Vicente Fernández brought us closer to Mexico with every song

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Like many other Mexicans whose life soundtrack includes the music of Vicente Fernandez, I was deeply moved by the news of his death. It feels like losing a loved one or someone who has been in my life every day.

In my case, Vicente Fernández, or Chente, and his music came precisely when my life as an immigrant began.

I was the classic Mexican girl who didn’t like listening to rancheras and spent hours glued to her record player singing the songs of “La Onda Vaselina” and listening to pop music.

But my life changed in the summer of 1990 when my family moved to New Jersey and I found myself thousands of miles from the country where I was born. And so my need to preserve a little piece of Mexico prompted me to listen to ranchera music. The music that accompanied my parents’ move to the United States also became mine.

Listening to “Mexico, Lindo y Querido” when you are physically removed from your roots hits you in a way that millions of Mexican migrants would understand, I’m sure.

Listening to this song makes your heart fill up. You want to come back running and embrace your homeland. But your feet are firmly planted in another country, and your brain reminds you that even if you try, returning to Mexico is not possible, for a million reasons.

To alleviate this feeling of nostalgia, I started listening to rancheras, thus starting my love affair with the music of “El Charro de Huentitán”. Slowly, Vicente’s music became a small piece of Mexico in the puzzle that is my life abroad.

At school, my parents encouraged me to focus my energy on mastering English and adjusting to my new life, but my heart pounded every time I heard Chente sing on Univision or Telemundo.

His rancheras were an injection of joy that reminded me of where I came from and that although my feet trod a distant land, I took Mexico with me.

Years later, as an entertainment reporter, I covered many Vicente Fernández concerts in Dallas, where he performed flawlessly every year.

A part of me has always enjoyed these concerts. A music critic’s radar appreciates art and its influence in the lives of humans. I had felt this influence since my days as a young immigrant happy to listen to her rancheras in New Jersey, but another part of me was still overcome with longing.

Chente’s shows were to be at least three hours long and consisted of around 50 songs. Even in his fourth decade as a singer, his burgeoning baritone voice did not falter.

His concerts in Dallas were a gathering place for the Mexican diaspora.

Dressed in their finest outfits, entire families flocked to places like the American Airlines Center, the Fair Park Music Amphitheater and the old Reunion Arena, ready to enjoy an evening of ranchera music.

His concerts have always been the best excuse to leave my daily routine and be transported to my Mexico Lindo y Querido.

Vicente has always opened her number by welcoming her fans in the same sleek and crisp Charro outfit. Until 2016, when he retired from touring, the “Frank Sinatra of Rancheras” showed his powerful voice, the feel of his music and the flirtation with the stage.

Always accompanied by his mariachis and a live band – keyboards, requinto and all – Vicente’s concerts were a reward of nostalgia for his followers. You could feel how his fans connected beyond their musical tastes the second they sang his songs in unison as a crowd.

They were more than just concerts; they were moments of unity, of a shared Mexican feeling that extended beyond borders.

The feeling was complete: you went from joy to sadness through grief and nostalgia singing songs like “Acá entre nos”, “Por tu maldito amor”, “Lástima que seas ajena”, “Me voy a quitar de en medio ”,“ El último trago ”,“ Ella ”,“ Si nos dejan ”,“ De un rancho a otro ”,“ Mujeres divinas ”,“ Mexico, Lindo y Querido ”and“ El Rey ”.

Even though his shows were long, you didn’t want them to end. Every time he repeated his famous line: “As long as you don’t stop clapping, your Chente won’t stop singing”, you hoped that there were still songs to sing with him.

With his death, there will be no more concerts or tours. Vicente Fernández rest in peace now, but just like the last post on his Instagram account reads: “Chente sigue siendo el rey”. (“Chente is still the king.”)

His songs will be cherished forever. Not just because of his great lyrics or his mariachi music, but also because of how he always made us feel.

Lorena Flores is the digital editor of Al Día; she covered music and concerts for nearly two decades in Dallas.


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