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Activists protest renaming of street for iconic Ranchera Music singer

Known as the King of Ranchera Music to his millions of fans, he led a life that arguably was filled with success, tragedy, and scandal

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Vicente Fernández-Gómez (Publicity photo courtesy of SONY Entertainment)

LOS ANGELES – The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and some LGBTQ+ activists are taking Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de Leon to task for his unilateral push to rename a section of Bailey street after legendary Mexican musical icon, Vicente Fernández-Gómez, nicknamed “Chente” which is short for Vicente.

Fernández known as the “El Rey de la Música Ranchera” (The King of Ranchera Music) to his millions of fans, led a life that arguably was filled with success, tragedy, and scandal.

In an unauthorized biography, El Último Rey, (The Last King), released just prior to the singer’s death at 81 this past December after four months of being admitted to a hospital in Guadalajara due to a fall that injured his spine, Argentine journalist Olga Wornat details the singer’s more than five decades-long career. Wornat writes that family tragedy, “a life absent as a father” and infidelities to his wife María del Refugio Abarca, “Cuquita,” plagued the musical maestro.

Wornat states that the most significant event was in 1998 when his elder son Vicente Jr. was kidnapped by a gang known as “Mocho Dedos.” After Fernández Sr. paid $3.2 million dollars to free him his son was abandoned outside the family’s ‘Los tres Potrillos’ ranch, near the city of Guadalajara in the Mexican State of Jalisco,121 days later with two of his fingers having been amputated.

In an email to the Blade, David A. Silvas, Vice President and Chair of the Planning and Land Use for the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council stated: “The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council feels strongly that all voices in the community are heard when decisions are being made – especially ones such as proposing the renaming of streets or other civic monuments.”

“As there were concerns about singer Vicente Fernández conduct which which directly upset the members of the LGBTQ community within Boyle Heights, it was necessary to delve into how these actions may affect members of the community – especially minority members.”

“The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council works as an advisory board to the council office. Despite any decision made, ultimately the Los Angeles City Council will make the final decision by their vote. But we do hope they take into consideration the opinions and comments of the minority members of the community.”

Silvas in another email told the Blade, “Councilmember Kevin DeLeon only informed immediate stakeholders on this small stretch of street and did not do any outreach to a significant number of stakeholders nor the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.”

“Based on this, and feedback that has come to my attention about singer Vicente Fernández’s past history of sexual allegations as well as his views on not wanting to receive any organ transplant from an “addict or “homosexual” […] the Planning and Land Use Committee came out with a Community Impact Statement opposing Councilmember Kevin de Leon’s proposed motions.”

“The community impact statement letter has had mixed reactions – many support it – but there has already been homophobic remarks on social media about how “the gays need to get over this – they are just a minority.” That sort of rhetoric cannot be tolerated.”

Fernández in an interview with Spanish language media outlet El Universal in May of 2019 told the paper that while he was a patient in Houston to undergo a liver surgery, he decided to reject a transplant because he did not “want to sleep with his wife while having the liver of another man, who could have been a homosexual or a drug user.”

Accusations of womanizing also had plagued Fernández. In January of 2021 a photograph of a 2017 ‘meet & greet” with fans went viral as in the photo Fernández appears to be cupping a female fan’s breast. According to media accounts a few days later, Fernández issued an apology to the woman’s family, stating that “I admit that I was wrong, I don’t know if I was joking, maybe it was a joke […] I don’t know. I do not remember, there were many people (with whom I took photos), sincerely I offer an apology.”

A month later the news broke that Fernández was accused of sexual assault by a singer named Lupita Castro nearly forty years previously when she was still a minor at age 17. That case ultimately went away as Castro refused to take Fernández to court.

The problem, as one source told the Blade, is that the very culture and the times of his career in some ways gave Fernández cover with many in the public especially Latinos. The source insisted this did not excuse the behavior, adding that also the inflection of the still highly prevalent ‘machismo,’ the strong or aggressive masculine pride- exaggerated masculinity, is still very much a component of Mexican culture.

“When one considers the place “Chente” occupies in Mexican culture and among Latinos- his music is the background to virtually their entire daily lives, it is not surprising that especially the older generations will give him a pass,” the source told the Blade.

