wearemitu

In A Major Political Statement, Los Tigres Del Norte Play Concert For Inmates At Folsom Prison And It’s Captured In A Netflix Doc

Netflix just dropped an amazing documentary that follows the legendary Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte as they visit Folsom Prison in California, and perform for the inmates. Of course, this is a political act in itself: performing to those who are serving a sentence is going against conservative views that inmates should be isolated from society. This is particularly relevant in the Trump era, as convicted felons are stripped of their humanity in political discourse, oftentimes with racial and racist connotations. 

The famous Johnny Cash played a concert there 50 years ago, a great political statement at the time.

Credit: Johnny-Cash-Folsom. Digital image. Talk Business and Politics

Cash swore at and denounced the authorities in his groundbreaking performance at the Folsom Prison cafeteria. He was just spectacular, calling out mistreatment of prisoners and making inmates feel heard. Even though he didn’t go to prison himself, he often wrote songs about incarceration and received dozens of letters from prisoners. What a legend. The original Man in Black! 

Things have changed: over 40% of the inmates today are Latino. Enter Los Tigres del Norte.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The prison population encountered by Cash was mostly Black and white, and only a few Latinos spent their days behind Folsom’s bars. But the population is vastly different today, and Latino faces are seen everywhere. For the concert, Los Tigres dressed in black, honoring the memory of Cash. “Doing this job inside the prison is a very significant thing for us. We sing true stories and everything we’ve recorded we try to make it from the pure heart, taken from the feelings of the human being,” said Jorge Hernandez, vocalist and accordionist, to CD Noticias Financieras. 

And they opened the show with their own version of the iconic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The documentary starts with full engines on. Los Tigres, with the Cash family blessing, reimagined “Folsom Prison Blues” and gave it a Mexican saborcito that is just a delight. The banjo is replaced by the iconic accordion and the inmates shed a tear when listening to the story in Spanish: a man is imprisoned in Folsom and listens to a train full of rich people go by. He knows he will never be on that train and that he will die behind bars.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras: “The first single from the album, ‘La Prisión de Folsom (Folsom Prision Blues)’ is the first Spanish-language version of Johnny Cash’s classic song, created with the support of his son, John Carter Cash,and written in collaboration with Ana Cristina Cash,daughter-in-law of the artist”. 

Los Tigres del Norte sing about marginalized individuals.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Their corridos, some of which are controversial for humanizing cartel members, talk of rags to riches stories, but also of the many perils faced by undocumented migrants. Many prisoners at Folsom could relate. Ay, dolor. 

And the documentary shows plenty of heartbreaking stories.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Songs such as “La jaula de oro” (about an undocumented worker feeling trapped un the United States) are intercut with the inmates’ own stories of regret, redemption and loss. The first half focuses on the male population while the second explores the lives of female inmates. Many of them have found redemption in religion, while others have had to dig deep into their family past to unearth the reasons behind their crimes. 

But there are also stories of redemption.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The most teary and joyful moment of the documentary comes when a prisoner who used to be a musician shares the stage with Los Tigres. He gets the self respect he has been fighting his demons for since he was imprisoned for murder. It is a tender moment in which he probably gained the respect of all the other reclusos as well. 

Many inmates were put there because of the three-strike rule.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Some of the stories point to a fundamental fault in the system whereby no matter how small your crime is, if you got other two convictions under your belt you end up in jail. Harsh and also a rule that seems to target marginalized communities that don’t get enough help to straighten the path.

Los Tigres spent some quality time with the inmates, showing us that we all deserve a second chance.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Los Tigres del Norte have been blamed for glorifying crime and his songs have been banned in places like the Mexican state of Chihuahua. However, by seeing them laugh with and hug a group of inmates we realize that they are just able and willing to find human kindness in everyone. Sometimes, they say, all someone needs is to be heard. 

Of course, social media is going crazy about the documentary, particularly during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Even though the documentary has only been available for a few days, Twitter has exploded with positive reviews. 

The music is almost irrelevant compared to the strong political message “Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison” sends.

Credit: Twitter. @urban_ag

And people are noticing. The documentary will surely spark discussions around the penitentiary system in the United States and the lives of Latinos in the face of inequality. 

And it is bringing families together.

Credit: Twitter. @selfproclvimed

Can we join you and sing hasta el amanecer

And of course it is giving la raza all the feels.

Credit: Twitter. @gabyseeta

We are right there with you, Gabinha. 

Puro Orgullo Mexicano!

Credit: Twitter. @YayyitsDre

Gracias, Netflix. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com