7 Songs That Express The Painful Struggle Of Having To Leave Your Country

Gloria Estefan: The land where you were born can’t be forgotten because it holds your roots and those things you left behind

There are many reasons why people choose to migrate to another country, these include the lack of job opportunities available, a need for better education, or sometimes, a life threatening event like a war. For whatever reason, having to move from one country to another is not a lifestyle decision, rather a survival option. Having the opportunity to look back and travel to and fro is a luxury many of us don't have, so what happens when this longing for your roots is never fulfilled? All you have left are the memories of the places and the people who played a hand in shaping your being and soul. These artists have gone through this pain of having to step away from their roots and make a new start somewhere else.

Calle 13: “Pa’l Norte”

A song dedicated to those fearless immigrants who have crossed the border illegally. It interprets the difficulties and threats that come with the dangerous journey where many have lost their lives. The song, interpreted by the now dissolved Puerto Rican band Calle 13, talks about the dreams and illusions immigrants take with them on their journey to another country, as well as the painful feeling of leaving family and friends behind.

Gloria Estefan: “Mi Tierra”

There is no better song out there about missing your homeland than Estefan’s song “Mi Tierra.” In this song, Estefan reminds us how our roots to the land where we were born will always be remembered in our hearts: “The land where you were born can’t be forgotten because it holds your roots and those things you left behind.” Estefan herself knew this feeling better than anyone else since she was forced to flee the island of Cuba, where she grew up, due to political reasons and live in exile in Miami, this left her unable to return home.

Los Tigres del Norte: “La Jaula de Oro,” ft. Juanes

This song is a classic and its recent collaboration with Colombian singer Juanes, made it popular once again. It narrates the story of an immigrant who has lived in the United States for a very long time but is still living as undocumented. The song expresses the frustration of living a comfortable life while feeling trapped inside the nation, like a prisoner, because undocumented immigrants cannot leave or go back to their home countries without having to abandon their current lifestyle. The song refers to the nation as a “golden cage,” and the band sings the following: “What’s money worth if I am trapped like this prisoner in this great nation”

Ricardo Arjona: “Mojado,” ft. Intocable

This is a song from famous Guatemalan compositor Ricardo Arjona and its poetic lyrics paint the harsh reality where undocumented immigrants leave everything behind to migrate to the U.S. At the beginning of the song, Arjona paints a scenario in which an immigrant is getting ready to cross the border, an event many folks can relate to. The word mojado (or wet) is associated to undocumented immigrant because they used to cross the Rio Bravo that divides the border of the United States and the Northern region of Mexico.

Gaby Moreno: “Ave que Emigra”

A soft and sweet pop song about leaving home like “a migrating bird” and carrying with you the memories and experiences from that place forever. This song is interpreted by the Guatemalan singer who once migrated to another country herself. It serves as a reminder about the beauty from a place we once called "our home" and despite the distance and time lapsed since we last visited it, it will always be there waiting for us. She sings: “I came from far away searching for a blue sky following predicaments. Memories of my childhood sometimes break my soul ... I never forget my Guatemala ...I always take her with me."

Ska-p: “Ali El Magrebi”

This song from the Spanish ska band, which is known for singing about political and social conflicts, narrates the story of a Muslim immigrant (Ali) who is traveling to Europe and on the way he faces discrimination from others. He misses his nation and his current life makes him nostalgic.

Various Artists: “We Got The Fucking Love, Los Ilegales, Tan Lejos De Dios”

A collaboration song by many bands that mixes different genres and styles, as well as languages since it swaps back and forward with English and Spanish. The song mainly talks about Mexico and the struggle of having to leave this country in order to find better opportunities in the U.S. The song was featured in a documentary called Hecho en Mexico (2012) and it talks about the difference between both nations: “They have the money but zero heart, I know they have the money but we have the fucking love.”


As immigrants, we chose to sacrifice many things when we decided to migrate to another country. We leave family, friends, traditions, and memories behind. Although living in a foreign country can have many benefits, nothing fully replaces those roots that filled us with certainty and anchored our reality. Luckily, it is through our ties with others and art that we can keep up the illusion that one day we'll be able to return home.

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