“I’ma go hella off for this,” I heard a boy a tad younger than me say as we approached the Toyota Stage at Tropicália Saturday.
By his word choice, it’d be fair to assume that a modern artist was about to hit the stage. But no, we were about to see Paquita la del Barrio, the Mexican ranchera singer, bright in her sky blue, sparkly outfit and accompanied by a full mariachi band.
Like the kid, I was also ready to “go off” with Paquita as she sang her women-empowering and men-hating tracks “Tres Veces Te Engañe” and “Rata de Dos Patas.”
“Me estás oyendo, inútil?” Paquita said to which the crowd responded with roars. We felt connected even if we weren’t the inútil she was referring to.
The first day of Tropicália featured a wide array of classic, Latinx acts including rock bands Zoé, Caifanes, Hombres G and Enanitos Verdes along with — what I call — Mexican as fuck bandas such as Los Cadetes de Linares, Los Tigres del Norte and Los Rieleros del Norte at the Pomona Fairplex. The young crowd intermingled with attendees around my parents’ ages as they listened to the music of nuestra tierra. The place was packed.
Nostalgia blared from all of the speakers and I unavoidably reminisced about my parents and their youth.
As I danced to the “currucús” of “El Palomito” by Los Cadetes de Linares, I remembered the stories my mom would tell me of her and her sisters escaping their house to go to el baile as a band visited town. She says the dirt would rise as the crocodile-skin boots moved around and danced to the music. It was always so fun for her — and now, I felt the same way.
What made Tropicália work so well — despite the older generation of music on the first night — was that it brought the nostalgia to us, here in the most Mexican region in the U.S. It allowed young people like me to reminisce about a place we never visited and dance to the music our families blasted as kids.
Tropicália perfectly encapsulated the first-generation Latinx American experience. It provided all the throwbacks while night two brought on the Latinx artists we’ve learned to love today, like Omar Apollo, Kali Uchis and Cuco.
Perhaps it was fitting that rock band Zoé performed some tracks off their latest album Aztlán, named after the mythical land of the Aztecas that Chicanx people have longed to return to or to reclaim.
That was us that night: We were at a festival that celebrates our culture and our music miles away from the place our parents once left. We were reclaiming our history and allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in the music our families indoctrinated us with.
I couldn’t help but tear up as Los Tigres del Norte took the stage at the end of the night. “La Jaula de Oro” reminded me of my dad and how every day, he’d come home blasting his favorite tracks after a laborious day as a construction worker.
“Aunque la jaula sea de oro, no deja de ser prisión,” Los Tigres sing on the track. Even if the cage is golden, it’s still a prison. That’s what it’s like to be an undocumented immigrant in this country. And though my dad is back home in Santa Clara, I felt connected to him as I listened to Los Tigres sing along on the huge stage.
I realized that night that this music is as much mine as it is my dad’s and my tía’s and my mom’s. I’ve made these songs the soundtrack of life and I couldn’t be prouder to be enjoying that same music next to other young people like me.
Toma Té is a guest column by Tomás Mier. He is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan. His column “You Should Stan” runs every other Friday.