Mexican icon Chavela Vargas
Chavela Vargas, one of the most iconic singers across the Spanish-speaking world, has died from respiratory failure in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.
Vargas was a contemporary, friend and frequent house guest of luminaries Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and a close friend to Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca, for whom she dedicated her last album, La Luna Grande
. The singer became ill while touring the record in Spain weeks ago, her medical report said she was suffering from congestive heart failure, chronic renal failure and lung disease.
Born Isabel Vargas Lizano in Costa Rica’s San Joaquin de Flores in Costa Rica, she immigrated to Mexico at 14. Vargas started to sing on the streets as a teenager before achieving fame in her thirties when she was discovered by composer José Alfredo Jiménez.
She became known as "the rough voice of tenderness" for her inimitable gender bender renditions of lusty rancheras
challenging Mexicans with their perceptions of what it meant to be a female singer.
"I was never afraid of anything because I never hurt anyone," Vargas told the audience at a tribute concert in Mexico City last year. "I was always an old drunk."
Vargas publicly came out as a lesbian when she was 81. "What hurt was not being homosexual, but what they throw it in my face as if it were the plague," she wrote in her autobiography If You Want To Know About My Past
Fans of all ages and economic and social strata gathered in Mexico City’s Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City to mourn the loss of their legendary ranchera
last Monday. An emotional official farewell ceremony at Palacio de Bellas Artes followed on Tuesday with performances by Eugenia Leon, Lila Downs and Tania Liberdad who sang Vargas’ famous classics such as Flor de Azalea
and Volver, volver
According to Vargas’ closest friend and biographer, Maria Cortina, the singer’s remains will be cremated and her ashes scattered across Chalchi Hill in Tepoztlán, where Vargas spent her last years, and San Luis Potosí, where Vargas was induced a shaman by the Huichol community.
"I'm not going to die, because I am a shaman and we do not die, we transcend," Vargas was reported
saying last Friday.
Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, who featured many of Vargas’ songs in his films and even a cameo appearance in The Flower of My Secret
, is probably the one person who can explain the death of Vargas best.
"I don't think there is a stage big enough in this world for Chavela," he wrote.