Vicente Fernández’s name will grace a Boyle Heights street, L.A. City Council decides

Vicente Fernández waving a sombrero and singing into a microphone
Vicente Fernández performs at a free concert in Mexico City in 2009.
(Claudio Cruz / Associated Press )

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to approve the renaming of a Boyle Heights street after legendary Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernández, who died in December at age 81.

“Today, our city council took the rare action to recognize ‘Chente’ for his cultural contributions by memorializing him at one of our city’s most cherished venues, Mariachi Plaza,” Councilman Kevin de León said at the meeting, according to City News Service. “Through his music, he has etched his place in history and on the hearts of fans who will forever cherish him.”

The street to be renamed is one block of what’s currently Bailey Street, to the east of Mariachi Plaza and north of First Street.


Objections to the renaming had been brought up through a committee reporting to the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council. After the motion was made, a small number of residents and activists raised concerns. They noted a homophobic remark the singer had once made — he said in an interview that he refused a liver transplant because he didn’t know if it came from a homosexual or a drug addict — plus allegations that he had inappropriately touched women.

The divides exposed by Fernández’s death are familiar to those hashing out differences over issues like the term “Latinx” and how much to call out the behavior of elders steeped in machismo culture.

Feb. 7, 2022

Some of those who objected also did so in part because De León hadn’t consulted with the neighborhood council first before making the Jan. 12 motion to rename the street.

“Kevin de León’s office ignored us and instead reached out to mariachis and mariachi businesses and got a really skewed perspective of what the community wanted,” David Silvas, the neighborhood council’s vice president, told The Times earlier this month.

 Bailey Street in Los Angeles with downtown L.A. in the background
Bailey Street between First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue will be renamed after Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernández, the City Council decided on Tuesday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

However, De León’s communications director, Pete Brown, told CNS after Tuesday’s vote that the councilman had received “an outpouring of support” from the Boyle Heights community.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is gay, spoke in favor of the renaming at last Wednesday’s Public Works Committee meeting, Channel 4 NBC Los Angeles reported. O’Farrell said that celebrating anyone in a public space is “always fraught to some extent because of the imperfection of people.”


And Carlos Montes, another neighborhood council member and longtime Boyle Heights resident, told The Times recently, “To not name the street after Vicente would be an outrage, honestly, and make us look bad locally and internationally.

Mexican music icon Vicente Fernández was more than just a singer to his fans in the U.S. He was them

Dec. 12, 2021

“We support LGBTQ+ rights, but there are better ways to do that than to just throw away the accomplishments of a major cultural hero who is beloved here,” Montes added.

It is unclear when the renaming will take place. Street signs will need to be replaced and addresses will need to be changed, plus emergency-response agencies will need to adapt.

Fernández, often described as the Mexican equivalent of Frank Sinatra, started singing on the streets of his hometown, Guadalajara, and rose to record more than 50 Spanish-language albums and sell tens of millions of copies. Nearly half of them were sold in the U.S.

The winner of three Grammys and eight Latin Grammys, he had suffered a variety of health issues in recent years, including liver and prostate cancer. Fernández performed his final live show at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium in 2016, and died Dec. 12 in Guadalajara.