The heightened surveillance and criminalization of the U.S.-Mexico border–and the resultant body count–has cast into sharp relief the zone’s shadowy reputation as a dangerous periphery of two nation-states. The traveler who traverses outside the legal limits does so at his or her own peril; hence, migrants’ invocation of heavenly succor for the passage. Like other border zones in other times and places (e.g., the Scottish-English and Spanish-Moorish borders), however, the frontera has also proved a fecund site of subaltern poetics. From migrating beet workers in “Michiga” in the early twentieth century to “Wetback” workers of the post-WWII era to migrating oaxaqueÃ±o and Central American Pentecostal evangelists today, the experience of uprooting and contingent citizenship has found expression in a vast musical repertoire, both profane and sacred, and in visual and prayer practices that have left their traces in home and church altars and among the detritus and cadavers of undocumented border-crossers.
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