In a rebuke to the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies and rhetoric, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave a performance at the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday, where he praised culture’s ability to “build bridges, not walls.”
With the international bridge connecting the two countries visible behind him, the audience in Laredo, Texas heard the musician play an excerpt of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cello suites. An audience in the sister city of Nuevo Laredo was treated to a performance as well shortly after.
Texas Public Radio captured video of the performance:
Ma also read from Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
“We must live by those words,” he said.
Taking direct aim at President Trump’s recent rhetoric, Ma said, “A country is not a hotel and it’s not ‘full.'”
“I’ve lived my life at the borders—betwen cultures, between disciplines, between musics, between generations,” he said.
The performance was part of The Bach Project, his two-year effort to bring the composer’s suites for cello to 36 locations around the world, with performances alongside days of action to harness culture as a unifying force.
“The Bach Project,” the website for the initiative explains, “explores and celebrates all the ways that culture makes us stronger as individuals, as communities, as a society, and as a planet.”
The border performance was embraced by many on social media:
Today at the scary, scary border Laredoans spent a beautiful morning with Yo-Yo Ma. Across the river is Mexico, where another performance is being held for the residents of Nuevo Laredo. This is life on the border, please don’t believe otherwise. pic.twitter.com/joGqJhN6VW
— mazapam 🌹 (@pamelurz) April 13, 2019
Yo-yo Ma disrupting the violent narrative that dominates media coverage of the borderlands. So proud of my hometown https://t.co/xLqxQqRA8t
— Sarita Garcia (@asweetmesquite) April 13, 2019
Could there be a more glorious subtweet of the racist freakshow in the White House than Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach at the border between a city in Mexico and a city in Texas that consider themselves one united community? https://t.co/lWRDe0gQ8m
— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) April 14, 2019
Yo-Yo Ma went to the US-Mexico border, created beautiful music, read the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, and said "we build bridges, not walls." I'm inspired by this fusion of music, humanity, and justice, and so grateful for his work https://t.co/ImsNV8Ceb1
— Colleen Farrell, MD (@colleenmfarrell) April 14, 2019
Your Sunday morning soundtrack: Yo-Yo Ma performs Bach at the U.S.-Mexico border to build a bridge between cultures. Beautiful. https://t.co/r6AAF9HkYP
— Pramila Jayapal (@PramilaJayapal) April 14, 2019