There is very little that Mexican norteño band Los Tigres del Norte haven't done. With over 30 million records sold, the ensemble has earned six Grammy Awards, six Latin Grammys, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Active since 1968, Los Tigres Del Norte have released over 20 albums, with the most recent one, Realidades, coming out in October 2014.
From the very beginning, lead vocalist and accordion player Jorge Hernandez has been the group’s creative director. L.A. Weekly spoke with Hernandez (in Spanish — all direct quotes have been translated) about the band’s new album, their ongoing U.S. tour and the song “Era Diferente,” which recently earned Los Tigres Del Norte a Special Recognition Award at the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The track, a cut off of Realidades, tells the story of a lesbian teenager who falls in love with her best friend.
“I think it is a very direct song, and one that we’re very happy about making,” says Hernandez. “In my country there is a lot of sexism, a lot of machismo. With this song we just wanted to highlight an issue that’s already out in the open. Latin America is ready. Love goes wherever it has to go, there is no right or wrong way. Not everyone is the same, that is just something that exists and we all have to accept it.”
According to Hernandez, “Era Diferente” is the first gay love song written by a norteño group. For a band that has constantly dealt with social issues such as immigration and disenfranchisement, this felt like a natural progression.
Says Hernandez, “We try to cover every single aspect of humanity with our music. Everything that is going on in society. We make songs about real things.”
Los Tigres del Norte have never been afraid to mix music and politics. In 2010, when Arizona passed the SB 1070, the notorious Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the band made headlines by joining a massive international boycott of the state.
On October 8, 2013, the group performed at an immigration reform rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. After being introduced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Tigres del Norte went on to play songs about the everyday struggle of immigrants living in the United States.
“I’m always thinking of ways to help people through music. How to make a difference in the world singing songs,” sayes Hernandez. “I just want to expose what we think about and shed light on the things that affect our day-to-day lives.
“Immigrants in the United States are caught in a very complicated position. Many of them still have happy memories of their home country, but there is also a lingering sadness from not being able to be there. People leave behind family, friends, jobs, everything, just to come to the United States.”
The song “El Gallo Del Mojado,” also off of Realidades, deals with Hernandez’s own issues as a Mexican who immigrated to the United States at a very early age.
“That’s a song that was written a while ago,” says Hernandez. “The lyrics talk about how my parents brought me here when I was very young, and how even though I grew up here I’m still not a gringo. It’s interesting, because the chorus says that I would like to see a Mexican-American president, and right now there’s actually two potential candidates with Latin last names.”
Realidades is Los Tigres del Norte’s first official studio album in three and a half years. Currently, the band is touring the United Stated to promote the double-disc release.
“We’re always playing all over the United States, but we haven’t been to Los Angeles in two years,” Hernandez notes. “We have a lot of fans here, it’s been too long.”
Los Tigres del Norte will be performing at the Nokia Theatre on Saturday, April 18. Tickets and more info.