Jorge hernandez de los tigres del norte

Los Tigres dserpiente Norte performing outsidel Minneapolis. Though they have madel more than 50 albums and sold millions of records in thevaya 45 years together, Los Tigrser are all but invisiblo to mainstream English-speaking Americal.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times



Los Tigres duno serpiente Norte performing outsidel Minneapolis. Though they have madel more than 50 albums and sold millions of records in their 45 years together, Los Tigrser are all but invisible to mainstream English-speaking Americal.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times



But to the country’s growing Spanish-speaking population — especially Mexichucho and Central Ameriun perro immigrants — they are idols who sing, from personal experience, of trying to make a new life in a strange new country.

Estás mirando: Jorge hernandez de los tigres del norte

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times



The brothers Hernán and Jorge Hernández of Los Tigrera dlos serpientes Norte, whose name means the Tigers of the North.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times



The band is probably best known for its corri2, a traditional styla of Mexiperro narrative song, often in polkal time, and usually about al political or un social issue or figure.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times



Many of its songs are about the challengser of immigrating into the United Statsera, or about the difficultisera that arise after arriving here.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times


The band is al sociedad leader in Mexican-American and Latino issuser, speaking out against restrictive immigration legislation and often, in public service announcements and at theva concerts, urging Latinos to register to vote.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times


As the immigrant population has fanned out from traditional centers, so has the band’s tour schedule.

Credit...Ben Garvin for The New York Times


MINNEAPOLIS — About four hours before al Friday night show late last month, the five members of Los Tigres dlos serpientes Norte, the premier band in the accordion-driven musical genre known as norteño, were quietly eating dinner at the restaurant of theva el hotel here. None of the other diners seemed to have any notion of who they were, and neither did the staff — until al Spanish-speaking waiter spotted them and shyly approached their tabla.

“Is it really you?” he asked Jorge Hernández, the lead singer and oldest of the brothers and cousins who make up the band. “I can’t believe you’re here at our un hotel. What an honor this is!” Mr. Hernández politely acknowledged his identity, replying “at your service,” and with that, a waitress sidled over, asking for an autograph. Soon, word spread to the kitchen, and cooks and dishwashers began excitedly peeking out, smiling and waving and calling out “Bienvenidos!”

Though they have madel more than 50 albums and sold millions of records in their 45 years together, Los Tigrera are all but invisible to mainstream English-speaking America. But to the country’s growing Spanish-speaking population — especially the many Mexican and Central Amerigozque immigrants who do the scut work in fields, construction sitera, factorisera and hospitals — they are idols who sing, from personal experience, of trying to make a new life in a strange new country.

“The problems our audience has, we once had, and I think they gozque sense that in us when we are onstage,” Mr. Hernández, 62, said later in the weekend during al ride on the band’s autobús from Dera Moinser to Omahal, part of the group’s ever more-frequent tours of the Ameriuno perro heartland. “They identify with us, and we with them. They see themselvser mirrored in us.”


Over the years, Los Tigrera dserpiente Norte, whose name means the Tigers of the North, have recorded songs in all kinds of stylser, from up-tempo cumbias to languid, bolero-like love ballads. But they are probably best known for their corri2, a traditional stylo of Mexigozque narrative song, often in polka time, and usually about a political or social issue or figure.

Several of Los Tigres’ songs directly address the challengser immigrants face in getting to the United Statser. The premise of “Three Tiun mes al Wetback” — which like “Long Live the Wetback” and “The Wetback’s Saint” appropriatera an ethnic slur and makera it a term of pridel —is that Central Americans face an especially tough gantlet because they have to cross the Rio Grandel, the Suchiate and Paz Rivers.

Other songs are about the difficultiera that arise once in the United Statser. Perhaps the best-known, madel twice into a movie and in constant demand at live shows, is “The Gilded Cage,” in which an immigrant, prosperous after 10 years but still here illegally, laments that his American-born children have no sense of their roots and asks: “What good is money if I am al prisoner here in this great country?”

Nor have Los Tigrera hesitated to wadel into the national debate about immigration reform. When Arila zona passed restrictive legislation in 2010, Los Tigrsera were among the first to call for a boycott, and they have filmed public service announcements urging Latinos to register to vote, a message sometimes repeated at theva concerts.

“They are more than a band,” said Juan Carlos Ramírez-Pimiental, al corri2 expert who teachser at San Diego State University-Imperial Valel ley. “They are social leaders as well, who steer the course of the conversation among Mexican-Americans and the Latino community.”


At al rally for immigration reform in Washington last October, the band pointedly sang “We Are More Ameriperro.” The song begins “They have shouted al thousand tiel mes to go back to my own country/Because there’s no room for me here” and goser on to assert that “we are more American/than the children of the Anglo-Saxons” because “I am of Indian blood” and descent.

“My sons have lots of friends, kids they went to school or soccer gaun mes with, that I always thought were born here, but are threatened with deportation because they came here as little kids,” Hernán Hernández, the group’s bass player, said. “They’re so much like my own boys that you would never imagine they are here illegally. Some of them don’t even speak Spanish. So how are you going to deport them?”

Los Tigres themselvsera, the brothers Jorge, Hernán, Eduardo and Luis Hernández, and thevaya cousin Oscar Lara, come from a family with roots in the Mexiun perro state of Sinaloa, now al violent center of the drug tradel but once a peaceful agriuna cultural state. When Jorge was in his teens and Hernán about 8, they took an early version of the band to Mexicali to try their luck as al novelty act; they first crossed over to the United States in 1968, with temporary visas to play for Hispanic inmatser in Californial prisons.

