This is the new song by Downtown Boys, a queer Latinx punk band from Providence, Rhode Island. In it, lead vocalist Victoria Ruiz lassos her rage and sorrow and lets it free, like doves being released, singing lyrics like, “You can’t pull the plug on us/I won’t let that go, I’ll never let that go/You can’t pull the plug on us/I won’t hide, I won’t hide.” She makes a feeling tactile, and by naming it she strips it of its power.
“A Wall” refers to, of course, the wall—the one Trump used as a symbol of his presidency and to drum up the anti-immigrant xenophobia that he rode straight into the White House. It’s the wall that he and his supporters believe will keep Mexicans and other Central Americans out of the United States, even though Mexican immigration has been in decline for nearly ten full years. (Meanwhile, ICE continues terrorizing otherwise law-abiding undocumented people and ripping families apart.) In the latest budget proposal, the wall will eat up $1.6 billion—a fraction of the cost it will take to build—while important social programs dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt are disemboweled.
The wall is violent. For months (a year? More?) Latinxs have absorbed this violence and steeled ourselves against it the only way we can: to keep fighting. But sometimes we need to stop and sit with it for a moment, to process the emotional toll it takes, and “A Wall” is a way to do that; for me personally, it has provided a level of emotion that is not just visceral but physical, and that, last night in what was probably my 12th listen, brought me to weep in relief. Listening to it feels like being seen, recognized—the head-nod—and the power in both the delivery and the words bring solace and strength. Ruiz and the Downtown Boys look critically and analytically at the situation: “A wall is just a wall, and nothing more at all.” And:
Am I under arrest?
And do I have the right?
Need I say more?
Do I need to say more?
This song is about summarily rejecting structure—physical, societal—and in the process it serves as a liberation single for Latinxs shouldering a heavy burden. It’s poetry and I’m so grateful for it. Downtown Boys are putting out their second album, Cost of Living, on Sub Pop in August.