El deportado (The Deportee)

Unknown, ca. 1923

After Mexican migrant workers were welcomed into the United States—unofficially and officially—for decades, why do you think US attitudes about them shifted in the 1930s?

How does "El Deportado" reflect this shift?

How does the immigrant view moving to the United States at the beginning of the song? How do the agents' actions change the immigrant's mind?

In the song, how do stereotypes inform the US agents' dealings with the immigrant?

"El Deportado" recorded by Los Hermanos Bañuelos on Corridos y Tragedías de la Frontera, © 1993. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

 

Spanish lyrics are available here.

Hermano Banuelos

Until the onset of the Great Depression, the early twentieth century witnessed a great swell of Mexican immigration to the United States. As farming expanded in the Southwest in the first decade of the century, immigrants began to arrive in search of work. Immigration accelerated after the onset of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and the decade of instability that followed, and during the First World War the United States welcomed Mexicans to fill jobs that were vacated by men serving in the military. With the onset of the Great Depression, however, the United States began to deport Mexicans, and by the end of the 1930s hundreds of thousands of people had been deported.

"El Deportado" (The Deportee) is an immigration corrido by an unknown composer. Although it was first recorded in 1929 and likely written even earlier, the song resonated with the experiences of many Mexicans, particularly after large-scale deportation began in 1932. It details an immigrant's train ride and the places he passes on his journey to the United States, documenting the route as well as problems encountered along the way. The song concludes with the immigrant's arrival at the border, where US agents threaten him. They disregard his money and desire to work and instead focus on his hygiene, noting, "We have to give you a bath." The agents deny him entry into the country, but this is portrayed in a positive light. He will return to his "beautiful nation" where he will be welcomed and where "there is no more revolution."

The song was first recorded in 1929 by Los Hermanos Bañuelos (the Hermanos brothers) and later adapted as "El Emigrado" (The Emigrant) by Eugenio Abrego of Los Alegres de Teran.