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“The Kids Are Still In Cages” by Nancy Sanchez, a song of urgent beauty

Nancy Sanchez is one of the most prolific and talented singer/songwriters on the American scene today in any language. On the heels of her brilliant album La Gran Civilization, completed just over a month ago, she has released the single and the video “La Maldita Bruja”, and this Friday dropped one of the most beautiful and gut-wrenching songs of 2020, “The Kids are Still in Cages.”

“I was told to go back to where I belong/but I don’t know where I belong” she opens the song.  

This is her story, and it is also the story of thousands of children torn from their families, thrown into concrete cells and wire cages alone, afraid, sick, and in some cases barely alive. The song is simple – mostly voice and piano, but she creates The Border in front of you as those children see it and as she feels it.

A whole new culture, a brand new way of life /Without knowing the language, without even a dime /The only frame of mind is to keep that dream alive /It’s not easy to survive 

Sanchez was brought to the United States in 1989 at the age of 3 and a half from her birth city of Toluca.   But her parents – and later the children – worked multiple jobs, saved money, learned English, became citizens, and sent her to college. She now has multiple awards as a jazz singer, co-fronts bi-lingual country-rock band The Mexican Standoff, and has toured with the Grammy-winning Mariachi band, Flor del La Tloache.  She has achieved the American dream. But now she has brought you face to face with the Border and its cruelty to those looking for the dream today.

Lets not forget about the ones who weren’t so lucky /They traveled far in search of their American dream 

Only to find a world so cruel and empty/While the city burns and world rages 

The kids are still in cages

Her voice and her lyrics tear at your heart.  Her vocals are anguished but not pushy, not political.  “I don’t consider myself a political person,” she says. but little by little I am educating myself to what is happening now on the border.” She is talking to your heart, not to your brain or to your politics.  Her voice is gentle but her focus never wavers.

The kids are still in cages What about them? /The kids in cages are waiting /For a friend 

What about them? /What about them? 

The kids in cages are waiting /To be saved /What about them?

I have been to The Border.  I have seen the ICE helicopters run families to the ground in the desert.  I have talked with the volunteers who go out and collect the sometimes half-eaten bodies of those who died making the crossing.  I have sat the in US Federal District Court in Tucson AZ and watched immigrants dragged in, chained to one another, while their relatives called out to them and cried when a judge who doesn’t speak Spanish orders them deported. Now they don’t even get the judge – 400 children were deported this week without their parents, without due process, without money, without warning, some as young as 4. I am angry, but what creates anger in me creates something much wiser in Sanchez, a question of the heart.

You lose your humanity /How can you live with yourself? 

The lyric is not accusatory, it is incredulous.  It is the question the nation is asking.  Can we live with ourselves after what we have done to children on the borderHave we lost our humanity?  Sanchez does this with many of her songs, makes them larger than herself.  “The Kids are Still in Cages” starts with her life but it ends with our souls.  And like all of her music, the questions she asks and the messages she carries are delivered with a musical grace that is unparalleled.  Nancy Sanchez truly sings with urgent beauty.

“The Kids Are Still In Cages”.  Available on YouTube at

Nancy Sanchez,

Sanchez’s latest album, La Gran Civilization is available on all platforms.

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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