Brandon Flowers' Magdalena Encouraging Deaths of Immigrants?

by Matthew C. Miller on Sep 4, 2010 at 10:24 AM
R&R Engage (20)

Magdalena

Even though the song "Magdalena" is about the penance of walking a long road, it's pounding drums, hopeful sounds and distant echos tell of the joy in seeing a long journey come to an end and the hope that the prayers you've carried on that journey are answered. Come, walk, "be delivered from the depths of darkness and be born again by candlelight."

There's something about the song and I cannot keep from crying. A happy song is not supposed to do this.

Documenting the little-known annual journey from Nogales, Mexico (or Arizona for some) to Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, Flowers must have made this journey himself. The spirit of his voice carries the pain of a thousand tears and the character of blood-stained, muddy feet. If there are any illegal immigrants involved, it's those who cross from America back to Mexico. As one who made the journey recalls: "All of us walked with a promise or to ask a miracle to be granted once the walk was complete and a kiss planted on the head of the statue of San Francisco in the church at Magdalena."

Is Brandon Flowers' "Magdalena" encouraging the deaths of Immigrants, giving them false hope as they cross through the desert or drive over the boarder? In a way, I hope "Magdalena" does. I hope that in every mile of that march, pilgrims are bathed anew and as the sun rips their skin and the road tears their feat, that the old man they leave behind will never be picked up again. I hope it encourages us all to drop our old man even if we are thousands of miles away, and that "we'll dance and the band will play" and that we'll "be delivered from the depths of darkness" as we "runneth over the ancient clay" and know that we are clean.

As much as it is about taking the harsh Nogales to Magdalena journey, it's just as much about crossing the border between earth and Heaven. I hope we all make the journey, even if we must become a "two-time beggar" to get there.

Magdalena - George Thomson
Photo by George Thomson

Walk the road yourself.

More about the journey and the myth that started it all.

 


Brandon Flowers' - "Magdalena" - Video w/intro and explanation by Brandon - Live

 

Here are the lyrics to "Magdalena" as best as I can determine, this is the only place you can find the accurate lyrics.

Please don't tell me I can't make it
It ain't gonna do me any good
And please don't offer me your modern methods
I'm fixin' to carve this out of wood

From Nogales to Magdalena
There are 60 miles of sacred road
And the promise is made to those who venture
San Francisco will lift your load

In the land of old Sonora
A shallow river valley cries
The summer left her without forgiveness
It's mirrored in her children's eyes

Prodigal sons and wayward daughters
Carry Mandas that they might
be delivered from the depths of darkness
And born again by candlelight
And born again by candlelight
Brandon Flowers' "Magdalenda" lyrics
provided by ROCKandREVIEW.com

Blisters on my feet
Wooden rosary
I felt them in my pocket as I ran

A bullet in the night
A federale's life
San Francisco do you understand

Tell him that I made the journey
And tell him that my heart is true
I'd like his blessing of forgiveness
Before the angels send it through

And I will know that I am clean now
And I will dance and the band will play
In the old Artu Cantina
Cups will runneth over the ancient clay

And if I should fall to temptation
When I return to evil throes
From Nogales to Magdalena
As a two time beggar I will go
Where I know I can be forgiven the broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico

 

 

 

