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Serenading the Border

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Serenading the Border

Diversions

Serenading the Border

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Now, far away from the concrete canyons of Boston, one man stands in the canyons of the Rio Grande and sings his heart out for passing tourists.

Earlier this year, NPR's John Burnett captured the music of Victor Valdez, and it's his favorite tape from 2007.

JOHN BURNETT: When you work as a radio reporter for NPR, you learn to read a newspaper with your ears. And so in November when I saw a story about Victor Valdez, the Rio Grande balladeer, who sings every day standing in the middle of the international river, I had to hear him for myself. I brought my best stereo microphone because I had a feeling this was going to be good, and it was.

Mr. VICTOR VALDEZ (Rio Grande Singer): (Singing in Spanish)

BURNETT: His amphitheater is the soaring limestone walls of Boquillas Canyon, located in the southwestern boot heel of Texas bordering Big Bend National Park. Victor walks down from his Mexican village every day to sing sad love songs for the visitors on the U.S. side who walk past purposely in their Gore-Tex boots and floppy hats.

They're invariably surprised to see this short, bronze-skinned man with the big voice, his arms outstretched expressively, standing waist-deep in the swift stream. Sometimes they leave tips, sometimes not. Victor sings anyway.

Mr. VICTOR VALDEZ (Rio Grande Singer): (Singing in Spanish)

LYDEN: Recorded by NPR's John Burnett.

We'll hear another piece of fabulous NPR tape in the next part of the show.

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