Usumacinta Song Exchange —


A 3-week voyage in traditional canoes exploring a section of Mexico’s longest river to experience how people address sustainability, human interaction with the river, border conflict and pressure on fragile eco-systems. We travelled at the pace of the river never knowing where we were going to sleep. An hour before sunset each day we looked for land where we could camp for the night or visited a house of a family along the river. We stopped where we thought it was safe and negotiated with whomever we met along the way.

Clipperton Website

Usumacinta Song Exchange, Usumacinta River, Mexico. Production, logistics and translation by Jon Bonfiglio.

I wanted to construct a project that was environmentally sustainable and sympathetic to the aims of the Clipperton Project. My train of thought ran something like this: what can I offer to people I meet when I’m travelling? Song is the oldest way to pass on stories. What about an ‘Usumacinta Song Exchange’, I’d offer a song and see what I get back? But what would I sing? I started to think about songs I knew and realised I had bits and pieces in a hotchpotch of styles and traditions. I set about picking songs that I could take to Mexico. I started with the last song I’d actively learned. ‘Hope Over Fear’ the unofficial anthem of those who voted ‘Yes’ for Scottish independence during the referendum in 2014 and from there I worked backwards to create a line through Scottish history that was a reflection of my own identity politics.