I'm not the kind of person who generally gets all excited about someone getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The area is tourist-trappy. Parking sucks. And the idea that the stars might be awarded out of merit (or actual fame) is a fiction. After all, Donald Trump has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And unless it was granted to him for playing an Oompa Loompa, I'm just going to come out and declare that he doesn't deserve it.
But I am genuinely excited that Los Tigres del Norte will be getting their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday morning. One of the longest-running Mexican regional music acts of all time (together since the '60s), the San Jose-based band has played Disney Hall and Soledad Prison and just about every venue in between.
The Hernández brothers (Jorge, Hernán, Eduardo and Luis) and their cousin Óscar Lara are a musical institution. They have produced dozens of albums and sold millions of records. Their lyrics have touched on love, immigration, the drug trade, presidential elections, the border wall and working class life — especially the life of Mexican workers in the U.S., whether they have papers or not. The nasally twang of lead singer Jorge's vocals and the flutter of his accordion are part of California's sonic landscape. (Even if you don't know who they are, you've heard them flipping through the radio dial at some point.)
What makes the Hollywood star significant is that Los Tigres represent an aspect of culture that is omnipresent yet remains largely invisible to the mainstream. Mexican regional music is everywhere, but it doesn't generate the headlines or the coverage of pop. As Gustavo Arellano wrote in the OC Weekly last year, the form, despite being a money-maker, is even overlooked at Latin music industry events like the Latin Grammys.
It's a similar phenomenon on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You'll find stars for pop acts like Shakira and Thalía and Ricky Martin, but not for the music you're most liable to find on the radio at any given minute. All of this holds a mirror up to our own society, one in which Mexicans and Mexican culture is all around us, even if it is often ignored.
And all of this makes the star for Los Tigres, one of the most seminal norteño acts of all time, a big deal since it puts them, in a totally weird way, right into the mainstream: that very odd thing that every camera-toting tourist comes to see when they visit L.A.
A bigger deal is that their music is simply darn good: full of pain and conflict, joy and anguish, certainty and ambivalence. Whenever things seem grim, I put one of their CDs on in the car and let 'er rip at full blast, reveling in the lovelorn anguish of "La Puerta Negra," the bouncy narco-story of "La Banda del Carro Rojo" and the classic tale of the betrayed Camelia in "Contrabando y Traición" (recently turned into a soap, which is now available for streaming on Netflix).
And of course, there's the classic "Jefe de Jefes," a.k.a. "Boss of Bosses," which I've embedded into this post, and which never fails to make me feel good anytime the art industry is bringing me down.
So congrats to you, Tigres. It will be a joy to see your name on Hollywood Boulevard, in that very strange club that includes Audrey Hepburn, David Hasselhoff and Ozzy Osbourne.
For more Tigres, check out this terrific conversation between music critic and author Josh Kun with Jorge Hernández in Bomb Magazine. Also necessary: OC Weekly's list of the "20 Greatest Los Tigres del Norte Songs of All Time."