The video for the song from the band's Christmas album, "Llego Navidad," draws attention to the cost of our administration's war on brown-skinned people.
One of the Christmas canon’s most enduring themes is that of distant longing. “White Christmas” virtually created the Christmas music market with the help of World War II, which gave Bing Crosby’s dreams of a nostalgic family Christmas context. This Christmas, Los Lobos tapped into that theme with “Christmas and You” on their Llego Navidad. In it, David Hidalgo sings:
Darling, I'm thinking of you
So far away
I wonder if you really miss me
Oh, on this Christmas Day
Darling, I wish I was with you
Putting lights upon the tree
It's all that I dream of
Oh, on this Christmas Eve
As is so often the case with Los Lobos songs, the simplicity is deceptive and on its own effective. Hidalgo doesn’t do waterworks, and perhaps because it’s a familiar theme, the song didn’t blow me away. Last week, they released a video for the song and it underlined the context that gives the song an emotional charge. The video cuts between scenes of the band in the studio and the faces of Hispanics living their lives. That black and white footage presents home movies, children, adults, and grandparents, and the juxtaposition of these people, the holiday season and the song’s theme of missing loved ones makes the video’s theme clear.
“Christmas and You” illustrates the cost of this administration’s obsession with America’s southern border. All of the people in the video have family that they can’t see, whether it’s because they’re detained, stuck in Mexico, or because those in America fear that if they leave to see loved ones living in Mexico, they might not be able to get home. The video puts human faces on the war against brown-skinned people. ICE raids aren’t simply detaining workers in a chicken processing plant; they’re detaining mons and dads, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters.
Like Los Lobos though, the video lets the emotions flow naturally and effortlessly. They don’t force or step on anything, and the video’s stronger for it. No one’s mean-mugging or looking like they’re wallowing in loss. You can see years of struggle in the older faces, but you can see dignity too. You can see people loving life in America because that’s what they came here to do. You can see joy in the faces of kids, and the video leaves it to you to imagine the sadder, darker moments that you know are there.
One of Los Lobos’ strengths has been the band’s gift for understatement, and there will be those who’ll see the “Christmas and You” video and see the black and white footage simply as an expression of Latin American cultural strength. That’s there, but it’s obtuse to think that a band as culturally conscientious as Los Lobos would make such a statement without considering why Hispanics in America need to be strong.
Earlier this fall, Steve Berlin appeared on our “12 Songs of Christmas” podcast to talk about Llego Navidad. It provides some context for the in-studio footage in “Christmas and You” as he talks about the Los Lobos machine and what it takes to set it in motion. Berlin also talks about the process of deciding on songs to cover on the album and what they learned about Hispanic speaking countries and their Christmas music traditions while working on the album.