Bailey Street near Mariachi Plaza. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

By Camila Thur de Koos and Nate Perez

Originally published Feb 15, 2022 5:40 PM

The Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to rename a street in Boyle Heights after the late Mexican singer Vicente Fernández.

Councilman Kevin de León says in a statement that the plan got a “significant” outpouring of support from the community.

“The legacy of Vicente Fernández continues to resonate and inspire people worldwide, making us proud to call ourselves Latino,” de León said. “Today, our city council took the rare action to recognize ‘Chente’ for his cultural contributions by memorializing him at one of our city’s most cherished venues, Mariachi Plaza. Through his music, he has etched his place in history and on the hearts of fans who will forever cherish him.”

But critics have raised concerns about the singer’s past, including documented homophobic remarks, insensitive comments toward people who use drugs, as well as allegations that the performer inappropriately touched women.

David Silvas — vice president of the neighborhood council — says he’s disappointed L.A. leaders have approved the renaming.

“Many of them are LGBT members that expressed some concern,” Silvas said. “Now that this is moving forward, I think we need to, and we owe it to these members, that we really support them and reach out to them more than ever now.”

In a letter to De León’s office, the neighborhood council wrote that they do “not feel it is appropriate to rename a street within the community after Vicente Fernández, nor any other civic memorialization.”

Instead, the council requested that public spaces be named for “non-living, historic figures who have had tangible and direct ties to the community of Boyle Heights.”

De León’s spokesperson, Pete Brown, says “some people expressed opposition, but we’re seeing a far greater number of people support the name change.”

The nonprofit Mariachi Plaza Festival Foundation backed the renaming. The new Vicente Fernández Street will replace Bailey Street, adjacent to the plaza.

A celebration is expected with the new street name unveiling, but Brown says no date is set in stone.

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2022 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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