“The border is what joins us, not what separates us,” wrote Alberto Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate, in his poem Border Lines.
It’s in this spirit that the Bi-national Arts Institute is holding its fourth annual Concert Without Borders this Saturday, May 20 on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border.
Musicians will perform on side-by-side stages in Douglas and Agua Prieta, near the Raul H. Castro Port of Entry. The lineup for the free event, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m., includes Tin Can Tourists, Dan Simonis and the West Texas Millionaires, Saxofonia, José Jesus Rodríguez, and international guitarist Dieter Hennings, who recently brought together youth from both sides of the border for guitar playing workshops. The Bi-national Chorus will also return with an orchestra and more than 30 singers. Local artists will display and sell their work, and food trucks will add to the festivities.
Lori Keyne, executive director of the Bi-national Arts Institute, launched the concert five years ago in conjunction with her Fulbright Scholarship grant. It has since grown to attract about 300 people. Last year, attendees played chess between the bars of the wall, and Border Patrol officers at least somewhat let down their guard as they enjoyed the music.
Keyne says what makes this concert special is that, for some of the songs, the musicians on opposite sides of the border sing and play together. “That’s a really important aspect of the concert to me, because I believe it sends a powerful message to people outside, as well as giving a powerful experience to anyone who’s involved.”
It’s a particularly powerful message in these divisive times, when the threat of a full border wall looms.
“This is a monumental moment for us, specifically because we’re in times of uncertainty,” said Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe at a press conference on May 11. “It’s exciting that despite all of the uncertainty we’re able to present this historic event for the fourth year.”
Other organizations have also used music to unify the divided border. In January, youth orchestras from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez played for packed theaters in a joint concert called The Bridge. Last October, Univision and Fusion hosted a bilingual concert, RiseUp AS ONE, in San Diego and Tijuana. That event featured performances by Juanes, Carlos Vives and Los Tigres del Norte, plus appearances by Gael García Bernal and Wilmer Valderrama.
For more information on the Concert Without Borders, contact the City of Douglas at 520-417-7340.