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Migratory Movement sang by Jorge Drexler

Jorge Drexler is a songwriter who was born in Uruguay in 1964 and has lived in Madrid, Spain since the mid-1990s. Aside from being a well-known musician, he is an otolaryngologist who worked until he was 30 years old when he chose to relocate to Spain to devote his whole attention to his musical career. He has a distinct style that can be found in a fusion of genres such as Samba, Bossa Nova, and Candombe; he was up listening to some of Brazil's most legendary performers, including Joao Gilberto and Caetano Veloso. The artistic work of Jorge Drexler contains a vast number of songs that describe the migratory movement and the concept of not belonging to one specific place as every person is a combination of cultures, links, places, and ancestors. Being an Uruguayan living in Spain, with a German father, and having Uruguayan and Spanish roots explain in a way why many of his songs contain an identity topic. In this article, we will analyze two of those songs that express migration from two distinct perspectives: migration connected to natural conditions and migration related to political actions.

Jorge Drexler performing alive one of his tours called "Silente"
Figure 1: Jorge Drexler performing alive his tour "Silente"

The first song under analysis is “Movimiento” (Movement) which was released in 2017 and was included in the record Salvavidas de Hielo. The whole song describes the migratory movement in general and how humans are a traveling specie that continually is in movement. At the beginning of the lyrics, it can be found the citation of the first migratory movement of all dated between 60.000 and 75.000 years ago from Africa to Europe and Asia:

Apenas nos pusimos en dos pies (As soon as we got on two feet)

Comenzamos a migrar por la Sabana (We began to migrate across the Savannah)

Siguiendo la manada de Bisontes (Following the herd of Bison)

Más allá del horizonte (Beyond the horizon)

A nuevas tierras lejanas (To new distant lands) […]

In other fragments of the song, the artist comments on the fact that people are made of several places and not just one, as he literally said in Movimiento: [… from nowhere at all and from everywhere a little bit…] This identity topic can be found in many of his songs, as a patron that follows him through all his work.

Research from 2017 by Jessica Tierney, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, stated that the first great migration from Africa might have been due to a climate conditions as the lands were much drier than the continent as is known today. This was a consequence of climate change where a greener Sahara turned to a drier and colder one, explaining perhaps why all our ancestors migrated from Africa thousands of years ago to other places.

A picture of different scenarios of people moving from one place to another one
Figure #2: Graphical picture of a migration

The second song selected by the Uruguayan composer is “Bolivia” which was released in 2014 and was included in the album Universos Paralelos. The song starts as follows:

Europa, 1939 (Europe, 1939)

Todos decían que no en las cancillerías (Everyone said no in the chancelleries)

Años de guerra caliente (Hot war years)

Varios años antes de la guerra fría (Several years before the cold war)

Todos decían que no (Everyone said no)

Cuando dijo que sí Bolivia (When Bolivia said yes) …]

Drexler also discusses migration in this song, although from a different perspective and considerably closer in time. In the lyrics cited above, he describes the moment when his grandparents of Jewish heritage were forced to flee Europe at the start of World War II to other countries. The song describes how tough it was for those migrants to find a safe haven in that global setting. And how, eventually, they discovered a way onto the American continent via Bolivia.

In fact, during the Second World War, a large number of German families were forced to flee their homeland due to the tough conditions on the continent and in their own nation. Before the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, the local government curtailed numerous rights of Jewish families, and when the war began, these restrictions on rights led to persecution and death.

Drexler´s ancestors were one of the many cases who were forced to leave Germany due to the persecution policies that the German government had established at that moment. In 1935 a series of laws known as the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Germany which sought to reduce the rights of German Jews in comparison with their compatriots of non-Jewish origin. These laws established, among other things, that marriages between Jews and non-Jews were forbidden. These measures were intended to limit the rights of German Jews. In addition, it was intended to establish in the collective unconscious that any person of Jewish origin would have to be considered inferior and could not be treated as an equal to another German. This was emphasized by means of mass media and we can find as an example some publications of this lineage made in the newspaper Der Stürmer, owned by Julius Streicher, a close collaborator of Hitler during his government.

Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz during the Second World War
Figure #3: Hungarian Jews in the extermination Auschwitz camp 1944

This article included two songs from Jorge Drexler that illustrate the phenomena of migration, which occurs when a person or a group of people leave their place of origin to relocate to another one. This author and his songs were picked because of his background and the scenarios depicted in the lyrics: migration due to natural disasters and migration owing to political actions.

In the first of these examples, "Movimiento" was characterized as one of the earliest large human migrations that began in Africa. According to studies conducted in recent years, the first exodus from Africa to other parts of the world was caused by climate change, which made living circumstances tough for the inhabitants. Here is an example of an external natural situation that compelled the inhabitants of the period to relocate from one location to another. The second song, "Bolivia," on the other hand, presented the example of a German Jewish family that had to flee Germany due to the persecutions that many people faced during those years. Another example of migration, although with a different external conditional, may be found in this example: The governments' decisions, which in this case were the worst-case scenario since they were persecutions of people because of their religion. Finally, Jorge Drexler, the composer of both songs, is a migrant himself, having been born and raised in Uruguay before relocating to Spain, where he now resides. He has a German father, a Uruguayan mother, and two brothers from Uruguay and Spain. This demonstrates what the author means when he sings, "We're all from nowhere at all and everywhere a little bit."

Bibliographical references

BBC News Mundo (2019) El protocolo de Auschwitz: el audaz escape que reveló al mundo los horrores del campo de exterminio (y el dilema moral que provocó) Lozano Teruel, J.A. (2015) La dispersión de los seres humanos desde África ¿rápida o por fases? Universidad de Murcia Rodiguez, H. (2017) Los seres humanos emigraron desde África hace 60.000 años debido a un cambio brusco del clima. National Geographic Sadurni, J.M. (2021) Las Leyes de Nuremberg, una legislación contra los judíos alemanes. National Geographic Teitelbaum, V. (2021) Migración en tiempos de la Segunda guerra Mundial. El caso de una mujer judía a Tucumán. Historia y Memoria: Editorial UPTC. Tierney, J. (2017) A climatic context for the out-of-África migration

Visual sources


Author Photo

Baldomero Villamil

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