There is perhaps no other country whose internationally-recognized artists speak out on politics more than those of Mexico. Lila Downs, in her most recent collaboration with the Colombian rockstar Juanes in “La Patria Madrina,” proves no exception to this standard.
Through scenes of fire and images of calaveras, the video begins with ojos pegados. The song references the violent kidnapping and killing of 43 students of Ayotzinapa by the hands of the state, the ongoing destruction and deforestation of Mother Earth due to oil extraction and material greed, and the devastating sadness of this reality. Yet where there is death, there is life. The second part of the song and video carries more hope in ojos aclarados, or eyes rinsed, cleared. An older woman reminiscent of a godmother appears, and holds out her hands to show a small tin sacred heart. The lyrics follow Lila as she plants new life in the form of a milpa, a sacred agricultural tool of Mexico, while indigenous danzantes and sunshine surround the scene.
In these current times, as violence in the region continues to reign, the cultural response from artists must be just as vigilant. In the video’s final scenes, we see Juanes and Lila holding protest signs of resistance slogans, such #YaMeCanse and “Vivos los llevaron, vivos los queremos.” Finally we see young men who were shot and blindfolded earlier in the video, reawaken unharmed and alive. The video does an amazing job at collaging various elements of the lyrics with their aesthetic meaning, and even the representation of death honors late Mexican artist, José Guadalupe Posada who also spoke out against social injustice.
Balas y Chocolate is the latest studio album released by Lila Downs and it hit gold in pre-sales before the official release date. As success grows, every artist must evolve. There are some who might question Lila’s choice to work with Juanes, yet the album’s first single “La Patria Madrina” is about carrying on with the ideals of Simón Bolívar, Jose Martí, and Vicente Guerrero – who, as political philosophers spoke of the unification, as well as independence of Latin America. And like their dreams, Lila Downs and Juanes assure their fans and the people of their countries that in the end, todo amaneció, mejor mejor.