20 R&R Engage comments to “Brandon Flowers' Magdalena Encouraging Deaths of Immigrants?”

  1. Hector Says:
    Wow, I've been looking for these lyrics.
    I've never heard of your site before, but it's the only one with the correct lyrics.
  2. Erica Says:
    What an amazing song. Thanks for the post.
  3. Suset Torres Says:
    I'm from Magdalena!!! I work in a saints store here, I really appreciate this from Brandon he's awesome... hope to be there to support his cause... let's make this possible!
  4. Claudia Sitten Says:
    No way, Matthew! This song is not about that at all! You got it all wrong...
    I live in the State of Sonora, Mexico and I have been familiar with the religious pilgrimage from Nogales to Magdalena since I was born. This pilgrimage is done mainly by people who lives in Mexico! It's not about immigrants returning home (although some of them can do it if they want, of course)...
    I'm not a fan of these kind of catholic traditions, but people who does this, trust their requests will be heard (they will receive their very own miracle) or it is a debt they need to pay to Saint Francisco Javier. Also, since it is a regional festivity, people who owns the ranches that are next to the highway offers the pilgrims free water, regional meals, a place to rest, etc. so it has became easier to do this pilgrimage. I share with you this link: http://www.gotosonora.com/magdalena-son-mx.htm
    Regards,
    Claudia
  5. Matthew C. Miller Says:
    Thanks for the link Claudia and for sharing your insight!

    I think the explanation you offer matches with what I said. I never said it was about Mexican immigrants returning home, I was talking about U.S. immigrants.

    As far as the border crossing I mentioned, it was about some U.S. citizens I've heard of that have crossed the border back to Mexico to take this journey more for the experience, not really for any kind of Catholic spirit walk. Usually white males in their twenties and thirties looking for a thrill or personal challenge. They mentioned some who would try and charge for water and food along the road, and what they would do to those people.

    I was using a bit of hyperbole to extrapolate the difference between the journey that Brandon wrote about in his song and the recent news reports of illegal Mexico to U.S. crossings and showing that some who live in the States are actually doing the same thing by crossing down into Mexico undocumented, just to take part in this walk.

    It seems that it's becoming a bit of a tourist thing threatening any Catholic spiritual sense it might have once had.

    Although the entire thing is based on a myth anyway and no one has the same reasons or answers for making the trip, it still lends itself to a really wonderful song.

    http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/missions/magfiesta.html<br>;
    http://www.discoverseaz.com/History/Magdalena.html

    I Hope to talk to you again,
    God Bless,
    Matthew
  6. Joss Says:
    I love this song. Even if I'm not catholic I enjoy it so much because it reminds me when I lived in Nogales Sonora and I would go with my parents in a little journey to visit my grandparents that lived in Magdalena. I love how simple Brandon is about this song and it could also be inspired by immigrants why not. Ive known people that go thru this pilgrimage journey from Mexico city to the border and then try crossing the border.
  7. Sam Says:
    Hey, how do I find out more information on this pilgrimage? I'm interested in doing it. Do you know anything about it, or of a source that does? Thanks for your post, loved it.
  8. AHLondon Says:
    This song is about a yearly pilgrimage made to Magdalena, a town in Sonora, one of the Mexican states, every year. In the historic church is a famous statue of San Francis Xavier, though it is meant to be Saint Francis of Assisi--it is kinda complicated. Look it up, and any of the other names or terms I mention below, for more background. The best background piece on the pilgrimage I found was here http://borderzine.com/2010/04/mandas-a-magdalena/ (I hope this site accepts links.) This song rests tons of religious history and theory. Seriously, you could write, and many have, books on the topics touched on in this song. More than a few wars have been fought over the ideas expressed too. I can give you a quick taste, though.

    It is easiest to break down by verse.

    Please don't tell me I can't make it, It ain't gonna do me any good And please don't offer me your modern methods, I'm fixin' to carve this out of wood
    Historically the journey to Magdalena was often very hard. Poorer people would beg on their way even. This narrator isn’t giving up. He’s going to do the walk. “Please don’t offer me your modern methods” might be a reference to getting there in easier transportation these days, but I think it is a reference to the redemption the narrator seeks. Asking a saint for a blessing is an old-school, Catholic way of seeking redemption. The Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses turn mainly on stuff like this. Martin Luther was upset that some of the Catholic clergy had sold “indulgences” to the local people for forgiveness, that they thought they had to buy forgiveness, which had already been offered by Christ. They merely had ask for it and then to earn it by repentance, not cash. The best modern illustration is something like carbon offsets for environmentalists. They believe in lowering carbon emissions but think that by paying for their own continued emissions that they don’t actually have to work at reducing their own emissions. That is, they can buy the privilege to keep sinning yet tell themselves that they are doing well, all the while the only practical result is a bunch of authority types get richer. The Catholic Church of the time had many similar issues. ML wrote up a list of such grievances and posted it for discussion. That began the Protestant Reformation.

