Underneath his hare-haired charro hat, his long sideburns and black mustache, he always showed a party belly. Vicente Fernández never looked like his idol, Pedro Infante: with a slim and slim waist. The essence of the seduction that Chente knew how to exploit came from his concept of virility: “A mariachi is either handsome or male.” And with this premise as a flag, both on and off the stage, he built his history. He could not stand the one who for years shared with him the heritage of ranchera music —the only living idols of the genre then — Juan Gabriel, because he was homosexual and worse still, mannered. Nor did he ever hesitate to consider himself publicly as a womanizer and boast of his conquests, although his wife, María del Refugio Abarca, headHe will always wait for him at home, trying to support the fragile pillars of that family. The kidnapping of her eldest son and the links with the Sinaloa del Mediano cartel are some of the episodes of Chente’s life that Olga Wornat reveals in The last king, the unauthorized biography of the greatest exponent of typical Mexican music.
The Argentine author, who has published other controversial biographies such as that of Philip the dark (Planeta, 2020) —about the life of former president Felipe Calderón— or that of Marta Sahagún, The boss (2003), wife of former President Vicente Fox, decided to write about Fernández as a tribute to her mother. The book covers from the birth of the interpreter in a rural area on the outskirts of Guadalajara (Jalisco) on February 17, 1940, Huentintan El Alto, to the fall he suffered in August at the age of 81, which caused a blow to his neck. , injuring his spinal cord and leaving him without mobility in his arms and legs. These days he is stable, in the recovery phase.
Wornat’s biography begins with what, according to the author, represents the most traumatic moment of her life, the kidnapping of her son Vicente Júnior for more than 121 days in 1998 and the possible participation in it of the villain of the book, Gerardo Fernández.
Question. Why did you decide to do an unauthorized biography? What problems did talking to or with your family pose for you?
Answer. I did not have the endorsement of the family, not because they told me no, but because I wanted to make this clear: it is not a fairy tale, it is not a pink story. Taking into account that Vicente Fernández is perhaps the last legend of the Mexican song, what I wanted to tell was the story of man. Who was behind that legend, behind the idol of the masses, who managed to gather many more people in the Zócalo than Shakira or any other group of rock. And that when you went to a recital of his, that great Mexican macho would appear, with boots, a gun on his belt. I went to Guadalajara many times, I spoke with many people close to him, everyone knew him. I spoke with the musicians who worked with him, singers … I interviewed a lot of people. When I tried to interview the family, which in this case you have to go through Gerardo Fernández, who is his middle son, who has handled his business for a long time and is practically his manager, he almost threw the phone at me. It was very rude. I had already started the chapter on the kidnapping of Vicente Júnior, the oldest.
P. In the book he slides a villain who has not finished developing. He insinuates that Gerardo had a direct relationship with the Sinaloa cartel.
R. Gerardo is a character that I discovered long before I started the book. In Guadalajara they told me: “To get to Vicente, you have to talk to Gerardo. But be careful because Gerardo is dangerous ”. That was the phrase. And, on the other hand, the singers and groups close to both Alejandro Fernández and his father were afraid of him. And when I access internal family sources, which I have recorded, there I begin to discover Vicente Júnior’s fear of his middle brother, the panic that paralyzed him. Yes, he is the villain of the story. Due to Gerardo’s very particular handling of the family’s money, he managed his career and his bank accounts and this generates a whole conflict within the family. In addition to running the ranch, the restaurant Los tres potrillos. And for many years, Gerardo’s relations with the Sinaloa cartel began, with Nacho Coronel [conocido narcotraficante de Jalisco vinculado al cartel de Sinaloa], of whom he was a very good friend and with whom he frequented very assiduously.
P. How certain are you of that?
R. I have it documented with internal family testimonies, because the family knew it. And with external testimonials. That in Mexico does not mean a big thing, let’s be clear. And less in Jalisco. The State is the land not only of tequila and mariachi, but it is also where the Guadalajara cartel was born. The story is not a biography of Gerardo, but I do slide it, and it is there. Nacho Coronel is killed by the Army in 2010 in Jalisco at a tremendous time in the war against drugs [de 2006 a 2012]But all the neighbors tell you, they saw each other a lot with Gerardo, they went to the ranch or to eat. Nacho Coronel bought him horses. It is an almost natural relationship, the cartels need to link with the popular, with the singers, Pablo Escobar did.
