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Vicente Fernandez — a Mexican Charro like no other

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Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado
Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado is a writer, artist and educator from British Columbia, Canada. She has lived in Merida, Yucatan, since 1976, where she co-founded the TTT school and raised two children. Joanna blogs at Changes In Our Lives.
To say that Vicente Fernandez, also known as “Chente” had a stellar career would be quite an understatement. Photo: Courtesy

For decades Vicente Fernandez has been recognized as the most popular vocal artist in Mexico, and indeed all of Latin America. During all of his concerts, as he belted out popular Mexican Ranchera music, men and women alike wept like infants, laughed like crazed teenagers, hung their heads in shame, and raised their arms in defiance. All generations related to his songs’ central themes of love, drama, passion, and patriotism. His music cut into their hearts.

He was 81 when he died last month, but still, he cut a fine figure in his hand-tailored Charro outfits and hat. And although he was only five-foot-seven, he commanded the respect of giants. His dark mustache and eyebrows and his dazzling smile belied his years. When he played to a good crowd (and he always said he did) he sang whatever they wanted to hear, for hours on end. Always accompanied by his own mariachi, Fernández made grown men cry with his tales of broken hearts. Even in his 70s, his magnetism drove women to throw themselves (or their underwear) to him onstage.

A much younger Vicente Fernandez on the set of the 1974 film, “La ley del monte.” Photo: Courtesy

Fernández’s death is not just any death. It’s the end of an era of legendary Mexican performers, composers, and singers. But of them all, no other voice has been as successful or as recognizable. Fernandez has more than 50 albums to his credit, and he was an unstoppable touring artist. His last tour show was in 2016 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Fernandez was also an actor who starred in over 30 films, emulating the careers of his hero Pedro Infante. His other idol was the composer José Alfredo Jiménez, who wrote Fernandez’ signature song, “El Rey.”

A mural of “Chente” at Bonampak bar in Mérida’s Centro. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Alejandro Fernández, another hugely popular figure of Mexican music, is Vicente Fernández’s son, and his son in turn recently launched his own singing career. In one of Fernández’s last public presentations, the three generations of Ranchero superheroes sang together at the 2019 Latin Grammy Awards. With the three men wearing their traditional charro outfits and hats – performing classics like “Volver Volver Volver” – Vicente said it was one of the most spectacular and moving performances of his life.

Vicente Fernadez performing for nearly 90,000 adoring fans at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca in 2016.

And what a life he had. It has been a month since Vicente Fernández died, and his death will be forever mourned. It seems so right though that he died on Dec. 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s beloved patron saint — she is considered the mother of all Mexicans.

He had been ill since a fall last summer – a fan wrote on a Condolences site – but he waited for his mother to travel with him, back to his Heavenly home

¡Adios Chente!

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