On Thursday night, the 16th annual Latin GRAMMYS broadcasted two of the biggest Mexican bands on one stage in one invigorating performance with one powerful message: “Latinos unidos no voten por racistas” (“Latinos united. Don’t vote for racists”).
Maná, Latin America’s prevailing pop-rock band from Guadalajara, appeared alongside Los Tigres del Norte, the San José-based Sinaloa ensemble and legendary norteña group. Together, they performed the immigrant ballad “Somos Más Americanos” (“We Are More American”) — a rock and roll-encrusted banda jam in response to Donald Trump’s dubious remarks targeting Mexican and Latino immigrants. Like an army of musicians ready for battle, the two groups delivered the riveting song in full throttle along maddening accordion riffs and fuming guitar riffage.
The Maná-covered Tigres del Norte ballad appears in Cama Incendiada, Maná’s Latin Grammy-winning 2015 record for Best Pop/Rock Album. “I want to remind the gringo that I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me,” goes the Spanish-language song against a menacing polka beat. “America was born free, but the man divided it / They drew the line so I could cross it, and then call me an invader.”
“We took this iconic song [of Los Tigres del Norte] and are using it as a weapon of protest to what’s happening here with immigration reform and all the xenophobic remarks made by Donald Trump,” Maná frontman Fher Olvera tells Rolling Stone. “The declarations that Trump made are against a race, and that’s the problem. Politically, you can be for or against Obama’s, Trump’s, or Hillary’s [views], but there is a universal truth: We can’t be racist, and we can’t judge people because of their skin color. Racism has always been vincible throughout the ages and in any part of the world, and that’s what we need to make clear to Donald Trump.”
Similarly, Los Tigres del Norte co-founder/accordionist/singer Jorge Hernández doesn’t temper his thoughts about the real estate billionaire and presidential hopeful. “I’m personally offended. And I think our people are too. I don’t like what he said about us and what he thinks about all Mexicans,” he tells Rolling Stone, referring to Trump’s statements about Mexicans being rapists, drug dealers and killers. “We know he has a large following. I really didn’t expect there to be this much awakened racism, and I’m honestly surprised that many people unite to his form of thinking.”
Both groups have a long history of social and political activism, especially on immigration issues. Los Tigres del Norte’s emotional 1988 track “Tres Veces Mojado” (“Three Times a Wetback”) lyrically documents the treacherous journey of a Salvadorian immigrant who is able to make it to the United States. Last year, the group earned a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, based on an immense repertoire dating back to the late Sixties that chronicles the experiences of undocumented immigrants and life in the countryside.
In a similar spirit, Maná’s 2006 pop eulogy “Pobre Juan” (“Poor Juan”) details the life and death of a penniless Mexican immigrant who crossed over to America, but was subsequently killed by a border patrol guard. During performances, Maná, who have been active since the late Eighties, will occasionally prop up a U.S.-Mexico border replica onstage while conveying immigrants’ hardships with a strong sense of solidarity.
“This is beyond seeing whether we receive a Latin Grammy award or not,” Olvera says. “What it’s really about is to speak about something that’s really important: The Latin vote. it’s the only real weapon that we have in our hands.”
“We, Mexicans and Latinos, have the smarts to think and work to make this a more valuable experience, more than the racism that [Trump] has awaken in various communities,” echoes Hérnadez. “We hope that through both groups, we can provide empowerment, peace and tranquility for our people. The message [“Somos Más Americanos”] has is that despite white America taking over our territory, all of us can unite and build more consciousness. Don’t give this man [Trump] a chance.”