P. Yes, but it does not link Vicente Fernández directly with the drug trafficker, or was it related?
R. I searched but there was not a single person to confirm it. But what Chente knew, he did know. But he turned a blind eye. When Vicente Júnior is kidnapped, several witnesses say that, through Gerardo, the Sinaloa cartel offered to assassinate all the kidnappers. Vicente refused. But it exists as a sinuous relationship, always on the edge. The son of José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, the head of the Cali cartel, tells in his book that Vicente Fernández and Juan Gabriel went to sing on a birthday in Colombia. And there is the case of the singer Joan Sebastian, who was close to Vicente Fernández. They visited each other on the ranches and also Alejandro Fernández was like his godson. But he not only had an investigation for drug trafficking, at his ranch parties were held with minors who were kidnapped in Guatemala. I asked myself: “How could Chente not know this?” Maybe he didn’t want to know or didn’t want to look at it, I’m not sure because he just got sick and I didn’t ask him that question and no one ever asked him. Neither him nor Alejandro.
P. He mentions family money laundering in his book. To what extent do you think Fernández was involved?
R. Vicente Fernández’s farewell tour was very traumatic, especially on his Spain tour. Where there is an investigation by the DEA and the Spanish police for money laundering. That was always there. Vicente said: “I have nothing to do with it, I did not get paid.” But Gerardo placed the management on a very shady character called Andrés Barco, linked to drug trafficking in Colombia, from Total Conciertos, a specialist in money laundering. They investigated a $ 5 million diversion on the Spain tour. And then Gerardo takes Barco to the ranch and Vicente ends up as his daughter’s godfather. That messed up Chente’s farewell tour. It is very difficult to believe that a character of his stature is going to sing and not get paid. In that affair Messi was also involved, with the same character, but Messi’s father admitted that they had laundered money.
P. He even insinuates that Gerardo had a role in the kidnapping of his older brother, Vicente.
R. Curiously, to this day Vicente Júnior continues to suspect that his brother Gerardo had something to do with his kidnapping. This is terrible. Supposedly for the money and for evil. That is why I consider Gerardo a psychopath, for everything the family told me. A person without empathy, capable of the worst things. It took me a lot to reconstruct the kidnapping, it is the first time that it has been told in such detail, because there are kidnappers in prison and there is still fear. Vicente Júnior had two fingers cut off, he still lives with post-traumatic stress.
P. Why did Fernández continue with his tours during those 121 days of kidnapping? Also Alejandro.
R. They had to continue giving concerts, when there was a kidnapping, it was kept almost secret. And also because it was a demand from the kidnappers that they continue to act as if nothing had ever happened there or they would kill him. In addition, they needed cash, [los secuestradores llegaron a pedir 10 millones de dólares].
P. He mentions in the book that Vicente could not stand Juan Gabriel, being the two of them until the death of Divo de Juárez in 2016 the only living exponents of the genre, where did that hatred come from?
R. It has to do with the personal characteristics of Vicente Fernández, there was also a lot of competition. He could not stand Juan Gabriel, because he was gay and Chente was a man from another era and had a lot of homophobia, this is confirmed by Javier Rivera, who was a representative of many Mexican artists who took them on tour in the United States. He was a captive man from another time.
P. Another very important minor character in his book is Vicente’s wife, María del Refugio Abarca, known as Cuca What did Abarca mean for the singer’s life?
R. Cuquita is the prototype of the Mexican woman. For her it was the first boyfriend, the first love. They met very young, very poor and he endured absolutely everything in his life. She endured the most tremendous misery, it cost her a lot to have her children, she lost four on the way, and then when Vicente arrives and triumphs, the typical one: all the women in the world. And he endured all the infidelities, all of them. He knew them. To the point that when he has this extramarital son with this long relationship with Patricia Rivera, an actress, Cuquita receives him at home and forgives him. And he almost adopts it as his own. She is also the prototype of a woman from another era, when they had no voice. She wanted to study, but he didn’t let her. He lived with a lot of pain, and a large part of the health problems he has now are the result of the sufferings he had with him, the public humiliations with the mistresses, because they were all public and he also told about it. And then the problems with the children. She was a present mother and that contained the family.
P. You comment in the prologue that the biography is also a tribute to your mother, a fan of Chente and the rancheras, do you think you would have liked to read so many shades of your idol?
R. It is what she would have wanted to read. I wouldn’t have wanted a perfect story, rose. These stories are the ones that really exist.
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