    Protestants believe that you gain forgiveness by personally asking for it and repenting--trying to stop sinning. So the narrator is refusing the new way of asking forgiveness and going to do it the old way, do some task and then ask for a saint’s blessing. “Carve this out of wood” might be a reference to the St. Francis statue’s feet being wood, or just to old skilled craftsmanship.
    This verse shows how BF can write lyrics that can be taken multiple ways by listeners. If you are Catholic, for example you can listen and think he is celebrating this pilgrimage--I’m seeking redemption in the tradition of my ancestors. Many commenters on this thread get that vibe from the song. If you are Protestant, and I am, then you can pick up a sigh of frustration feel from this song; the frustration of trying to explain that you don’t have to go through this for redemption.

    From Nogales to Magdalena, There are 60 miles of sacred road And the promise is made to those who venture San Francisco will lift your load
    This is just background on the journey. Go there, ask St. Francis for forgiveness and it will be granted.

    In the land of old Sonora A shallow river valley cries The summer left her without forgiveness It's mirrored in her children's eyes
    Sonora is the state in Mexico where Magdalena is. It is a desert. For Protestants, baptism is a baptism of belief--it is done on confession of belief in God, not when you are born or join the church. This is such a big deal to some denominations that it is why Baptists are called Baptists. Furthermore, for many denominations, Baptists and Mormons included, baptism is essential and requires a full dunking so the valley “left without forgiveness” is a land without water. “Mirrored in her children’s eyes” I think refers to the holes and emptiness in the lives of people without God in their lives. This is a land that misunderstands the path to salvation, therefore, for all the formality and festivity the people are still empty. Note well, I don’t mean to start a Catholic and Protestant war on the web. If you have ever wondered why Catholics and Protestants fought so often in history, this is the crux of it. Does man need an intercessor, an authority, before God? Protestants give, and have given, a resounding ‘No!‘ This is a big deal, something that has driven hundreds of years of Western history, and BF has written a pop song about it. The man has some serious cojones.


    Prodigal sons and wayward daughters Carry Mandas that they might be delivered from the depths of darkness And born again by candlelight And born again by candlelight

    Sinners, prodigal sons and wayward daughters are Biblical references, come with Mandas, desire for a miracle or forgiveness. They whisper them in the statue’s ear, kiss his head and receive his blessing.


    Blisters on my feet Wooden rosary I felt them in my pocket as I ran
    Physical realities of the journey, burdens that you carry.


    A bullet in the night A federales's life San Francisco do you understand?
    Historically Sonora has seen much violence. This is a reference the drug traffickers and the resulting violence in the Sonora desert today. Because of its remoteness, drug cartels can easily hide there. There is so much violence now that the main company that does tours for the old Missions including Magdalena, is thinking about stopping. Many of the real baddies in Mexico come seeking forgiveness. This, I think, is the Mandas of some drug cartel baddie asking forgiveness for shooting a cop.

    Tell him that I made the journey And tell him that my heart is true I'd like his blessing of forgiveness Before the angels send it through
    Tell Saint Francis that I did it and I’m sincere; bless me. Once again, if you are Protestant this verse is sad because someone is asking forgiveness of from a middleman.

