Vicente Fernández, symbol of Mexican ranchera music, dies at 81


MEXICO CITY— Vicente Fernández, the beloved Mexican singer who has become the symbol of Mexican ranchera music around the world, passed away on Sunday. He was 81 years old.

“It was an honor and a great pride to share with everyone a great musical career and to give everything for the public,” Fernández’s family said on their official Instagram account, confirming his passing after months of illness. “Thank you for continuing to applaud, thank you for continuing to sing.”

Fernández, also known by his nickname “Chente”, died at 6:15 am in a hospital in the state of Jalisco, his family said. He had been hospitalized since August after suffering a serious fall.

“Vicente was the last giant performer of Mexican music, and now he’s gone,” said Martín Urrieta, author of Mujeres Divinas and Acá entre nos, two of Chente’s most popular songs.

Fernández’s thunderous voice has captivated several generations of Mexicans on both sides of the border, making fans of blue-collar and white-collar workers alike, from the countryside and big cities, and across generations.

“More than any other artist, Vicente Fernandez has kept millions of Mexican immigrants tied at home,” said Cecilia Ballí, cultural anthropologist and visiting scholar at the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston. “His music allowed them to maintain a vibrant and breathing relationship with Mexico – to experience their country viscerally, even from a distance, and to nurture the memories that kept it alive.”

The news of his death has been mourned in Mexico and the United States. The two Spanish-language television networks Univision and Telemundo have interrupted normal Sunday sports programming to announce the news of Fernández’s death and to rebroadcast interviews, concerts and documentaries.

“The songs, in their most powerful moments, rise up and speak directly to the fact that people cannot safely walk to a corner store and return without risking being arrested, incarcerated and sent back to a local store. another city that apart from being in the country of their birth is almost equally foreign to them, ”said Tim Johnson, who co-hosts a weekly program on Marfa Public Radio focused on Mexican music and music enthusiast has since ranched long time. “The waves here and there are full of the beauty of this music. And one of the greatest voices of all belonged to Vicente.

Fans of Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez hold footage of him as they sing some of his songs outside a hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, December 12, 2021. Fernandez died on Sunday. (Refugio Ruiz / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The death coincided with the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the homes, parks, restaurants and cafes of Mexico City, some people instantly took to singing. Street musicians played some of his most popular songs.

Fernández’s death coincided with the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most religious holidays in this predominantly Catholic country.

“Maybe he died that day, December 12, to serenade the Virgin of Guadalupe,” América Cárdenas Brea, 25, said after hearing the news. “Who better than Vicente to serene our beloved and emblematic Virgin to bring her some happiness for her day?”

“Where there was a happy or a sad Mexican, there was a song by Vicente Fernandez,” added Cárdenas Brea. She said her grandfather Jaime Rea, who would serenade his wife, Juana Rosales Reyes, to songs like “Estos Celos” and “Mujeres Divinas”.

At the Maiz de Cacao restaurant, a duo – two singers – paid homage to a fresco of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Then, in mourning, they began to play some songs by Fernández.

Arturo Rodriguez, journalist and host of an urban music-focused podcast in Mexico City, said Vicente’s death brought an end to an era.

“He doesn’t have a reliever. His own son, Alejandro, is considered more of a pop ranchero.

César Juárez Joyner, composer of traditional Mexican music added: “What we will miss the most is his voice. He had an incredible and rich voice.

Political parties courted “Chente” to reach Hispanic voters

Throughout his career, “Chente” made an annual stopover in Dallas, usually in October, as part of his tour of the United States. His concerts were guaranteed to sell out, a celebration of Mexican culture and identity.

His concerts lasted no less than three hours. He sometimes rode on stage, impeccably dressed in a Mexican charro.

His songs have been a staple of ranchera music stations across the United States for decades.

His influence went beyond his music; even political parties courted him, hoping to reach Hispanic voters.

He performed at the 2000 Republican Convention in Florida, at which George W. Bush was named president.

Then, in 2016, he sang a song endorsing Hillary Clinton as a Democratic candidate.

For decades, radio stations along the US-Mexico border have broadcast “La Hora de Vicente Fernández” every night, featuring some of the more than 300 songs Fernández has recorded during his career.

During his career, Fernández received three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys. He inspired a new generation of performers, including his son Alejandro Fernández Jr., himself a recording artist.

Fernández was known for hits such as “El Rey”, “Volver, Volver” and “Lástima que seas ajena”, and his mastery of the ranchera, bolero and mariachi styles of music has drawn fans far beyond Mexico’s borders. . He also composed famous songs from other Mexican songwriters like “La Diferencia” (Juan Gabriel) and “El Rey” (José Alfredo Jiménez.)

“One of the most important artists of Mexican popular culture, undisputed symbol of ranchera music, dies. A million mariachis are with you on your way, ”Alejandra Frausto, Mexico’s Culture Secretary, said on Twitter.

She alluded to the fact that Fernández sang often on December 12 to mark the Catholic pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, an event that draws large crowds. The commemoration took place on Sunday after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Fernández has sold over 50 million records and appeared in over 30 films. In April 2016, he said goodbye to the stage in front of around 85,000 people at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City. Spectators came from northern Mexico as well as the United States, Colombia and other Latin American countries for the occasion.

In Mexico City, hundreds of people gathered around the Angel of Independence, an iconic monument on Reforma Avenue and symbol of this city.

“He was iconic. Not everyone was a fan, but he was our last ambassador for mariachi music, ”said Eduardo Ávila, a fan from Mexico City.

The Associated Press and Agencia Reforma contributed to this report.


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