Mexico's Jaguares bring their roar north of the border
Americans of a certain age will likely assume that , the latest album by Mexico City's Jaguares, is a nod to the age of vinyl singles. But the title digits actually allude to a far grimmer subject: the approximately 45 million Mexicans currently living in poverty.
"I saw the news and it was shocking," concedes Saúl Hernández, the band's singer/guitarist, in heavily accented but very serviceable English. "Sometimes you feel so impotent that you can't do a lot of things. But I go back to the basics of rock and roll, where you use the music and use the concerts and use the media to scream and shout, 'We are fucked. This is not working well. We are not a democratic country. And that's the truth.'"
In Mexico, Hernández is an enormous star; "Entre tus jardines," 's lead single, earned four million listens during the first three days after being posted online, and it remains near the top of the Mexican charts. Here, however, he's known for his association with rock en español, a Spanish-language rock style that's generated a cult following in the States during recent years but hasn't achieved the sort of mass success many observers see as inevitable. Predictably, Hernández denies that he's a leader of the genre. "I don't believe in calling someone 'the best band,'" he notes. "I feel much better being a collaborator."
Hernández grew up in a musically eclectic household, but in the early '80s, he found himself drawn to the dark sounds of Joy Division and Bauhaus. "I really enjoyed all this dramatic music, maybe because we Latins are also dramatic," he says. He eventually connected with drummer Alfonso André, who's stuck with him through their membership in an earlier group, Caifanes, as well as his current band, which formed in the mid-'90s. Jaguares' sixth album,  features socially conscious tracks such as "Un mal sueño," in which Hernández likens corruption to an all-too-real nightmare, and "Si fuera necesario," whose protagonist is confronted with images of poverty. "This character, this guy, says, 'If I could change a lot of things, I would do it. If I could be reborn and grow up in peace, I'd do it,'" he points out, adding, "It's not about complaining. It's just about change."
With that goal in mind, Jaguares is taking part in Amnesty International's Small Places tour, which uses music to promote the organization's message on a grassroots level. "I believe more in the people," Hernández says. "I don't believe anymore in the parties, political parties. The movements of people — they really know what they want, and with information, they're going to be stronger than any party in the world."
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