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Go Behind the Scenes

Artists: Los Tigres del Norte

Essay | Video Transcript

Corridos from the Heart
by Adriana Bosch, Senior Producer

The word is devotion.

Los Tigres are far more than a Norteño Music Band. They give voice to the hopes and frustrations of their audience-millions of immigrants, mostly from Mexico and from Central America-a largely invisible and unrepresented people who find in the Tigres' lyrics the understanding and vindication they thirst for as they begin to make their way in America.

The Tigres' own trajectory takes them back to the border, which they crossed in 1968 as illegal immigrants, and to the hard, low paying jobs immigrants tend to fill - in restaurants and school kitchens, always struggling in fear of the arrival of the dreaded "Migra"-the immigration police.

This is why they pour their hearts out in their Corridos - that old Mexican narrative form that dates back to the nineteenth century, recounting the feats of Pancho Villa, or of rum runners during Prohibition, and drug dealers in 70s and 80s; stories of outlaws and folk heroes. The Tigres too began singing the so-called Narcocorridos but soon took up the worthier cause of immigrants and their plight. In the Tigres' Corridos, immigrants are the new heroes. They are people with rights and pride, and a righteous claim to pursue a better life.

Los Tigres have 55 albums to their name, which have sold 32 million copies. Yet they tour 10 months out of the year-playing in soccer stadium, race tracks and night clubs - from Boston to Albuquerque, Palm Beach, Raleigh, Washington State - anywhere immigrants go to pack the chicken, pick the fruit, fix the roads.

We caught Los Tigres at home in San Jose, California, at the Convention Center, nearing the conclusion of one of their endless tours. They played and played and played, to the 20,000 plus fans who packed the San Jose Convention Center, answering the many requests, passed up to the stage from hand to hand in little pieces of paper, until they could play no more.

Never have I seen more love, respect, loyalty from so many fans. As our production team moved freely in and out of the unsecured entry to backstage, trying to get shots, position our cameras, catch interviews, fans gave us photographs, testimonies, requests. Not once did someone attempt to violate the sacred space surrounding these musical heroes. Not once did anyone try to exploit our access. We felt safe, protected, as if we too had become invested with the aura that surrounds Los Tigres.

My own emotions ran high. As much as I knew and as loudly as I could, I sang along to the words of "Somos Más Americanos" (We Are More American), "La Jaula de Oro" (The Golden Cage), "De Paisano a Paisano" (From One Countryman to Another). And though I am Cuban and have lived in the United States most of my life, that night I was one with the audience and Los Tigres were my heroes. For they sang of the loss and the gain, of the dreams and the pain of my own memories and of the memories we all share as a nation of immigrants.

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