Entertainment Los Tigres Del Norte Helped Me Come Out as Gay to My Mexican Dad - and We Got to Thank Them Years Later
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"Oiga, y qué fue de..." "So what happened with..."
It was the typical chatter for my dad - today, dressed in his Sunday best polo shirt and khakis - with what could have been my tíos. He was asking questions, sharing anecdotes and following up with his signature "I don't know what to say next": "No, pos 'ta cabrón."
Today, my dad wasn't cracking open a Modelo with my tíos, though. He was sitting next to me as we spoke to Jorge, Hernán, Luis and Óscar of Los Tigres Del Norte - arguably the most iconic regional Mexican band ever. (They're the Mexican Beatles if you will.)
I got in touch with Los Tigres' team after tweeting that they'd be "a dream interview," but the reason for our get-together wasn't a typical PEOPLE Q&A. I was here to thank them, alongside my dad, for playing a role in my coming out with their song "Era Diferente," a track they released several years ago that tells the story of a dad with a lesbian daughter.
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Yeah, that Los Tigres - the group that sings about la reina del sur and her cartel escapades and "La Jaula de Oro" about being stuck in America as undocumented immigrants - also has a song about the LGBT experience. They even won a GLAAD Award for it.
"It fills me with pride and satisfaction that our work has helped bring you two closer," Jorge, the group's leader, told my dad and me. "Seeing you two happy and smile makes me want to keep doing positive things with the group."
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Let's backtrack for a second.
Growing up, Los Tigres were on repeat at home. My dad never had an aux cord in his car so I'd illegally download songs onto a USB and put it in the beloved stereo that was probably worth more than his beat-up work truck. On days when my mom had to work early, my dad would drive me to school an hour before the bell rang blasting "Pedro y Pablo" and "Jefe de Jefes."
At the time, I hated it. It was embarrassing to roll up to school with the sounds of accordion blasting through the windows. But the tracks. As I've grown older, I've learned to appreciate, love and sing along to the rich, beautiful stories on the corridos that remind my dad of the life he left behind in Mexico.
On road trips, I'd queue up a medley of the group's hits, playing the ones I know my dad loved to hear. The classics. He'd bob his head to the beat, sing along even if he was offtune and sometimes tear up when the lyrics got kind of personal. (My dad is a very sensitive man.)
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But during a road trip several months after I first came out in 2019, I decided to add "Era Diferente" or "She Was Different" to the mix, which follows a dad as he realizes that his daughter doesn't like any of the men courting her and instead buys flowers for her female best friend. My dad had never heard the song before.
"Dicen que el vuelo ideal es paloma y palomo / Y les parece rara otra forma de amor," the group croons on the corrido's chorus. "Yo solo pienso que existen corrientes de aire / Y cada quien que aspire su viento mejor."
The English translation doesn't really match the beauty of the lyric, but: "They say the ideal flight is of a male and female dove and they find other kinds of love strange. I only think that there are air currents, And each of us can fly with the wind that suits us best."
As I played the track during our road trip, my dad started bopping his head and whistling along like he would with any other Tigres song. I knew he was listening closely to the lyrics and it surprised me to not see a negative reaction.
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To me, that small gesture - the head bopping and whistling - was the first time he ever accepted my sexuality, even if I had come out months before. I held back tears that day knowing that even though we didn't talk about it, my dad loved me and would soon accept me for who I am.
Up until our chat with Los Tigres, my dad and I had never talked about what he felt when I came out. And, in front of his idols, he decided to open up, pausing to hold back his own tears.
"Me cayó como balde de agua fría," he told the group. "It felt like a bucket of cold water was dropped on me."
"I didn't know what was happening. He came up to me and said, 'Papi, I need to talk to you,'" he recalled. "When he told me he was gay, it really hurt. I walked out of the room and my wife came up to me and said, 'Where are you going? How are you going to turn your back on your son?'"
"I thought, if I don't treat my son well, they're going to treat him worse on the street," he added. "As a father, what does one want for his kids? Pues, the best. And so I decided I couldn't turn my back on my son."
I remember that day vividly. I had come out to mom earlier that day and she told me, "Either you tell your dad or I will." So, after the longest dinner of my life, I shared my truth.
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After my dad returned from outside, he walked in to the house with his arms wide open for a hug. "Siempre te voy a amar, mi chiquito. Nada más cuídate mucho," he told me. "I'm always going to love you, little one. Just take care of yourself."
From that point on, we never touched the subject again. Until in front of Los Tigres. At our chat, I thanked the group for what they had done for me and my dad. Although we had always had a close relationship, we had grown even closer since I came out.
The group talked to us about the significance of the song.
"In the ranchito where we grew up, gay people suffered tremendously," said Hernán. "But now, it's easier to talk and sing about these things. It must have been a relief for you to share with your family what you were feeling."
"When we make songs, we try to bring a positive influence," added Luis. "We had heard so many songs that referred to the gay community, but they would do so in a teasing way. We didn't want that. We wanted to make a song that was sensitive and touched upon the realities of gay people."
And now, several years after coming out to my parents, I was sitting in a conference room thanking them for what their song did for me. It gave me that feeling of acceptance that every LGBTQ kid wants to feel after sharing their truth.
After saying goodbye and taking our photos, my dad and I left and we just sat in my car in silence, soaking in what had just happened. As I pulled out, I turned on the radio. "La Puerta Negra" was playing.
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