This month Azul is paying tribute to Chavela Vargas and Juan Gabriel, two of Mexican and Ranchera music’s most inspiring representatives. Azul will be accompanied by musicians Juan Cabrera, Emilio Alvarez and Nina Rodriguez.
Chavela Vargas was a queer, Mexican singer (born in Costa Rica) who lived from 1919-2012. Her passionate renditions of popular Ranchera songs made her a beloved figure in Mexico, even as her androgynous appearance and unconventional life challenged norms of the day. Just as influential as her cultural contributions, Chavela was a bold, rebellious, sexual pioneer who was known for having many female lovers at a time when being out in Mexico was dangerous. Chavela challenged mainstream Mexican morals by dressing in pants, drinking tequila, and smoking cigars while singing love songs intended for men to woo women and refused to change the pronouns. Although she didn’t officially identify as a lesbian until she was 81 years old, Chavela carefully crafted a public persona as a powerful, rebellious, free spirited outsider, and a sexy outlaw who blazed her own unique trail.
Juan Gabriel or Juanga (an affectionate nickname given to him by his audience), was an idol, an iconic Mexican singer, song-writer and one of the most prolific Mexican composers and singers of all time. His colorful outfits, flamboyant style and performance broke barriers all over the world. He presented hundreds of concerts, recorded albums with many other famous singers, and received numerous awards. He preferred to remain coy on the issue of his sexualtiy and he was known to say: “Lo que se ve no se pregunta,” what one sees doesn’t have to be questioned.
Chavela Vargas and Juan Gabriel prevailed and became cultural pinnacles and LGBTQ+ icons. They left this planet adored by millions, and their music and stories will continue to impact the lives of future generations. ¡Que viva La Shamana! ¡Que viva El Divo de México!