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Boyle Heights Street Honoring Mariachi Queen Lucha Reyes May Get Renamed For Mariachi King Vicente Fernandez

Chente mural. Photo via Ms. Phoenix/Flickr.

Chente mural. Photo via Ms. Phoenix/Flickr.

Recently departed ranchera legend Vicente Fernandez may soon be honored with his own street in Boyle Heights.

La Opinion tells us that District 14 City Councilman Kevin de Leon introduced a motion to his peers on Wednesday that would find two blocks of Bailey Street, the two blocks running north from 1st Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, just east of Mariachi Plaza, changed to Vicente Fernandez Street.

In a bilingual, six-minute video of the proposal, the L.A.-born de Leon addressed his colleagues in the City Council exactly one month after Chente’s death, showing off ironclad knowledge of the singer’s Wikipedia page:

I ask that we adjourn in the memory of El Rey de la Musica Ranchera, the great Vicente Fernandez, who passed away last month on December 12 of 2021. Unfortunately with the council in recess in December, we didn’t have the opportunity to recognize this cultural icon, whose music and talent impacted generations of Latinos, not only in his native homeland of Mexico, but across the globe. Vicente Fernandez was born on February 17 of 1940 in the town of Huentitán El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico. He was the son of a rancher and a homemaker. As a young boy, he was enthralled by movies starring his heroes, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, who inspired his love of guitar, which he learned at eight years of age. During his teenage years, his family moved to Tijuana, where he began working in the trade as a bricklayer, painter, and cabinetmaker, often singing through his workday. But by the age of 14, he was singing at restaurants, at large celebrations, quinceañeras, weddings, and eventually joined mariachi groups like Mariachi Amanecer de Pepe Mendoza and Mariachi de José Luis Aguilar.

In 1965, he moved to Mexico City where he eventually signed to CBS Records International. His singing success grew exponentially during the seventies and eighties, with such major hits as “Volver, Volver,” and his rendition of “El Rey.” By the 1990’s and 2000’s, Chente was a household name. For those less familiar with Vicente Fernandez, think Frank Sinatra. You know, his awards and accolades are too numerous to mention, though he did receive three Grammy Awards, nine Latin Grammy Awards, 14 Lo Nuestro Awards, and of course, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. More than 50 million recordings sold worldwide and 51 albums listed on the Recording Industry Association of America, from gold, platinum, and multi-platinum-selling records, he is one of the best-selling Mexican artists—one of the best artists of all-time, period.  His legacy is not only the music he made, but the memories that we all were able to make listening to the music he created. And for that reason, I’m also proud to say that today I’ve introduced a motion to rename a street in Boyle Heights near Mariachi Plaza Vicente Fernandez, uh, Street.

De Leon then reprises the speech in Spanish, before switching back to English to continue the case, offering further comparisons to Sinatra and French-Armenian legend Charles Aznavour for those who are less familiar with Chente’s legend.

Trying harder to relate to this crowd, de Leon continues, “So many Angelenos who work in the best, toniest restaurants in all of L.A.— whether it’s a French restaurant, sushi restaurant, Italian-American restaurant—you know that music’s in the back, with the dishwashers and the prep cooks, the valet workers parking your Teslas and your Lamborghinis, your Mercedes, and y’know, your Lexuses, that’s what they’re listening to right there. That’s what he meant to so many Americans, especially Angelenos, because Los Angeles is the second largest Mexican city on planet Earth… that’s the impact that he’s had on folks.”

Meanwhile, Boyle Heights Beat reports that the street in question was already renamed “Avenida Lucha Reyes,” under disgraced City Councilman Jose Huizar in honor of an earlier Jalisco-born ranchera star, Lucha Reyes, aka “La Reina de Mariachi,” whose statue stands in the Plaza.

However, Eastsider LA clarifies that renaming was more ceremonial in nature, resulting in two mounted placards, but that the street signs themselves did not actually change. Meaning, the street may, in essence, share the names of both stars, with Vicente Fernandez Street signs hanging just above the placards.

Meanwhile, in Pico-Rivera, there is an effort underway to consider changing the name of the street leading to its Sports Arena, where Chente performed, to Avenida Vicente Fernandez.

When it comes to honoring Vicente Fernandez, it appears certain that L.A. will find a way to commemorate El Rey with some relative degree of permanence in the months ahead.

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