Mexico’s musical legend Vicente Fernández has died. The king of ranchera music died in a hospital in Guadalajara in his native state of Jalisco. He was 81.
“Rest in Peace Mr. Vicente Fernández. We regret to inform you of his death on Sunday, December 12 at 6:15 a.m.,” a message on his Instagram account read.
“It was an honor and a great pride to share with everyone a great musical career and to give everything for his audience. Thank you for continuing to applaud, thank you for continuing to sing.”
Known as “Chente” to his fans, Fernández was famous for iconic songs about love, longing and the countryside that were familiar to U.S. Hispanics and people across the Spanish-speaking world, including “Volver, Volver,” “El Rey” and “Por Tu Maldito Amor.” He was seen by many as one of the last artists of the ranchera, a song style rooted in rural Mexico.
In 1998, Fernández received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He won three Grammys and eight Latin Grammys, among other honors. He appeared in more than 30 movies and sold more than 50 million records.
Fernández died the same day Mexico celebrates the feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe, or the Virgin of Guadalupe. For Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Dec. 12 holds special significance. It marks the date in 1531 when the Virgin Mary is purported to have appeared to Juan Diego, an Indigenous Mexican, in the last of several apparitions.
Fernández was such an icon that Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish-language network, interrupted its live broadcast of Mexico’s Virgin of Guadalupe celebrations to announce his death. The news quickly flooded social media as major Mexican publications reported his passing.
He had undergone surgery almost a decade ago for a tumor in his liver, and he had other health complications.
In April 2016, Fernández bid farewell to live performance at a large-scale concert at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, drawing more than 80,000 fans from across the globe. He was hospitalized this year after a fall at his ranch.
Fernández is survived by his wife, Maria del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor, and three children.
But on Sunday, in between answering customers’ questions at a party supply store in downtown Los Angeles, tears welled in his eyes as he remembered Vicente Fernández.
“My father died a year ago,” said Alvarez, 64. “It feels like losing him again.”
Across L.A. on Sunday, people mourned the legendary Mexican singer who died that morning at the age of 81.
Like Alvarez, Lopez said the first person she thought of when she heard Fernández had died was her dad, who came to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Jalisco and works as a cook.
Every year since she was a child, Lopez said, her father has taken the family to visit his hometown.
On the entire two-and-a-half day drive, he plays Fernández’s songs, including “Las Botas de Charro” and “Mi Viejo,” about a son whose father is growing old.
“My dad has been a really hardworking man, like him,” she said, her voice shaking. “I feel like they have a lot in common.”
Mancilla said Fernández helped forge the identity of young Mexican Americans.
“He held a type of spirit for us,” Mancilla said. “That ranchero image — very brave, very proud.”
One of Mancilla’s fondest memories involves going clubbing with Lopez when they were in their twenties.
Even if the club’s music was mostly in English, the last song of the night would often be Fernández’s “Volver Volver.”
“It didn’t matter your race. Black people, white people. Everyone was singing. It was beautiful,” he said.
Musician Sergio Olvera said he was grateful to Fernández. Few people could afford to hire the legend himself, but for a few hundred dollars an hour, a mariachi band like his will play covers of Fernández’s songs for birthdays and weddings.
“Vicente Fernández has given us a lot of work,” Olvera said.
“He was a fighter. A tireless fighter for his profession,” he added.