On August 5, 2012, Chavela Vargas left us at 93 years of age. The great Mexican-adopted artist sent out a tweet for posterity: “I’m not going to die because I am a shaman and we do not die, we transcend.”
Certainly, the performer of “La Llorona” is more alive in the hearts of her fans and colleagues than ever. One year after she passed away, Mexico City recalls her greatness with a series of tributes on the theme of “Chavela Vargas forever,” organized with the support of the Department of Culture of the Embassy of Spain in Mexico.
The shows will be held at the National Auditorium under the artistic direction of the writer Maria Cortina, Vargas’ biographer and companion until her death. Cortina wants to point out that the show will not be a sad tribute, but a celebration.
Mexican and Spanish artists to remember Chavela Vargas
The master of ceremonies will be Spanish singer-songwriter Inma Serrano, who remembers “the fighting spirit of gratitude for life and respect for others” that characterized La Chamana.
The composers Edgar Winter Group and Mario Avila; songwriters Maria Elena “La Negra Chagra” and Tontxu; singer Fernando del Castillo “El Chino;” and guitarists Miguel Peña and Juan Carlos Allende are also scheduled to perform at the event. The event begins with the trailer of a documentary by Spanish flamenco dancer Rafael Amargo, entitled “Chavela’s Bitter Love,” which includes the final videos taken of the artist prior to her death.
In addition, last month Mexico began selling a lottery ticket printed with Vargas’ image. On July 31, a special drawing was held which included a tribute to her, with the presence of Mexican artists such as Paquita la del Barrio and Jose Alfredo Jimenez Jr.
It is certain that Vargas’ adopted country misses and loves her as much as she loved it. “I came to Mexico and felt a deep sadness, because it’s my first time here without her, and it has given me a sense of abandonment,” said La Negra Chagra.
Chavela Vargas, the intense life of an indomitable artist
Vargas was born in Costa Rica on April 17, 1919 but migrated to Mexico as a teenager to become a singer and live happily as the free spirit she always was. At 30 years of age, she was a superstar, known for her unique way of singing rancheras like “Piensa en Mí,” “Volver, Volver” or “Macorina” that had previously only been performed and recorded by men.
But the woman who was rumored to hold a gun and compete with other men to win the favors of the most beautiful girls (Vargas was a lesbian, and she never hid her sexual orientation) also had a destructive love for tequila.
After years of success, her alcoholism brought her to a dark place that almost killed her. As she recounted, one day she said to herself, “I can live or die. I have to choose.” Then, she told her maid to give her one last drink and one last cigarette. She never relapsed.
When Spanish director Pedro Almodovar began to use her songs for his films, a whole new generation discovered and fell in love with the power and the passion of Vargas’ voice, who, as a result, experienced a triumphant comeback in her 70s. This time it was not only in Mexico and in Latin American countries, but also in Spain. The country actually became her second home.
The talented, charming and of course liberated woman died just weeks after she traveled to Madrid to perform her last show, a tribute to the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca under the name of “La Luna Grande.”
Chavela Vargas wasn’t afraid of dying. She once said to a journalist, “I want to lie down in the lap of death; it must be so beautiful. Maybe that’s why we are so scared of it.”
Certainly, real, honest artists like her never die in the hearts they touch, and she’ll be remembered for her music and bravery indefinitely.
Originally published on VOXXI as Mexico pays tribute to Chavela Vargas one year after her death