In the case for Latinos in LA, this is very pronounced when one considers that ground zero for mariachi ranchera music is dead center of Boyle Heights at Mariachi Plaza.

Generations of Latinos grew up listening to “Chente’s” music. Carlos Montes, a member of the neighborhood council, who spoke for residents in support of the name change in an interview with LA Fox affiliate KTTV;

“I’m just saying his career, what he has contributed culturally and emotionally to millions of people outweigh these allegations,” Montes stated.

The Latino Equality Alliance issued a statement in support of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council; “As a social justice organization, LEA stands against any form of homophobia or denigration against the LGBTQ+ community, especially as it relates to our Latino youth.  A lot of our work revolves around education programs that help our community understand and respect the LGBTQ+ community in Boyle Heights.  We value and support the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and stand in solidarity with their position regarding the renaming of a street in our community. While we cannot attest to the veracity of Vicente Fernández’s alleged homophobic statements, we do however support the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s opposition to renaming a street in our neighborhood without their prior knowledge or consultation,” said Marco Gonzalez, LEA, Board Chair.

Kevin DeLeon (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin DeLeon)

In an email to the Blade, Councilmember Kevin DeLeon said, “My office has seen an outpouring of support for renaming the block alongside Mariachi Plaza after Vicente Fernández – whose music has been the soundtrack for generations of Latinos like my family and others worldwide. This street naming is about celebrating his incredible musical contributions and his positive influence on Latino culture globally.”

Silvas noted, “There will be another opportunity to voice comments and  concerns about this matter at an upcoming Planning and Land Use Committee meeting on Thursday, February 17, 2021 at 6:15pm.” 

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Los Angeles

Los Angeles Mayor: Supreme Court decision “fundamentally un-American”

Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke to the Los Angeles Blade reflecting on Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (Blade photo from video by Troy Masters)

LOS ANGELES – During the Los Angeles Mayor’s Pride Garden Party held at The Getty House, the official residence of the mayor Saturday afternoon, Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke to the Los Angeles Blade reflecting on Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Garcetti noted that “here in LA we defend those rights” after taking aim at the actions of the high court Friday in the ruling on the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health clinic. “Make no mistake, we have to be active,” Garcetti added.

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Los Angeles

Reminder: 101 closed through DTLA until 10pm Sunday

The closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – (KTLA) Motorists are being reminded that the stretch of 101 through the downtown area of Los Angeles is shut down for road restoration and reconstruction work.

KTLA reported the closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced.

The 24-hour closure between State Route 60 and the 10 Freeway interchange is needed for the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, which aims to replace the original, seismically-deficient structure built in 1932, authorities said.

During the closure, the California Department of Transportation will also be doing slab replacement work along the same stretch of the 101 Freeway.

The closure will center around the east side of the viaduct construction site in Boyle Heights. While the stretch is closed, drivers headed west on State Route 60 from the Pomona area will not be able to access the 101, officials said.

Off-ramps and on-ramps in the area will also be closed during as road work gets underway.

Drivers who reach the closure will see signs directing them to a detour.

(The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering)

The new $588 million viaduct is expected to be completed in Summer of 2022, stretching between Boyle Heights and the Arts District.

Officials say it is the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles.

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Los Angeles

LA-DWP & Mayor Garcetti announce new outdoor watering restrictions

Sprinkler watering will be allowed Monday & Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday & Sunday

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City of Los Angeles (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a press conference Tuesday Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and officials from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced that outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days a week starting June 1.

The announcement comes as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared an unprecedented water shortage emergency two weeks ago, imposing restrictions after MWD’s board voted to adopt the emergency measures to “reduce non-essential water use” in certain areas. Cities and smaller water suppliers that get water from MWD are required to start restricting outdoor watering to one day a week, or to find other ways to cut usage to a new monthly allocation limit.

LADWP

In Tuesday’s press conference Mayor Garcetti said L.A.’s two-day limit was still more lenient than the one imposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has ordered many of its member agencies to restrict outdoor watering to once a week.

Sprinkler watering will be allowed on Monday and Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday and Sunday.

For more information visit the LADWP webpage here.

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