By Mary Lou Fulton
Boyle Heights is hundreds of miles from Suaqui, the Sonoran pueblo where my nana was born and where our family lived for generations. But Boyle Heights became my nana’s second home after she immigrated to the U.S. following the construction of a dam that destroyed Suaqui and two neighboring villages.
Boyle Heights couldn’t be more different than Suaqui, where water was carried from the river on the backs of burros and the homes were lit by kerosene lamps. Life wasn’t always easy in rural Sonora, but the community was deeply loved because of the way people relied on each other, came together for community celebrations, and lived in harmony with the land.
The stories of Suaqui that I’ve been hearing since I was a little girl inspired me to write a corrido about this special place and what its loss meant to the people who lived there. Thanks to home movies taken by my father that are featured in the song’s music video, we can see a little of what life was like in Suaqui – mariachis strolling in the streets, the annual procession honoring La Virgen de la Candelaria and couples dancing in the town plaza.
Though it’s been almost 60 years since Suaqui was destroyed, the sorrow of the loss still weighs heavily on my family. My tia cries as she thinks of our ancestors left behind in a cemetery that’s now at the bottom of a lake where people come to fish for bass.
I hope “The Ballad of Suaqui” brings some comfort to my family and to others who long for a home they may never see again. My nana, Concepcion Ruiz Molina, passed away in 2008 but I could feel her spirit with me as I wrote this song. As my nana always said, “Recordar es vivir. To remember is to live.”
See the bilingual video for ‘The Ballad of Suaqui’:
See the Spanish-language video for ‘El corrido de Suaqui’:
Mary Lou Fulton is a journalist-turned-songwriter whose debut album, We’ll Tell Stories, will be released October 15. She is a Los Angeles-based folk-country artist who writes personal and political music drawn from her life as a writer, social justice advocate and daughter of a Mexican immigrant. The first song Fulton released, the political anthem Not Going Back, won a national songwriting competition in 2020.
You can follow her @musicbymarylou on Facebook and Instagram.