A hit song in Central America was reportedly devised by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as a propaganda push to deter migrants from riding “death trains” to the border.
“La Bestia,” or “The Beast” refers to a network of Mexican freight trains that migrants use as an extremely dangerous method of traveling to the U.S. border, where riders face the constant threat of robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder.
The Daily Beast reported Saturday that the song, “La Bestia,” by Spanish crooner Eddie Ganz, is a favorite among radio listeners in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where it’s currently being played by 21 different carriers.
“Migrants from everywhere, entrenched along the rail ties/Far away from where they come, further away from where they go,” the lyrics go. “They call her the Beast from the South, this wretched train of death/With the devil in the boiler, whistles, roars, twists and turns.”
Customs and Border Protection announced plans earlier this month to launch a million-dollar “Dangers Awareness Campaign,” aimed at warning families about the dangers encountered by unaccompanied minors who attempt to travel from Central America to the U.S.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had written a song for Mexican audiences in 2004, called “No Mas Cruces,” to discourage border crossings, which reportedly helped decrease the number of crossings in the years after. The Customs and Border Patrol sends radio stations across Central America two versions of the propaganda song without disclaimers because the CBP “knows that attaching its name to the campaign would immediately decrease its effectiveness,” The Daily Beast reported.
“It’s more important to us that the message be delivered,” Laurel Smith, director of communications and outreach for CBP told The Daily Beast. “We want to make sure the audience is listening.”
Creative director Rodolfo Hernandez, of the D.C.-based advertising agency Elevation, coordinated with CBP and wrote the lyrics for “La Bestia.” New York City musician Carlo Nicolau composed the music and Mr. Ganz, a wedding singer, provided the vocals.
“I thought I was really going to bed with the devil,” said Mr. Nicolau, who was born of Mexican parents. “I’d heard from many people that some of these Border Patrol agents are pretty shrewd. But I’ve learned that a lot of them are risking their lives to help people not die.
“I really think that putting music to this message makes it very powerful, because people listen to the radio in their towns and their villages,” he told The Daily Beast. “The songs don’t accuse anyone of wrongdoing, there are no heroes or villains in these stories. They are just letting people know that their lives are in danger.”