Chavela Vargas, singer who defied Mexican music gender stereotypes, died on Sunday due to respiratory arrest.
Source: Associated Press, MEXICO, (AP).- The legendary Mexican singer died this past Sunday due to respiratory arrest, informed her representative, Maria Cortina. She was 93 years old. Friend and biographer of the artist, Cortina said that Vargas died in a hosptal of the city of Cuernavaca, south of the capital, where she was a patient for a week with cardiac and respiratory problems.
Isabel Vargas Lizano, better known as Chavela Vargas was born in Sn Joaquin Flores, Costa Rica on April 17t, 1919. At 17 years of age, she moved to Mexico to pursue her dream to triumph in Ranchera music and quickly adopted Mexican citizenship. Her professional career took off at the hands of composer José Alfredo Jiménez.
Chavela Vargas revolutionized the music scene singing songs of love, on occasion directed towards other women, with her raspy and potent voice and always adorned in male clothes. Born in San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica and living in Mexico from her teenage years on, she began to develop her passion for music singing in the streets at 14 years old. In 1960, when she was already 41 years old, she began to do it professionally.
In that era she burst into Mexican cantinas and bars singing with a gun on her waist and a bottle of tequila in one hand. Many condemned her conduct, but others venerated her as a woman that dared to challenge the Mexican machista culture, singing with emotion and hoarseness about love’s sufferings that women also endure. Naturally a polemic, the singer did not hold back in speaking the criticism that surrounded her, much of which was in regard to her homosexuality, which she made public in her autobiography “Y si quieres saber de mi pasado”, published in 2002.
In the text she related to everyone that since childhood she was marked as “weird”. “What hurts is not that I’m homosexual, but rather that they throw it in my face as if it were disgusting. It takes a certain amount of venom in one’s soul to be able to launch knives about a person, only because he or she is one way or another”, Vargas wrote, with whom she became sentimentally related to the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Recognized for her firm character, she spoke of not having felt and fear during her prolific career. “I wasn’t afraid of anything because I did not cause harm to anything”, she assured with calmness during a homage done for her in June 2011 in Mexico. “I was always an old drunk” she added on the occasion, among laughter. Health problems followed her since childhood. From her years as a young girl, she encountered polio, and she attributed her recuperation to witch doctors and shamans that tended to her. Her passion for these figure was such, that she always appeared bearing amulets and talismans made by them. “La chamana”, as she was nick-named, never allowed herself to be intimidated by death, that which she imagined as “beautiful, like a rest”. She asked that upon dying, she would be remembered “as an old loony that drank 40 bottles of tequila”. “In a river, a deep lake around there, just throw me in as soon as I die”, she expressed to the press during the same evening. Witness to the political changes of almost a century, such as the ascending of Fidel Castro to power in Cuba, Isabel Vargas, her birth name, never feared giving her political opinions.
With 80 years recorded, the interpreter of “La Llorona” and “Macorina” made seven of her songs resonate in “Soy Frida, soy libre”, a monologue about the Mexican painter in which her songs served as a bridge between each and every one of her acts. In April of 2012, at 93 years old, Vargas launched “La Luna Grande”, an album of poems with which she surrendered homage to the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. She coupled her recitations with the melody of some of her songs like “Macorina” and “Noche de ronda”. With the material, she stated, she closed off “a debt of love, peace and beauty” with the poet. During the presentation of the album in her house of Tepoztlan, some 80 kilometers south of the Mexian capital, she declared without any false pretext that she owed nothing to life.