Y Volver, Volver… To The Controversy: Why A New Statue Of Mariachi Legend Vicente Fernández May Be Problematic
The late Mexican mariachi singer Vicente Fernández remains a beloved figure on both sides of the border. The Los Angeles City Council named a street in Boyle Heights after Fernández last year. On Friday, the unincorporated community of Walnut Park unveiled a statue honoring the music icon at Plaza La Alameda.
Fernández has numerous ballads and rancheras that pull heartstrings and instill Mexican and Latino pride. They form a perfect matrimony with a cold beer, mezcal or tequila. It’s the music that you hear at quinceañera parties, weddings, carne asada gather-ups and even while cleaning.
But the beloved singer has flaws that some find hard to reckon with. He famously and disparagingly said he wouldn't receive an organ transplant from a gay man or someone suffering from an addiction. He faced a sexual assault accusation and numerous allegations of inappropriately touching women.
A toxic masculinity still being reckoned with
Yet, El Rey de Música Ranchera embodies the same machismo that we've criticized from many of our dads and tíos. It's the toxic masculinity many of us are actively trying to rectify within our families or communities while we sing "Volver, volver" and "Estos celos."
Figuring out where you stand with Fernández might be complicated, but the feeling is familiar among many Latinos and people of color. How I feel about Chente is similar to how my family deals with trauma inflicted from older people from our familia: excusing the behavior with comments like "he's from a different era," while weaving in laughter or finding tenderness in the legacy.
David Silvas, former vice president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, was against renaming a street in favor of Fernández last year. He said he heard from members of the LGBTQ+ community and people suffering from addiction that the change would profoundly hurt them.
"Why are we celebrating that person who has done that despite him being a beloved figure of music?," Silvas said at the time.
Still adored for his music
In the end, more people in the community supported the idea and celebrated the official renaming on Mexican Independence Day last year. Fernández's widow, Doña Cuquita, even traveled from her Guadalajara residence to Boyle Heights to toast with the crowd. Fernández's family have offered unwavering support.
Some fans have embraced Fernández's macho entitlement or have replicated his attacks against women denouncing toxic masculinity. Others adore Chente for his music and artistic talent.
About the Walnut Park unveiling and more
Friday's unveiling in Walnut Park stretches into Saturday, where a mariachi contest featuring multiple groups from throughout the state will compete for a prize. And maybe we can hope for an LGBTQ+ ranchera singer that wins and reaches the same heights as Fernández.
The Asociación de Jaliscienses Unidos en Acción joined the shopping center Plaza de Alameda to bring the statue to Los Angeles. The statue was produced by Sergio Garval from Guadalajara, Mexico. The statue stands at three meters, weighs two tons and was overseen by Vicente Fernández before he died.
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