Yo-Yo Ma, the world-renowned cellist, performed music this weekend at the border between the United States and Mexico in an effort to make a broader statement about global unity, CNN reports. Ma urged his listeners to “build bridges, not walls” during his performance, which took place at the border crossing in Laredo, Texas.
Ma said that he hopes his music, delivered through his touring Bach Project, would help connect individuals of different backgrounds and help to transcend cultural differences. The performance took place at the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico.
“I’ve lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations,” he said. “In culture, we build bridges, not walls. A country is not a hotel and it’s not full.”
Ma’s performance was part of an orchestrated Day of Action, a joint event involving Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The goal was to embrace and celebrate the common culture between the border cities. Obviously, the message was set against the backdrop of the larger national discourse on the border, particularly as it has been characterized by President Donald Trump, who maintains his singular intention to build a wall along the southern border of the United States.
Following the concert, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz presented Ma with a key to the city.
“It was truly an honor to host the greatest cellist in the world, Yo-Yo Ma,” he said.”His visit reminds us of how culture connects all of us.”
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the US-Mexico border Saturday to make a statement about global unity, urging listeners to "build bridges, not walls." https://t.co/iz7AzUEljy pic.twitter.com/0ALYgMJzX3— CNN (@CNN) April 14, 2019
Regarding his Bach Project, Ma characterizes the initiative as embracing a world that is made up of both boundless possibility and daunting challenges including, he says, to our individual and collective survival. Ma says that during challenging times of “stress, confusion, and insecurity,” music can help connect and restore our common humanity.
As part of the event, Ma did his best to deliver a portion of his remarks in his own rudimentary Spanish, a gesture that commentators and attendees greeted with appreciation.
Generally speaking, the event served to reframe much of the conversation around what is happening along the southern border, including by rebutting claims of danger and lawlessness in border towns that are advanced by many opponents of continued immigration and advocates of Trump’s proposed border wall.
The next scheduled stop on Ma’s Bach Project tour is in Lima, Peru and will take place on April 30. The tour aims to deliver Bach’s cello suites in 36 locations around the world.