Many of you probably don’t know this, but one of our few famous Guatemalan artists won an “award of excellence” at a Latin awards show this week, which prompted me to binge on all of his albums on repeat, haha. Which means that now I get to share some of my favorite songs with you guys :)
Some of my favorites are songs that might not be “mainstream” songs, but they’re the ones that have the greatest impact on me. Arjona is a lyrical mastermind, and his songs are always very clever and have a point or message. One of my favorites is called “La Nena (Bitacora de un Secuestro)”, which is the retelling of a little girl being kidnapped.
Kidnappings in Latin America are very common, hovering in the thousands per year.* This doesn’t include the number of kidnappings that go unreported because of fear or lack of confidence in the local police (or fear of collusion). There are also different types of kidnappings: 1) your good ol’ traditional kidnapping, where the victim is followed for a period of time (could be several months) to trace their steps/routine, then kidnapped to obtain a large ransom–these victims are usually picked because of their wealth. 2) “Express kidnappings,” which was news to me but seems to be very common: basically the victim is taken for a period of 24 hours or less, during which time they are forced to take all their money from ATM’s and bank accounts and the family is contacted in order to provided whatever money they have available as well. The victim’s in this scenario can be anyone–regardless of your income level. Another play on this is the “paseo millonario,” or “millionaire tour,” which happens when you take a taxi–the taxi stops slightly ahead of where it picked up the victim, where his friends hop in to the taxi with guns/arms and rob the victim of whatever is on him.
Like many things, the causes of why these countries have so many kidnappings (and violence in general) are many: financial instability in the region, lack of financial opportunity for people (no job=get money instead), lack of enforcement or punishment by local police force (which can also include the fact that many times kidnappers are better armed and have more technology at their disposal than local police forces), corruption and collusion by local police force, as well as a huge gap between the poor and the wealthy. Basically, “rule of law is weak, economic opportunity is scare, and education is poor.” Wikipedia.
For example, the “millionaire tour” type of kidnappings are only able to exist in an atmosphere where taxi’s are not strictly regulated. If each taxi had to have a clearly labeled registration number, and these were enforced by making sure that each taxi had legitimate paperwork, then kidnappers would no longer be able to use this method (they would be easily identifiable or hopefully law enforcement procedures would reveal that the “taxi” was not a legitimate taxi).
I found this in a document that pertains specifically to Guatemala:
During the years of 2010 and 2011 the judgments/sentences for kidnappings increased up to three and four times respectively in comparison to prior years. Not withstanding we have to take into account that of 632 reported cases during the period from 2008-2011 only 330 reached a judgment, which amounts to a 52% total of the cases.
– Area de Transparencia.
To be honest, I’m surprised that even 52% of cases reached a final judgment. When I was doing research on a similar issue in law school, I think it was something like only 2% of cases that were reported were actually investigated and prosecuted. Granted, this was ALL reports of crime, not just kidnappings, but still, I’m actually quite happy to see that there’s a 52% here! It’s sad to be excited about statistics like these, and expecting such low standards.
One final thing before we get to the song (if you’ve made it this far!), there’s one line in this song that strikes me and gets me a little angry every time: when the kidnapping occurs, all the neighbors close their doors and pretend like they haven’t seen/heard anything. You can’t blame people for not wanting to get involved, really, when they are probably afraid of getting caught in the crossfire and have little to no faith in the local police, but it’s still hard to accept the fact that people live in a situation where their best option is to just ignore everything that happens around them–until they’re the next victim. **
I couldn’t find the official video, so this will have to suffice.
Translated lyrics (taken mostly from here)
The housemaid woke her up at 6:42,
The girl wrinkles her eyes to keep out the light,
Recites the same prayer as always to do her duty to god,
Right after she makes the sign of the cross on her chest,
Whose is the car which is waiting two blocks to the south.
The chauffeur takes her, loaded up with her books,
Mom waves goodbye to her at the door,
The girl is 9 years old; how was she was going to know
That for more than 4 months they have been tailing her,
And the the car awaiting two blocks away starts its engine.
A shot in the chauffers temple, the girl drifts away,
A tree stops the momentum; they have her surrounded,
Her forehead struck against the glass and has opened a wound,
The neighbors all lock themselves in-no one has seen anything,**
and the hand which killed her chauffeur now silences her screams,
The girl is a one with a lot of zeros from here on out.*
The girl is a bulk tied up in a brown Chrysler,
A shoe presses her spine, a handkerchief her mouth,
The girl is scared to death and doesn’t understand why.
The girl doesn’t know that even God sometimes makes mistakes,
The girl is sleeplessness and news, the girl is not there.
Her planet changed size, and measures 4 x 3
Her sun is the light that leaks in beneath a door,
The girl now sees no difference beween a day and a month,
The girl doesn’t know whether she sleeps or stays awake,
The girl has now spent 3 months looking for a reason.
The girl now doesn’t wrinkle her eyes, she hasn’t seen the light,
There are no windows in this branch of hell,
Her fate is listed in currency of another country,
Her life is a vulgar trade resembling death,
The girl isn’t going to her English class this afternoon.
Six kilos lighter the girl has pink sores,
Dad almost crazy, mom in hospitals once again,
The delivery is agreed with a disguised voice,
The same one that has come offering bodily souvenirs,
And fear laughs at everyone and rubs his hands together,
The future will look dog-faced if it wants to.
Now the girl doesn’t wrinkle her eyes hasn’t seen the light,
In hell’s branch office there are no windows,
Her fate is bought and sold for another country’s notes,
Her life is a vulgar trade resembling death,
The girl now hasn’t been to ballet for 10 months.
On the specified day the money is under a bridge,
the girl at last leaves the room where the was kept,
Everything goes as they agreed there is nothing pending
Suddenly the boss bursts into the house without covering his face,
The girl recognises someone familiar
Plans since the incident have had to change.
The closing line always makes me sad, to think this girl was so close to getting back to her parent but one little mishap now counts her as those that are killed anyway, simply because she knew the person involved (which I think is quite common).