982, and is a Leon Gieco cover. Leon had written the song about tumultuous events happening in Argentina at the time, including Mercedes Sosa’s exile, the military dictatorship of the country, and the Beagle conflict between Chile and Argentina.
“I only ask of God
that war be not indifferent to me,
it’s a big monster
and it tramples hard
on the poor innocence of people.
I only ask God
that injustice be not indifferent to me
that I will not be slapped on the other cheek
after a claw has torn me in this manner.”
“Cancion Protesta,” Aterciopelados
Colombian band Aterciopelados’ 2006 song “Cancion Protesta” speaks up for the right to protest, and shouts out a bunch of icons who made it part of their mission to protest in their music, including John Lennon, Joan Baez, Bob Marley, Mercedes Sosa, and Victor Jara.
“Against the ozone-breakers
Against the skyscrapers
Against the bad vibes
Another protest song sounds
But don’t call it a terrorist
It is not that it is antipatriot
Nor that it brings wick and dynamite”
“El Hielo (ICE),” La Santa Cecilia
Mexican, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan band La Santa Cecilia decided to use music to share a message of protest against ICE. “El Hielo (ICE)” humanizes the experiences of undocumented immigrants through vignettes about their lives throughout the song.
“Eva passing the rag over the table, there she is,
Taking care that everything shines like a perl
(So) when the boss comes, she does not complain again.
Don’t let it be that she accuses her of being illegal.
Jose tends to the gardens; they look like they’re from Disneyland.
He drives an old truck without a license.
It does not matter if he was a taxi driver over in his home country;
That does not count for Uncle Sam.”
“Coplas del Parajito,” Rolando Alarcon
Rolando Alarcon’s “Coplas del Pajarito” comes from the Chilean folk singer’s 1966 self-titled album. It speaks up against injustice using the voice of a bird:
“On the branch of a cactus
A little bird was complaining:
‘Everyone wants to rule
With chains and hammers.’
Oh yes, oh no,
Little bird of my heart.
Oh yes, oh no,
Little bird full of pain.
Let’s raise your head
And ask the men
May promises be fulfilled.
Our lands are not poor
But they come from afar
And they leave us without a copper.”
“Aún,” La Vida Boheme
Released in 2013, La Vida Boheme’s “Aún” has been hailed as the unofficial soundtrack or anthem to the protests in Venezuela against the government.
“Already tired my legs
From walking so much
I have left the saw/mountain range
Not to come back
My knees shake
But I can’t stop
I want my children to have
What they wanted to take away from me
There is still, alas, yet !, alas, yet!”