The song Mayahuabá was born in November of 2018 at a human rights music camp in Guatemala, by three Central American musicians: Said Palacios, Ceshia Ubau, and Dariss Hernandez. Their song was initially inspired by the Honduran migrant caravan. The artists themselves felt it was necessary to write about the human right of migration. And, it certainly is.
They centered the song around the fortitude of the individuals who independently made the decision to leave their country and seek a new space – usually to save their lives. Due to a social political crisis in Ceshia Ubau’s home country of Nicaragua, she left for Costa Rica in May of 2018. Although Ubau knows the feeling of uncertainty, she is also friendly with the inner drive to keep moving forward.
For Ceshia, Mayahuabá speaks to her at personal level. In an interview, she told The Tempest what the song means, and the message she wants Mayahuabá to carry to listeners.
Ceshia explains that the song is an invitation for Central American unity, a concept that is essential due to a lack of visibility in the region and of its people. The history of Central America is undoubtedly marked by political violence: a region tormented with corruption, wars, genocide towards indigenous groups, dictators, and foreign intervention, to name a few.
Ceshia said that the song focuses so much on Central American unity as a means for listeners to visualize the similar stories within Central America. To reinforce the idea that maybe we are not all that different after all, and that we are stronger when standing together. Much of this similarity unfortunately resides in political and local violence, as seen in El Salvador, Honduras and parts of Guatemala with organized crime.
The song itself, written by three Central Americans artists, along with its poignant title, Mayahuabá, gives specific visibility to Said Palacios, who is a Garifuna – an Afro-Indigenous group in Central America. For Ceshia, this alone is yet another token which works towards creating a tangible Central American unity. However, that is not all. There is another facet to the story, that being the resilience and the capacity of Central Americans to keep going despite the adversaries they face.
This is especially poignant when you realise that “Mayhuaba” translates directly to “don’t cry anymore”. The artists found something beautiful and empowering in this saying. While they do not use such a phrase to single out the idea that crying is weak or shameful, but rather to enforce that message that the words “Don’t cry anymore” may actually be encouraging.
Ceshia describes such lyrics founded in the human process of migrating, and felt that by utilizing “Don’t Cry Anymore” it was a way to say “vos dale” or “keep going.” For many Nicaraguans, like Ceshia and Dariss, they left their country because they had no other choice.
In April of 2018 peaceful protests broke out across Nicaragua, as a result of frequent turmoil specifically on the part of President Daniel Ortega along with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. At the time the pair had actively participated in negligence when they initiated the burning of Indio Maiz, a prominent ecological basin. Additionally, they cut social security reforms enormously. To make matters worse, Ortega-Murillo gave the order to police and paramilitary groups to open fire at civilians during protests. This crackdown left over 300 hundred dead, and thousands more were forced to leave the country in fear of political persecution. For Ceshia, she felt the best decision in terms of safety was to leave and to seek opportunities in Costa Rica.
While Ceshia begins to navigate her new home, she has continued to pursue what she loves most – music. During our interview, Ceshia reflected deeply on the current state of Central America, which is riddled in internal conflict. Indigenous communities are constantly being displaced and killed. Afro-Indigenous groups, such as the Garifunas and the Miskito community, are rapidly being silenced or murdered, sometimes disappearing without a trace. Not to mention the troublingly high numbers of femicide in the region, particularly in El Salvador. Simply, there is no economic or social respite for majority of the Central American population and its been like that for a very long time.
As Ceshia connects her experience onto her reflections through song, she writes the following phrase:
“This is the song of my people, of the kids looking for land taking a chance wherever their walk will carry them too”
Thousands of migrants like Ceshia are trying their luck somewhere else, in a an anxious search for liberty.
Ceshia explains that while the lyrics were written to highlight migration, she made sure to stay clear away from the incorrect narrative that people only migrate to study or work internationally. Rather, the intention of Mayahuabá is to address the situation of people migrating due to political conflict or under distress, which is why the song includes the following line:
“Many left their fields, their offices, their willingness to live where they were born looking for a piece of freedom.” -Ceshia Ubau in Mayahuabá
Ceshia describes that for Nicaraguans, it meant leaving everything that they’ve ever known behind in the bold search for freedom and security without even getting a chance to say goodbye.
Through music, Ceshia has been made increasingly aware that migrating because of political violence is not isolated, but rather is a global issue. In other words, after seeing the realities of other migrants all around the world, and even those of Nicaraguans, Ceshia was able to reflect deeply on how this song really is a celebration of multi-nationality.
Mayahuabá ultimately seeks to celebrate life among the emotional grief of what migration signifies. Yet, she makes sure to emphasize that with this emotional grief comes solidarity.
“I am hugging Honduran siblings, and Salvadorans, also Belizeans, Panamanians, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, South America is present, Colombia is not absent, and Guatemala oh my Guatemala ”-Said Palacios in Mayahuabá
Ceshia hopes this song will influence non-migrants to become a helping hand for migrants, no matter where they are in the world. She will continue to craft songs and lyrics similar to Mayahuabá in an effort to shed light on the difficulties Nicaraguan people have faced for years. Most importantly, she says, this song is for Central Americans to reclaim their voice and be able loudly say that they are present.
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