Thursday, December 23, 2010

A traveller's Christmas

I'm offering, in my last post until after Christmas, three versions of a traditional Spanish villancico navideƱo -- a Christmas carol titled "Los Peces en el Rio" (The Fish in the River). It's attributed to a Spanish 18th century monk and composer, Antonio Soler. The three versions I'm posting include a traditional flamenco rendition; the Gypsy Kings' fusion of pop and flamenco; and Lhasa de Sela's jazzier version.

What's interesting to me is that the first two sets of artists have gitano (the Romani people of Spain) roots, while Lhasa was a Mexican-American who grew up criss-crossing the United States and Mexico in a converted school bus with her family.

Such traveller's roots suit the villancico. And remind us that the Holy Family were travellers, too.

I write a lot about the undocumented immigrants in the United States, and draw the obvious parallels with the Holy Family (see my previous post, for instance) but we are far from the only nation to stigmatize those who cross borders for work, or to rejoin family, or whose mobility is part of a cultural tradition and patrimony. The Roma this year faced mass expulsions from France, and increasingly harsh treatment in other nations of the European Union. The International Catholic Migration Commission, based in Switzerland, writes about that situation this way: "[T]hese individuals are all too quickly linked to increasing national security debates, or are presented as a ‘risk’ to the local economy. While it may be argued that rejection is a basic human reflex, it is important to recall that such a reflex is predominantly inspired by fear, and the incapacity to manage differences."

Further, the commission states: "Even beyond questions of unacceptable discrimination and expulsion, current concerns regarding the treatment of the Roma and migrants call us all to consider whether existing structures and legal systems are adequate for addressing the number of people on the move, and the changing phenomena of human mobility. [...] Security can be much more effectively guaranteed when people are offered regular, reasonable and transparent paths of integration and community existence, rather than through targeting people in irregular situations."

Lots to reflect upon while you listen to these villancicos, and on the Sunday after Christmas -- the feast of the Holy Family.

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