    And I will know that I am clean now And I will dance and the band will play In the old Artu Cantina Cups will runneth over the ancient clay And if I should fall to temptation When I return to evil throws From Nogales to Magdalena As a two time beggar I will go Where I know I can be forgiven
    the broken heart of Mexico The broken heart of Mexico The broken heart of Mexico

    I’ll treat these two verses together. Whereas the previous verse is sad because people don’t need a middleman for forgiveness, this one hits at one of the two major obstacles* to redemption, not trying. One will not be redeemed by merely asking for forgiveness. One must try to reform. What are blisters on your feet, a cross in your pocket, and a sincere heart to the difficulty of actually changing your ways? After the whispering in the ear of the saint, there is a big party in the town. The verse suggests of an attitude like, ‘God forgives. Why should I worry about being good. I can go ask for forgiveness again. As a two time beggar I will go. Let's go party!’ And things never change. That’s why this is the “broken heart of Mexico.”

    *In case you are wondering, the other major obstacle to redemption is pride. It is one thing to be proud of an accomplishment, of a job well done. It is entirely another to think that means you are all that. To quote CS Lewis, “The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, ‘I have pleased him: all is well,” to thinking, ‘What a fine person I must be to have done it.’ If you are that kind of proud, then you are too busy with keeping up appearances, so to speak, that you can’t see God. It is like focusing on your SATs and college admissions rather than what kind of person you will be when you are 35.

    Like I said, this isn't your typical pop song. Not by a long shot.
  9. Matthew C. Miller Says:
    Wow. Now that's a comment.
  10. AHLondon Says:
    That's one of my shorter comments too. This is a fabulous album. He shies away from nothing. I was very impressed.
  11. NHensel Says:
    Just a few spelling suggestions: I think it is "federale" (Mexican police) and "evil throes" (?).
  12. Matthew C. Miller Says:
    Thanks for the spelling corrections.
    I like the music you've got posted up on your site.
    Great stuff.
  13. Jesus Says:
    "Nogales, Mexico (or Arizona for some"

    Really? ...and I suppose the Indians who were there first just handed it over to the Conquistadores? You are a freaking moron.
  14. Matthew C. Miller Says:
    Hey Jesus, in case you did not know: Nogales, Arizona, borders the city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

    So like I said, Nogales, Mexico or Nogales, AZ for some.

  15. George Thomson Says:
    I took that photo on this page and you took it without my permission. It sucks to rip off creativity. At least give me credit. Or lose you credibility! see link
  16. flor preciado Says:
    second picture in your blog by: George Thomson

    http://borderzine.com/2010/04/mandas-a-magdalena/

    give credit where credit is due
  17. Matthew C. Miller Says:
    Thanks George and Flor, dually noted, and notated and linked.

    We meant no harm and we had previously linked back to your page in the article however we could not find the copyright information in the photo data so we were not sure.

    I wish we knew what all of the photo credits were. We will do better going forward.

    God Bless!
  18. George Thomson Says:
    Thank you for your quick response. I work hard on my art and appreciate it's free use for only the price of recognition. thanks again
  19. jeanie lockamy Says:
    Are you nuts? This is a song honoring an established religious journey and the eternal desire to be forgiven; not unlike what we see and admire (even if not a religious person)when we listen to Mr. Flower's heart felt journey to redemption and understanding in his music, which is why he was probably drawn to it when he learned of it. He announced it as so when he sang for us in Portland, OR and clearly reveled in the power of promised redemption!
  20. Martha Valenzuela Says:
    I am so happy I have stumbled across this blog!!!!! I am about to embark on a similar journey in September. My father, my boyfriend, my brother, his best friend and myself will be walking from Cananea, Son to Magdalena (about 56 miles). Although, my father has completed this walk about 16 times in his lifetime (as a debt to God for saving my brother as a newborn from pneumonia, back 38 years ago) I have never even ran a half marathon. I figure with my father's experience and encouragement, there is no way I can fail. I am sure you all are wondering what for? Well, first I do have to say, although I have strayed from the Catholic Religion, I am still a Catholic. This walk was a deal I made with God, If my sister's first child beat her odds of having Down Syndrome I would repay God by completing this walk. So, since He held up His end of the deal, it's my turn. We will be completing this walk in one day. Any training advise out there? Viva Canapas Beach!!!!

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