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It's all part of consciousness-raising, Hernández insists. "Music isn't there to get us into trouble but rather to give us a form of communication and an emotional stability."
Indeed one of the songs Hernández is most proud of is "Un Día a la Vez," a number in which he asks God to help him make the right choices in a fallen world. "Please, God, I just want to live one day at a time," he quietly sings into the phone. He pipes up when he excitedly adds, "They sing it in the churches all the time."
There have been actions he has regretted, not for the band's lack of nobility, but for that of those crooked officials the band has come across. In 2004, Los Tigres decided to hold a benefit concert for the families of the hundreds of women murdered in Ciudad Juárez since 1993. International rights groups had long criticized the government for carrying out a weak investigation. Hernández says he felt a total sense of disillusionment when local officials refused to help sponsor the concert. Their reason? He said they told him the show, as well as Los Tigres' homage song to the women, "Mujeres de Ciudad Juárez," which suggested state police were involved in a coverup of the murders, gave the city a bad reputation. Mexico's federal authorities later took over much of the investigation after allegations surfaced that the state police tried to plant evidence. Now under a different administration, Ciudad Juárez's municipal government hadn't responded to requests for a statement by press time.
"You try to help people and you get frustrated because suddenly you get into problems you weren't looking for," Hernández says. Since then, the bandmates have opted to do less controversial benefits, instead pouring their money into the Los Tigres del Norte Foundation at University of California-Los Angeles in an effort to help Hispanics preserve their language and culture. In fact their upcoming release, Raices, is an effort to recapture classic Mexican songs such as "Cielito Lindo," whose melody is known far beyond the Hispanic world. "We hope that when people have this CD, they feel like we do. It's a way to identify with your people, roots, customs, and experiences."
Although Hernández is only a U.S. resident and thus can't vote, he says if he could, he'd definitely cast a ballot for the Democrats, and he's more convinced by La Señora Clinton. "I like to give credit to the women," he says. But whoever wins, he hopes that person can come up with a viable immigration policy. "We've sung about immigrants on every single album," he adds.
Back in Homestead, New Times is still curious to know whose story might make for a Tigres ballad. Prying produces only pursed lips from the migrants, until Enrique finally speaks up again: "Illegals don't have any stories to tell, remember?"
"So Los Tigres tell the stories you all can't?" asks New Times.
"You got that right," Enrique replies.