With red, white and green papel picado strung across Mariachi Plaza, the sound of mariachi violins, trumpets, vihuelas and guitarrones, and emotional gritos in the air, the name Vicente Fernández Street was finally unveiled in Boyle Heights on Mexican Independence Day.
“La historia de Vicente, quien tuvo raíces humildes y que luchó y luchó para levantarse, es la misma historia de muchas personas aquí de nuestra comunidad hermosa,” said Councilmember Kevin de León at the street renaming ceremony Friday night.
“¡Que viva Boyle Heights y que viva México!,” the councilman exclaimed.
De León, who proposed the name change, referred in his Spanish-language statement to early struggles by Fernández, who rose to become one of Mexico’s best known and beloved performers. He died in December at 81.
Fernández’s widow María del Refugio “Cuquita” Abarca attended the unveiling ceremony, along with other local elected officials.
Over 100 people showed up Friday night to celebrate the renaming of a two-block segment of Bailey St. adjacent to Mariachi Plaza.
The area is a well-known gathering place for mariachi musicians in the neighborhood, whose rancheras are the style of music that Fernández was famous for.
“Pertenezco a la Plaza del Mariachi desde hace 40 años y es un orgullo tener el nombre de un gran hombre en nuestra plaza,” said Carmen Serrano, who goes by La Tapatía de Boyle Heights. “Soy una mujer mexicana, y tener representación como está calle, de alguien que cantó con el alma de México en su voz, es algo hermoso.”
The street naming has not been without controversy since its initial proposal by De León at the start of the year. Concern came from locals who pointed to news reports of homophobic and sexist statements attributed to Fernández over the years.
The proposal was initially rejected by the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, which released a statement of opposition.