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"[The U.S.] is a gold cage. You have everything. You live well, you have comforts," says Jorge. "But it's another type of life, very different from ours...The United States is very solitary. And you can't relax, like [in Mexico]. There's not a lot of heart in the family. When the child reaches 18, he leaves the family."
By the early 1990s, the band was playing somewhat fewer narco and immigrant songs. But the nature of current events has returned a harder thematic edge to their music. In 1995, they recorded "El Circo" ("The Circus"), about former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and his brother, Raul, now in prison on murder and money-laundering charges. The title song of last year's double album, Jefe de Jefes (Boss of Bosses), is about a fictional drug kingpin. The album includes several narcocorridos, including one about drug lord Hector "El Guero" Palma, arrested after a plane crash in 1996.
As anti-immigrant sentiment intensified in California and the country, Jefe de Jefes touched the concerns of Los Tigres' most important audience. "El Mojado Acaudalado" ("The Wealthy Wetback") tells of immigrants who've made it in the U.S., but no longer feel comfortable and are going home with heads held high. "Mis Dos Patrias" ("My Two Countries") featured a naturalized Mexican insisting that he is not a traitor to his flag, but that he's only protecting his pension.
Yet another song perhaps best sums up the feelings of immigrants these days: "Ni Aqui Ni Alla" ("Neither Here Nor There") is doused in pessimism brought on by America's anti-immigrant atmosphere and Mexico's economic crisis and corruption scandals. The song doubts immigrants' chances of receiving justice, or of being able to progress, in either country. It is a philosophical U-turn for a band whose music and career have been founded, like the immigrant community itself, on a healthy optimism and belief in the healing powers of hard work.
"You have to tell the truth," Jorge says. "We're not good here or there. You never know if you're going to make it."
Los Tigres Del Norte perform November 26 at the Dallas County Convention Center.