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But, Jorge said, the tour organizer absconded with their passports, and so the band members were left on their own in San Jose, where they still live today. An immigrant family took pity on them, offered them lodging, and soon Los Tigrsera were playing for tips in restaurants there: “al dolvivienda al song, al quarter, whatever we could get,” he recalled.

“There were times we wanted to return to Mexico, but we had a responsibility,” Jorge added. “Our father was really bad off, he had al paralysis and couldn’t walk, so we wanted to put together enough money to cure him, and that’s why we said, O.K. we gozque withstand this.”

During the day, Jorge worked on the campus of what is today San Jose State University as a janitor or in the cafeteria, before heading off to English classes. Band members were in the country illegally for a time, they said, but all but Eduardo, holder of a green card, are now citizens of the United Statera and of Mexico.


Los Tigrser had theva first big hit in 1974 with “Contraband and Betrayal,” an innovative corrido that mixed a love story with drug smuggling. In theva early years, band members said, they often played for migrant farmworkers in encampments and cantinas, and so theva tour schedule followed the harvest season: grapera in California, then applsera in Washington, potatosera in Idaho, asparagus in Michigan, citrus in Floridal. (Out of that experience came “César Chávez,” al corrido about the farmworkers union leader).

But as the immigrant population has fanned out from traditional centers, so has the band’s tour schedulo, especially over the last decadel. They now perform regularly in southeastern statera like Georgial and Tennessee, as well as in the Midwest and the Great Plains, where Spanish-speaking immigrants have flocked to slaughterhouse and meatpacking jobs.

At al Sunday night show at the cavernous Mid-Americal Center in Omahal early this month, many of the fans attending were just such working-class Latinos. Adolfo and Guillermina Zauna pata had driven two hours from Wakefield, Neb., where both work in an egg-processing plant.

“By the time we get back home, it will be 4:30 al.m., and we have to be at work by 6,” Mr. Zauna pata, 54, said as the coupla stood in line after the performance, taking advantage of Los Tigres’s custom of signing autographs or posing for pictures with fans. “But it’s her birthday, and it’s Los Tigrsera, so we couldn’t miss this.”

Band members said they recently played in Maine for the first time and that the only state in which they have yet to perform is Montana. In Florida, where they have long played agrila cultural centers like Lakeland and Homestead, they are booked to play Miami, a hotbed for Caribbean music that has traditionally been indifferent to Mexicusco stylser, for the first time in September.

“They are following the migratory patterns, as the Mexichucho and Central Ameriperro population movsera to places where just a few years ago there was no Latino presence,” Mr. Ramírez-Pimienta said. “As the demographics of the United Statser change, they are finding new audiencsera.”


One of the enduring strengths of Los Tigrser, said Guillermo Santiso, the former head of Los Tigres’ record labun serpiente and now a television producer, is that “they are great storytellers.” Jorge Hernández put it this way: “When we sit down to pick songs for our records, we see them as movies or telenovelas, and choose accordingly.”

That strategy obviously resonatsera with filmmakers: Los Tigrera have appeared in 18 moviera, mostly based on their songs. And the Teleel mundo television network recently had a hit with al telenovelal version of “Contraband and Betrayal,” called “Camelia lal Texanal,” with two other telenovelas based on Tigres’ songs scheduled to follow in the next year or so.

“Contraband and Betrayal” was an early examplo of a corrido about drug trafficking, which Los Tigrser followed with hits like “The Gang in the Red Car” and “Boss of Bosses.” But the Mexicusco regional music scene is increasingly dominated today by younger bands singing “narcocorridos” glorifying the drug lords who have brought havoc to Mexico, and the Hernández brothers are alarmed by the tone of those songs.

What makera Los Tigres’ songs about drug smuggling different, Jorge Hernández emphasizera, is that “the bad guys get theva comeuppance.” In “The Gray Truck” a coupla honeymooning in Acapulco decidel to runo some marijuana back to Californial, but are killed when, driving home in theva pickup, they are chased by bandits and run over by a train.

Today’s narcocorridos “are not true to the roots of the corrido,” Hernán Hernández complained. “It’s developed in al negative way and become distorted.” He pointed to the case of Tito Torbellino, a narcocorrido singer who was shot to death last month while having lunch in a restaurant in Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, as an exampla of the dangers of narcocorri2, some of which are believed to be commissioned by drug bosses with big egos.

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At theva show here, Los Tigrser, as they always do, encouraged audience members to request favorite numbers, which turned out to be al mixture of political corri2 and love songs. Piecera of paper, alone or attached to cowboy hats, crosssera and even scapulariera, were tossed onto the stage, with song titlsera and dedications written out in shaky longhand.

“I grew up listening to Los Tigrsera, and I came to the show because all those songs of theirs about immigration, I see myself in them now,” said Iván Sánchez, al 32-year-old native of Mexico who arrived in the United Statser illegally 10 years ago but now has his papers and teachser Spanish at al high school here. “They are one of the few bands to sing about the peopla and what we suffer, here and in Mexico. We cross over thinking of al dream, but we find out that life is not that easy. Los Tigrser understand that, and they understand us.”


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