How to Sneak a Latin Alternative Band into the United States Without John Ashcroft Finding Out
BY VINCENTE FOX
The easiest thing is getting people over. Most of the people we cross over already look "American"—the way they dress or just carry themselves. And they've been there already so many fucking times they're not even scared about crossing the border when we actually do it. So the migra never suspects a thing. We just make sure not too many people are in the same car, and we cross.
The biggest problem is bringing band equipment over. Sometimes the agents at San Ysidro just wave you through, but not as often as they used to. So now they usually make you open up your trunk, look underneath seats, stuff like that. When they see we're transporting a drum kit, amplifiers and a chingo of guitars all in one vehicle, they know the people in the vehicle aren't your normal tourists, so they start asking questions.
About five years ago, I went to TJ with a band I was playing with at the time—we were all legal—to play some shows. When we went back across the border to the United States, the border agent made us pull into the inspection station and empty all of our bags. He thought we were trying to smuggle shit into the U.S. with our instruments. He was a real dick—he even asked us to produce fliers proving we were a real band and had just played in Tijuana. We had to pay a fine, he said, for bringing things into the United States without declaring them. Asshole.
To avoid suspicion, then, you get a bunch of legal people to drive to TJ and return with band members and equipment divided among several cars. We have it so that every car has only one item so the [U.S.] border agent doesn't think twice about it. One car will have one guitar, another carries another one, and so forth. If [the agent] asks about the instrument, all you have to do is show it and say you took it to TJ to get it fixed, and they'll believe it.
The trickiest thing to bring across is a drum kit. Even if you break it down to the cymbals, someone still has to carry the snare drum across, so usually I take it. When the migra looks at it, he almost always makes a stupid joke about whether I'm carrying any drugs inside. He usually asks if he can take a whack at it, and I tell him to go ahead—as long as he doesn't do a drum solo.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.