Vicente Fernández knew what he was doing around your broken heart

After four years of dating, here’s what Art Castillo has become: sitting alone in his blue truck in Waco, TX, listening to his girlfrien...


After four years of dating, here’s what Art Castillo has become: sitting alone in his blue truck in Waco, TX, listening to his girlfriend on speakerphone. Long distance wasn’t working, she told him. She had found another man. The relationship was over.

“I hung up and put Vicente Fernández on,” said 30-year-old Castillo. He played “La Cruz de Tu Olvido“, in which Mr. Fernández bellow,” Looking at the evil in your eyes, I understood that you have never loved me. “He played it harder, over and over, until he was done crying.

“With his songs,” Mr. Castillo said, “you just feel it inside of you.”

For generations, Mr. Fernández often sad songs have served as balm for broken hearts. In a career that spanned six decades, Mr. Fernández, the Mexican ranchera superstar who died Sunday at 81, has recorded hundreds of songs and dozens of albums, singing about unrequited love, contemptuous partners and tarnished romance.

Around this time, Mr. Fernández, known to millions as Chente, became a beacon for broken hearts, a man to listen to when love has gone bad and all you want – aside from maybe tequila – it’s brave guitars, horns, and someone to express your innermost feelings.

“For many people of Mexican descent, her voice is home,” said Rachel Yvonne Cruz, professor of Mexican-American studies and music specialist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

This explains why so many people, mostly Latinos, turn to him when they’re down, she said.

“When Vicente Fernández sang, he expressed all of these emotions that we keep inside: that silent cry, that silent cry that occurs when your heart is broken, when you can’t take it anymore,” said the Dr Cruz. “And when you listened to it, you were able to have the output you needed.”

Who broke Mr. Fernández’s heart? It remains a playful mystery among his fans. He married María del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor in his early twenties, and the two remained together until his death.

But however and whenever his grief occurred, his fans say his anguish was reflected in his words.

You boca, you ojos and you pelo

Los llevo en mi mente, noche y día

“Your mouth, your eyes and your hair, I carry them in my head, night and day”, sings Mr. Fernández in “Las Llaves de Mi Alma”.

Por tu maldito amor

No terminar puedo con tantas penas

“Because of your damn love, I can’t end so much shame,” he roared in “Por Tu Maldito Amor. “

In a marco, pondré tu retrato

Y en mi mano, otra copa de vino

“In a frame, I will put your portrait, and in my hand, another glass of wine”, he sings in “You Camino y el Mío. “

This is the song that helped Fernanda Aguilera.

“I’ve been with someone since, I guess, high school, and then you’re like, ‘Well, that’s gonna be my person,’ said Ms. Aguilera, 27, of San Antonio. But when college came and they broke up, she realized that the relationship “was just an illusion in my head.”

She played “Tu Camino y el Mío” (“Your road and mine”) and remembered thinking, “This is exactly how I feel, but I could never find the words. And it’s like he’s putting the words together for me.

On a chilly March night in Oxnard, Calif., A heartbroken Jaime Tapia had a few beers, invited a friend over to his house, and put on a Vicente Fernández playlist. Mr. Tapia was 19 years old. He and his girlfriend for four years had decided to break up their relationship earlier that night.

Reflecting the way Mr. Fernández had dealt with heartaches in films (mainly with alcohol, a dark look in the middle and friends who reassure him he will be fine), Mr. Tapia and his friend continued to bring in the beers while they were sitting on the hoods of their cars.

“I dozed off just looking at the stars,” he said. He was alone and drunk for the first time in his life.

“A lot of the songs that Chente talks about are about breakups, being in a cantina, stuff like that,” Mr. Tapia said. “So even though you may feel sad at the time, it feels good to bond with a friend and not be alone. “

Ranchera’s music “can be seen as a sung display of her most honest emotions,” said Mónica Fogelquist, professor of mariachi practice and ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“In Mexican culture, men are meant to be strong, valiant, proud, and devoid of all sentiment,” she said. “They don’t cry or express their vulnerability, including heartache. However, through music, all unexpressed or forbidden emotions are free to come out.

People used the romantic tunes of Chente to try and win back a estranged partner through serenades, a musical message of love delivered by a group of mariachis in front of a lover’s window – a tradition that Mr. Fernández popularized in movies.

“It’s quite popular; we’ve been hired multiple times to help win that person back, ”said Giovanni Garcia, who heads Chicago’s Mariachi Estrellas group. He added: “There have been a few times where they have said to us, ‘Oh, I’m in the doghouse right now and I hope that helps me. “”

Sometimes it works, he says. Often this is not the case, even if the band is playing one of Mr. Fernández’s songs.

Someone tried it once on Laura Figueroa. It did not end well.

A group of mariachis knocked on her door in Chicago. Her little brother let them in and the musicians walked through the kitchen and into her bedroom. She was 22 at the time.

“I’m sitting there staring at the ground like, ‘Oh my gosh there’s literally a mariachi in my house,’ said Ms. Figueroa, now 39. has not taken back her former lover.

Jesus Gutierrez, 37, of Chicago, said his father used to sing “Hermoso Cariño” (“Beautiful Darling”) by Mr. Fernández to his mother, Juana, when they dated in Guanajuato, Mexico . She used to be embarrassed while telling the story, Mr Gutierrez said, because her father, Nicolas, was “not a good singer”.

But maybe it worked, he said, because they got married, had children, and listened to ranchera music together for decades. She kept nearly all of her Chente vinyl records and shouted every word of her heart-wrenching songs at concerts, her son recalls.

In 2019, Juana Gutierrez passed away and Chente’s songs came to represent a new kind of grief for Mr. Gutierrez. He said he couldn’t play some of his mom’s favorites anymore because “that’s too much.”

But on Sunday, when he learned of Mr Fernández’s death, he immediately knew how he would spend his evening: the same way he and so many others had gone through their first break-ups and their last farewells.

He scrolled through his playlist until he found “Hermoso Cariño”.

Precioso regalo

Del cielo ha llegado

Y que me ha colmado de dicha y amor

“A precious gift, it came from heaven,” sang Mr. Fernández. “And it filled me with happiness and love.”

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