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: