Cities honor late Mexican singing star Vicente Fernandez

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The City Council finalized the renaming of a Boyle Heights street east of Mariachi Plaza after Mexican singer Vicente “Chente” Fernández four days after the city of Pico Rivera renamed a street leading into the Pico Rivera Sports Arena in honor of the late Mexican singer.

A date for the actual renaming ceremony in Boyle Heights is expected to be announced in the coming days, according to the office of Councilman Kevin de León, who introduced the motion.

“The legacy of Vicente Fernández continues to resonate and inspire people worldwide, making us proud to call ourselves Latino,” de León said. “Through his music, he has etched his place in history on the hearts of fans who will forever cherish him.”

In an earlier statement, the councilman called Fernández, who died last year at the age of 81, a “cultural icon,” adding that his “music and talent impacted generations of Latinos, not only in his native homeland of Mexico, but across the globe.”

“This name change will benefit the mariachis at La Plaza and increase people visiting Boyle Heights, allowing all of the businesses to benefit from the food and music that we serve there,” said Sandra Villalobos, a representative of Organización de Mariachis Independiente de California.

The Pico Rivera ceremony took place Aug. 26 at the intersection of Rooks Road and what was formerly known as Sports Arena Drive.

The new Avenida Vicente Fernández is the primary entrance road to the 5,000- to 6,200-seat arena, where the singer, nicknamed performed numerous times, always drawing thousands.

“The city of Pico Rivera is honored to pay tribute to this legendary singer and international star with this street renaming,” Mayor Monica Sanchez said during the ceremonies, which were attended by more than 170 people, including fans and local dignitaries.

Vicente Fernández Jr., the singer’s eldest child, and the younger Fernández’s wife, Mariana, also flew in from Mexico to join the festivities.

“With Vicente Fernández performing numerous shows at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, we as the City Council felt it was appropriate to honor Vicente with his own street that leads to the very venue where he performed countless times for thousands of loyal fans,” Sanchez added.

Councilman Gustavo Camacho had originated the idea of honoring Fernández — traveling with a delegation to Mexico in 2019 to meet with the singer. Fernández approved the idea but died before the city could act.

Following Fernández’s death, Camacho introduced a motion to rename the street, and it passed on May 10, 2022.

“Knowing of his popularity with the residents of Pico Rivera, the region and his direct connection with the city via his numerous performances at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, it made sense to honor this renowned artist and singer,” Camacho said.

Also on hand for the ceremonies were U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez and state Sen. Bob Archuleta.

Fernández was an international star who, over six decades, won three Grammy Awards, nine Latin Grammys and 14 Lo Nuestro Awards. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and sold more than 50 million albums worldwide.

He retired from the stage in 2016. He died in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he was born. His death followed months of health issues and an August 2021 injury at his ranch in Guadalajara.

The Boyle Heights honor for Fernandez didn’t come without opposition.

After de León introduced the motion last January, David Silvas, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s vice president and chair of its Planning and Land Use Committee, submitted a letter to the City Council’s Public Works Committee to oppose it, citing a comment Fernández made during an interview in which he said he refused a liver transplant because he didn’t know if the donor was homosexual or addicted to drugs.

Silvas also noted reports of Fernández being accused of inappropriately touching women. In his letter, Silvas said naming the street for Fernández would be “insulting and denigrating to the LGBT community and anyone facing the struggles of addiction” as well as “victims of sexual abuse.”

 

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