Los Tigres del Norte Me Hacen Feliz!

Norteño music reminds me of home. Of music blaring from car windows and cowboy hats and big belt buckles. Of being a kid and driving down through Baja with my mom, buying food and shoes and tamales from the old man and his big pot on the sidewalk. Of jicama and lime and panaderias and the little girls selling “chiclets chiclets chiclets” at the border.

My mom and I would go down to Tijuana often, and down to Rosarita Beach and Ensenada. All just a few hours drive from my home (Tijuana a mere 20 minutes). I remember grocery shopping at the Calmex and hiding our loot under blankets while my mom flirted with the border patrol, distracting him as we crossed the border. I remember the glass jar of bread sticks at Jorge’s, the fresh churros being cranked out and sizzling in the hot oil, and the Basque restaurant near the jai alai courts (Caliente! the radio spots promised).

The Rosarita Beach Hotel was often our destination—a grand old beachfront hotel with tall ceilings and cool tile. There was a kiddie pool in the middle of the outdoor restaurant, which now, as a parent, I can appreciate the lure of. We would rent these poor horses that had wooden saddles and ride down the beach.

The other night, I was flipping through the channels and came across a nortena music video countdown. I was hooked. Los Tigres del Norte are los hefes. A Czech polka? meh. But give me a Mexican polka and I am smiling and happy and dancing. Suppose context is everything.

I haven’t been back to Baja in decades, and these are all memories from my childhood. Today, I wouldn’t set foot in Tijuana let alone anywhere farther south. Too bloody and wrought with narcoterror. It makes me sad that I won’t be able to share those places with my family, those spots that glow for me with happy memories. But I suppose that is true with most of our childhood memories, that they really live inside of us. Isn’t that what growing up is? The realization that the magic is gone and glow has faded? That what was once enchanted no longer sparks? Still, what I wouldn't give for cold horchata and a warm bolillo with salty butter. And a swim in that kiddie pool.


  1. ranchero is about the best transporter back to our childhood. yep.

  2. (btw, this is avs)