The 20 Greatest Los Tigres Del Norte Songs of All Time, Nos. 20-11
The very first music review I wrote for this infernal rag was 11 years on Los Tigres del Norte, the conjunto norteño group who will one day go done in history as one of the greatest musical groups of any genre or language for their brilliant fusion of politics, braggadocio, storytelling, awesome suits and hard-charging dance music, all set to a polka beat. In the years since, the Tigers of the North have only grown in stature, recording MTV Unplugged sessions, getting profiles in the New Yorker, and hitting bigger and bigger venues all the while never losing sight of their audience--they'll trek all the way to Des Moines and Pensacola to reach their core fans, migrants tossed among the fields of plenty.
Los Jefes de Jefes
Locally, they used to play the Anaheim Convention Center almost every year for decades--in fact, Los Tigres just played last year. But fans wanting to see their epic hours-long concerts (where they read fan requests from the stage) will have to trek to the San Manuel Casino next week (June 20) for their next local performance. In honor of them, behold their 20 greatest songs--enjoy, and gabachos: take notes.
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20. "Vivan los Mojados"
Believe it or not, yaktivists, there was a time in Aztlanista history where not only was the term "illegal immigrant" bandied around with pride, but "wetback" was ever a bigger reappropriated term of honor--hence, the title of this late-1970s effort, a remix of "El Corrido de los Mojados," recorded most memorably (originally?) by legendary conjunto duo Los Alegres de Terán. Los Tigres keep the original's prideful promise of endless Reconquista--"If they take out one wetback from Laredo/through Mexicali comes 10/If they take them out from Tijuana/Through Nogales come six"--and logical solution to the illegal immigration problem (marry a "gringita" until the wetback gets his green card, then divorce her!) but also tweaked the lyrics to give a glimpse of the group by acknowledging illegal immigration would never end--hence, may the wetbacks long live.
19. "Ni Aqui Ni Alla"
The mournful opening chords of the accordion give a hint that this won't be one of the usual Tigres jaunts. A Mexican immigrant bemoans his fate--the United States and its nasty border wall built so that "no one can leave or so no one can enter" won't be the Land of Opportunity for him, but neither is his beloved Mexico, where his pueblo is essentially being stripped away of everything. "I don't understand it, nor will I ever understand," the singer cries, "that my dreams neither here nor there/I'll never attain." Should be the song for millennials as well, ¿qué no?
18. "El Avion de la Muerte"
Based on a true story, the song tells the tale of "The Plane of Death"--a group of soldiers nab a drug dealer named Atilano and proceed to torture him, even his "noble parts." As they transport the narco, the latter suddenly takes control of the airplane and plans to crash it into army barracks. But, seeing a schoolyard nearby, Atilano decides to crash the plane into a barren hill, killing everyone on board. The song never identifies Atilano as a narco per se, but the city in which the plane crashes, Badiraguato, is infamous for the many cartels that sprung from there--make your own conclusions. When it comes to celebrating anti-heroes, Atilano makes Stagger Lee seem like a choir boy, and Los Tigres also sneaked in a critique of the Mexican government's scorched-earth, failed drug war even back in the 1970s.