Cairaguas (cairaguas) wrote in songlations,

"ICE El Hielo" by La Santa Cecilia, English translation of lyrics

"ICE, the Ice"
Album: Treinta Dias (Thirty Days), 2013
Style: Ballad
Country: United States (California)


A beautiful melody telling stories based on the real lives of undocumented immigrants. The tone is very matter-of-fact, not angry or bitter, just a melancholy rendition of the challenges that undocumented immigrants face in the United States. I wrote some historical and cultural context for the title of the song in the translation notes. This was a hard one to post. The song itself was translated months ago, but I kept editing the translation notes. Watch the music video at YouTube here.

"The video brings together director Alex Rivera and a nearly all undocumented cast portraying their real-life experiences mirrored in the lyrics of the song. The music and the making of the video combine to create a commentary on the state of immigration, the great lengths people will go to in order to provide for their family and loved ones, and the ever-present threat of removal that haunts today's immigrant communities." (

[Expand embedded music video]

ETA 12/5/2013: As per reader suggestion, I updated the translation notes to include two civil rights organizations that are fighting injustices and crimes against immigrants and minorities. If you are moved to donate, these groups do good work!


Eva pasando el trapo sobre la mesa, ahí está,
Cuidando que todo brille como una perla
Cuando llegue la patrona que no se vuelva a quejar.
No sea cosa que la acuse de ilegal.

Eva passing the rag over the table, there she is,
Taking care that everything shines like a perl
(So) when the boss comes, she does not complain again.
Don't let it be that she accuses her of being illegal.

José atiende los jardines; parecen de Disneyland.
Maneja una troca vieja sin la licencia.
No importa si fue taxista allá en su tierra natal;
Eso no cuenta para el Tío Sam.

Jose tends to the gardens; they look like they're from Disneyland.
He drives an old truck without a license.
It does not matter if he was a taxi driver over in his home country;
That does not count for Uncle Sam.

El hielo anda suelto por esas calles.
Nunca se sabe cuando nos va a tocar.
Lloran, los niños lloran a la salida,
Lloran al ver que no llegará mamá.

ICE is loose over those streets. [*ICE = Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; ice = hielo]
We never know when we will be hit. [*alt. We never know when it will be our turn.]
They cry, the children cry at the doorway,
They cry when they see that their mother will not come back.

Uno se queda aquí.
Otro se queda allá.
Eso pasa por salir a trabajar.

One is left here.
Another is left there.
That's what happens when you go out to work.

Martha llegó de niña y sueña con estudiar,
Pero se le hace difícil sin los papeles.
Se quedan con los laureles los que nacieron acá,
Pero ella nunca dejar de luchar.

Martha arrived as a girl and she dreams of studying,
But it is difficult for her without documents.
They keep all the prizes, the ones who were born over here,
But she never stops fighting. [*alt. But she never stops trying.]

[Chorus: "El hielo anda suelto por esas calles..."]

Translation Notes:

No sea cosa que la acuse de ilegal.
Don't let it be that she accuses her of being illegal.

No sea cosa que... = Don't let it be (the case) that...; don't let it be something where...;


El hielo anda suelto por esas calles.
ICE is loose over those streets. [*hielo means ice]

This line is using the Spanish word for frozen water (hielo) to refer to ICE the federal department.

ICE = Immigrations and Customs Enforcement

A little history and personal perspective:

ICE does not have a good history with Latino communities. ICE is a department of the United States of America that unapologetically and aggressively uses profiling to target Latinos and other non-white minorities for detention and deportation. Their power increased during the Bush and Obama administrations, partly in response to the downturn of the economy and the culture war that this has triggered over who deserves American jobs. This anti-immigrant antagonism happened before during the Great Depression of the 1930s and culminated in the coerced "repatriation" of approximately 2 million Mexican-Americans to Mexico without due process, approximately 60% of whom were American citizens [Johnson 2006, pdf, citing Balderrama & Rodriguez 1995]. One of my great-grandfathers was repatriated to Mexico from Illinois.

The Mexican Repatriation led to an agricultural labor shortage when the economy improved after the end of the Great Depression, resulting in the creation of the 1940s Bracero Program, a guest worker program that brought in migrant laborers from Mexico for agricultural work in the United States. Both my grandfathers were Bracero workers. Neither of them stayed in the United States, but their children (my parents) immigrated here later, and I was born in the United States.

When I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) a few years ago, the increased activity of ICE reached the point where Latinos lived in fear of surprise raids which would result in the deportation of undocumented immigrants and the unnecessarily long (overnight or over the weekend, in a few cases weeks to years) detention of American citizens even if they carried identification because their identification might be "fake". There have been numerous cases of American citizens being wrongfully deported, even repeatedly. In 2011, ICE deported a 4-year-old American citizen to Guatemala.

People detained by ICE are treated poorly, and there are several cases of people dying in ICE custody due to withholding of medical examinations or life-saving medication.

At one point, ICE agents came to Yolo County, were UC Davis is located, and the Latino student groups arranged community meetings to educate other students on how to spot an impending raid and avoid detention. This was not a joke. We were told to avoid areas with a lot of people and to leave locations if we saw large vans "suitable for carrying several people" since such vans had been spotted prior to raids in other areas. Almost all of us were American citizens, but we were still afraid of the threat of ICE.

This is historical context for the song. If you are brown or undocumented, ICE is the real-life boogeyman you hope to never encounter. The fact that the agency's acronym means "frozen water" is a fact that has been noted many times before this song. They are a rather cold agency.

The climate created by ICE has allowed some state and local governments to become very brazen, and awful human rights abuse cases are often punished very leniently. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's posse in Arizona is notorious for its uncontrolled behavior and cruelty. In 2009, Arizona deputies literally drove around in ski masks with guns drawn to question people about their immigration status; some of the people they arrested were Native Americans. In 2011, federal authorities discovered a human trafficking/slavery case in the New York State Fair, where 19 men on work visas were coerced to work "16 to 18 hours a day with a 15-minute break and one meal. They were paid $1 an hour," and sometimes did not even receive that; the fair vendor responsible received a fine, but no jail time.

I linked to several major articles above and gave you many threads to follow if you are interested in this topic. There was some potential good news earlier this year when Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was finally reprimanded by an Arizona court in 2013, after years of terrorizing communities. However, the ruling was not accompanied by action. He still has power and he is still coming up with cruel ways to treat his prisoners. This Thanksgiving, he boasted on Twitter about how little food he is giving his prisoners.

If you are interested in donating to civil rights groups who are fighting the abuse and unjust treatment of immigrants and minorities, two reputable organizations you should consider are:
  1. MALDEF - Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund - This is the leading Latino civil right organization in the United States and the organization that will most specifically target the issues mentioned above.

  2. The American Civil Liberties Union - This is the largest civil rights organization in the United States. They fight for everyone, on many fronts. They helped the New York Times shed light on the deaths occurring in ICE's immigrant jails.

Hear the band's own April 17, 2013 interview with the Miami Herald about their experiences with immigration. Also see their bio with the San Francisco Chronicle.


Uno se queda aquí. otro se queda allá.
One is left here. Another is left there.
One stays here. Another stays there. [*alt.]

This line is about people being picked up by ICE.

quedarse [verb] = to be left (in a place); to stay put


Se quedan con los laureles los que nacieron acá,
Pero ella nunca dejar de luchar.

They keep all the prizes, the ones who were born over here,
But she never stops fighting. [*alt. But she never stops trying.]

A laurel is symbol of success and triumph in addition to being an evergreen tree (a bay laurel tree).

A lucha is a good fight or a struggle.
Tags: la santa cecilia

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