In some ways, borders that divide countries are concrete and inescapable. The border between Mexico and the U.S. is very real for the thousands who have died trying to cross it without papers; for those whose families are divided by it; for those living the nightmare of getting caught in the crossfire of a drug trade that seeps in through the borders' darkest hidden crevices.
In other ways, there's something hubristic and almost naive about trying to divide two cultures with a fence. Language, food, music and people will mix no matter how high the fence, and to try and stop it is like trying to stop a tsunami with your hands.
The mythology surrounding the border has always been powerful. It's a place where the law takes on visible, tangible expressions: a giant wall, a military presence, a fence. Yet border towns are always places of legal ambiguity and cultural transgression.
NPR recently took a trip alongside the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a visually stunning series called Borderland. It was a long drive, during which a lot of music played a key role. Join us for this episode of Alt.Latino as Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep regales us with stories of his borderland adventures and the music he collected en route. His notes and anecdotes about the different songs are included in our playlist below.