Vicente Fernández honored with street naming at Mariachi Plaza

On Mexico’s Independence Day, Boyle Heights honored “El Rey”.

Tricolor Mexican flags and festive green, white and red paper picado decorations adorned Mariachi Plaza, where about 300 visitors were serenaded by live musicians and speakers.

Timeless favorites of the late ranchera king Vicente Fernández — including “Volver, Volver” and “Por Tu Maldito Amor” — echoed for blocks until the countdown began, the crowd went wild, a purple curtain fell and a section of Bailey Street to mariachi The plaza was renamed Vicente Fernández Street.

Fernández’s widow, Maria del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor, known as “Doña Cuquita,” traveled to Los Angeles from her home near Guadalajara to celebrate with the crowd.

“My husband would have been very proud and always loved his fans and the Los Angeles community,” Villaseñor told reporters as she walked to the court. “My family is touched by this recognition.”

Los Angeles experienced a burst of grief when Fernández, known for his romantic rancheras and timeless folk anthems, died December 12 at the age of 81.

Crowds of fans – new generations alongside veterans – have bonded with Fernández over the years, in part thanks to his intrepid ways. As Mexican performers began singing in English to reach a wider audience, Fernández continued to belt out his romantic ballads in Spanish. The singer often embarked on grueling tours of North America and promised to play for his fans “as long as they would listen.”

A career that began on the streets of Guadalajara has spawned more than 50 albums, two dozen films, three Grammy Awards and eight Latin Grammys. Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, the country’s largest stadium, was the scene of Fernández’s last live performance in 2016.

Aside from the awards, his legendary songs “La Ley Del Monte” and “El Rey” were the anthems and end-of-party signals for countless immigrant, native and second-generation Latinos in Southern California.

“Look at my playlist: Vicente Fernández makes up 80-90% of my songs,” said Los Angeles mariachi Cesar Gutierrez, 51, who is from Fernández’s Guadalajara native and played at the Plaza on Friday. “His music is full of emotions – love, sadness, joy and hope – all these things he gave us in his life.”

After his death, Los Angeles mourners flooded the sidewalk with candles and flowers around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and gathered at Mariachi Plaza to mourn the loss of a superstar, whom they nicknamed Chente.

“If you’re Mexican, Vicente Fernández was either at your house, at your neighbor’s house, on your Tia’s radio, or somewhere else,” said Victor Lugo, 43, of Baldwin Park, who came to Mariachi Plaza on Friday to announce the name change see and celebrate the legacy of the man whose voice has always been present at “countless parties”.

“My last memory of Chente was watching TV and hearing about his death,” Lugo said. “It’s nice to replace that.”

The road to Friday’s ceremony began in January when Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León, whose Eastside neighborhood includes Boyle Heights, submitted a motion to rename Bailey Street to Fernández.

The motion met some unexpected turbulence when members of Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council objected; They were upset that they had not been consulted and were concerned about a recent groping allegation and homophobic remark made by Fernandez.

However, several members of the Boyle Heights community spoke out in favor of Fernández at a January 26 neighborhood council meeting. More than 30 members of the public were in favor of the renaming, with six opposed.

On February 15, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to name the street.

“The community has always been overwhelming and passionate about renaming Bailey Street Vicente Fernández, especially next to Plaza Mariachi,” De León said. “This is the largest concentration of Mexicans in the United States. That’s what they wanted.”

The length of Vicente Fernández Street stretches approximately 400 feet from the edge of Mariachi Plaza to the gates of Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital.

Fernández is the second ranchera legend to have his name grace Bailey Street. Pioneering singer Lucha Reyes installed a statue in Mariachi Plaza and signs along Bailey Street that were erected in 2014 welcoming visitors to Avenida Lucha Reyes.

Friday’s honor is not Fernández’s first in Los Angeles County. In 1998, the singer was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he once considered his greatest award. And in August, Pico Rivera named a street in front of his sports arena Avenida Vicente Fernández. Vicente Fernández honored with street naming at Mariachi Plaza

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