Alejandro Fernández’s songs played throughout my childhood, both in Mexico and Chicago. Then he was one of the few Mexican singers that had a following that transcended the age, class, and gender stereotypes that divide Mexican society. The son of the famous mariachi singer Vicente Fernández, Alejandro started his music career at the age of four when he joined Vicente on stage and quickly become as widely loved as his father.
Thirty-five years later, Alejandro took the stage at the Gibson Amphitheater an hour late, dressed from head to toe in the traditional charro outfit. After an hour, he sang my favorite of his mariachi songs, in which he cries “que pena haberte perdido, como quien pierde una estrella que se le va al infinito,” which translates to “What a shame to have lost you, like one who loses a star that fades into the infinite.” He left the stage with the audience roaring with delight, only to return a few minutes later in a leather jacket, pre-washed jeans, and a silver rosary at his waist, an appropriate outfit for the second part of his show, which featured Alejandro’s ballads—the hits that have set him apart from his mariachi father (who, incidentally, is playing at the Gibson in November).
The word for corny in Spanish is “cursi,” and I must admit, every last one of his songs is cursi—and yet, the packed amphitheater, myself included, loved them all. The crowd screamed “Ayayay!” along with Alejandro, and when he shimmied and winked, the women shrieked. When I thought he couldn’t possibly come up with another hit, he gave a hair-curling rendition of “Se Me Va La Voz.” After two hours singing his own songs, Alejandro sang some famous rancheras, starting with one that spoke to the primarily Mexican audience. “Beautiful and beloved Mexico,” he sang, “if I die far from you, have them say I’m sleeping, and bring me back here.” After at least seven more rancheras, he said goodbye and exclaimed “El Potrillo (“the colt,” which is his nickname) is leaving!” This time it was for good.