On this Mexican Independence Day a street east of Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights was renamed after Mexican musician Vicente “Chente” Fernández, who sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and won three Grammy Awards and nine Latin Grammys.
“The legacy of Vicente Fernández continues to resonate and inspire people worldwide, making us proud to call ourselves Latino,'' Councilman Kevin de León said Aug. 30 after the City Council approved his motion to rename Bailey Street between First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Vicente Fernández Street.
“Through his music, he has etched his place in history on the hearts of fans who will forever cherish him.”
Fernández's other honors include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and 14 Lo Nuestro Awards. He retired from the stage in 2016.
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He died Dec. 12 in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he was also born. His death at age 81 followed months of health issues and an August 2021 injury at his ranch in Guadalajara.
De Leon's proposal to rename the street for Fernández was opposed by David Silvas, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council's vice president and chair of its Planning and Land Use Committee.
Silvas submitted a letter to the City Council's Public Works Committee 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.
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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 LGBTQ+ community and anyone facing the struggles of addiction” as well as “victims of sexual abuse.”
Sandra Villalobos, a representative of Organización de Mariachis Independiente de California, said “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.”
Friday's ceremony comes three weeks after Pico Rivera renamed a street leading into the Pico Rivera Sports Arena in honor of Fernández.
“Vicente Fernandez is an icon, international icon, of the ranchera music from Mexico, of course, and pretty much loved all over the world,” Sarlos Ortez, owner of Un Solo Sol restaurant.
Including in Boyle Heights, where Bailey Street, between First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue is being renamed right along Mariachi Plaza.
“The majority of the population in Boyle Heights is Hispanic and it’s not only Hispanic but it has very strong roots, to Mexican, Mexican American roots,” Ortez said.
Locals took a moment to remember the legend, who passed away in December, and his music that has been played in homes for generations.
For many, it is a reminder of their roots, and on no better day than Mexican Independence Day.