COMPILATION FOR COMMUTE // PLAYLIST
The music included as part of the compilation serves three parallel functions:
1) To reference to specific sites on the drive—Chicano Park (“Chicano Park Samba”), the Mission of San Juan Capistrano (“When the Swallows Return to Capistrano”), the estimated point 99 miles away from Los Angeles (“99 miles from L.A.), and the location of the San Clemente Border Patrol Checkpoint (“U.S. Border Patrol Informational Video”).
2) To voice feelings/emotions associated with different aspects of migration—not wanting to leave loved ones (“Stay Beside Me”), the sadness brought about by having to leave (“Ya se Va”), longing to return home (“Canto del Bracero”), and the happiness of being reunited with someone who had left (“Oh Que Gusto de Volverte a Ver”).
3) To chart the historical development of socio-economic structures, which underlie and serve as conduits for past and present movement of goods and people across the border—the formation of the border after the U.S./Mexican War (“Corrido de Joaquin Murrieta”), the origin of smuggling networks across the border (“Los Tequileros”) and their evolution (“Contrabando y Traicion”), and the development of sub-cultures and socio-political identities in immigrant enclaves (“Pachuco Boogie/Chicano Boogie”).
B. RADIO RECORDINGS
Borderblaster, the project for which this compilation was produced, takes its name from the title given to radio stations that transmit their signal between nations, across national borders.
Included as part of the compilation are recordings made of content taken from the four main “Border blasters” transmitting to San Diego from the Mexican side of the border: XEPRS 1090 AM (Sports Radio), XETRA 91.1 FM (Alternative Rock), XHITZ 90.3 FM (Top 40/Hip-Hop) and XHPRS 105.7 FM (Oldies).
These recordings are included to reference the contemporary aural experience of driving through San Diego while listening to the radio—with a focus on the unique juxtaposition of pop music and Public Service Announcements produced by the Mexican Government, which all radio stations broadcasting from Mexico (including Border blasters) are obligated to transmit.
Also included in the compilation is a segment of one of the earliest transmissions made using a Border blaster, from a Medical radio program hosted by Dr. John R. Brinkley. Renown for performing atypical medical procedures (like transplanting goat testicles into human males to cure impotence), and for promoting alternative/unsubstantiated treatments (colluding with pharmacies to sell a treat-all cure consisting of water with blue-dye), Dr. Brinkley came under attack by the FDA and the Federal Radio Commission, and was forbidden from conducting radio broadcasts in his home state of Kansas or any where else in the United States. As a response, Brinkley built XER-AM, the first Border blaster across the bridge from Del Rio, Texas in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, in 1932. The 50,000 watt radio station could broadcast as far as Chicago and well into his home state of Kansas.
The recording is included as a historical point of reference in the evolution of radio along the border.
To this end, segments of Wolfman Jack’s 1960’s radio programs, which transmitted on XERB 1090 AM (now XEPRS Sports Radio), are also included. By the 1960s, Border blasters had proliferated, but few proved to be more influential or successful than XERB 1090 AM, broadcasting from south of Tijuana to the whole of Southern California. Playing primarily Rock and roll, the station and its Disc Jockey, Robert Weston Smith (aka, Wolfman Jack), came to shape not only the evolution of musical styles pioneered in the California Border region—Ritchie Valens, Los Moonlights, ? and the Mysterians and Los Solitarios—but also became an important part of the culture of Cruising (driving for a social purpose along popularly determined routes in cities). XERB and Wolfman Jack were immortalized in George Lucas’ American Graffitti, a nostalgic look back at the culture of cruising in Lucas’ hometown of Modesto in the 1960s.
Simultaneous to the boom in this popular form of recreational, open-ended reocurrent movement within the city, the Southern California highway system was developed to facilitate transit across the region, between cities. In the late 1970s, as a response to the expansion of highways, and their increased use for the purpose of commuting, which became the dominant form of reoccurent movement through an urban area (non-recreational, commercial, and/or labor-related), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created Travelers’ Information Station (TIS), low-power AM stations that sought to provide non-commercial local information (highway conditions, road closures, availability of lodging and food, local points of interest) to commuters.
The last type of radio recording included in the compilation is taken from one such TIS, WPMD 1700 AM, which transmits from the campus of Cerritos College. These hyper-local recordings become interesting counterparts to the mass appeal and long-range of Border blasters, focusing specifically on the experience of commuting in Southern California.
C. FOUND AUDIO
Included in the compilation, are two other audio recordings:
1) A segment taken from a U.S. Border Patrol Information Video, titled “Border Patrol: Protecting the Homeland”. Included in reference to the San Clemente Border Patrol checkpoint approximately 65 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border, the audio from the video is interrupted by static, as the location of the check-point comes a few miles before the outer-reach of San Diego’s FM Border blasters.
This is also true of the Temecula Border Patrol Checkpoint, a geographical/technological relation that led us to reflect on the tension between mechanisms that seek to regulate the flow of goods and people across the border (and throughout the border region), and a technology that not only undermines, but is in fact built upon the ability to subvert national boundaries.
The result is a questioning of this paradoxical desire to regulate and enforce borders, while also banking on their irrelevance for forms of mass communication like radio.
2) An interview with a Santa Resident named Elizabeth, who migrated to the United States from the Mexican State of Guerrero. In it, she describes longing for her hometown in Mexico, the clash between the conception she had of the United States and her experience upon arriving, and the shift in her relationship to her new home, to which she now feels a strong connection.
The interview serves to tie together multiple emotional associations raised throughout the compilation.