TIJUANA — It has been more than 20 years since guitarist and songwriter Carlos Santana left this thriving border city to find fame and fortune as the leader of a major rock band in the United States.
The three members of Mercado Negro (Black Market) would like to be the next major rock act to come out of Tijuana.
"Music is in our heart," said 24-year-old drummer and band leader Jesus Hernandez. "We are young. We like rock 'n' roll. We really feel that music."
Hernandez, his brother Martin, and their cousin Ramon formed Mercado Negro six years ago.
What sets Mercado Negro apart from dozens of other Tijuana rock bands is that they play only original music. Eschewing songs on the pops charts means they do not play a lot of dances.
"We have to create our own gigs, rent our own theaters to survive," Jesus Hernandez said. "Playing popular music is the easy way. You can be popular just like that by playing salsa and Mexican dance music. There's always going to be parties.
"We wanted to make a statement of public consciousness. It's like an obsession to let other people know what is going on in this world."
Their songs speak of "reality, not protesting reality."
"A lot of songs talk about hanging around, saying we're mean," Hernandez said. "That's not our attitude."
The band has recorded two albums, which the members financed themselves. The first album, "Conciencia Publica," ("Public Consciousness") includes "songs about Tijuana, drug dealing, corruption," Hernandez said.
The title cut from the second album is "Abre tus Ojos" and refers to the world's problems that appear in the newspaper every day.
Not so ironically, the band members had an uncle who played with Carlos Santana. They are very clear about wanting to emulate that kind of success.
When asked why the young rockers of Mercado Negro have chosen to write more socially aware lyrics, Hernandez said: "It's time to start being . . . responsible. Someday we'll be older."