Today, Mexican music legend Juan Gabriel passed away. The 66-year-old singer and composer recorded over 35 albums during this forty-plus year career. He was a Latino music icon. This guest post is by Evelyn Hernandez, my former student who loves his music.
It’s a sad day to be a brown girl with feelings. Specifically, it’s a very sad day to be this brown girl with feelings. And sure, it hasn’t exactly been easy to be a brown girl caught in the middle of her cultural past and assimilated future, but today is especially hard. Today, my favorite artist of all time--Juan Gabriel--passed away.
This might seem melodramatic, and it very well might be from the outside looking in, but he probably wasn’t for you.
If he wasn't for you, "Abrázame muy fuerte…” most likely wasn’t the melody that punctuated your day telling you it was time to sit on the floor of your parents’ bedroom playing with garage-sale Barbies while your mom and grandma watched their novelas.
If he wasn't for you, you probably didn’t passively watch those Mexican soap-opera stories and allow them to form the narratives of what you wanted your love story to be; vampire slayers and orange county socialites be damned.
And when you were stuck home alone doing chores while your parents worked full time, “Mira mi soledad, que no me siento nada bien,” wasn’t a comforting lullaby culminating in him belting out you were his “Querida,” like some southside Cinderella.
And years later, you probably didn’t steal the tianguis version of his greatest hits album from your dad to put on your iPod. The same album you’d visit any time you felt the world was too much and you needed it to be heroine vs. the world for a sec.
Or when what’s-his-face-who-really-didn’t-age-well wouldn’t talk to you after school, you’d keep it together until you were home safe listening to the album on loop.
A decade later, when you took on everyone’s worries to feed the beast your anxiety became, you probably weren’t afraid the world had beaten down the greatest love story you ever knew: your parents.
And this fear didn’t creep on you every day until your dad surprised your mom with tickets to see him live at the Chicago Theatre. And you didn’t get to witness your dumbfounded fear melt away as your parents, to this day, duet his songs in the kitchen when they think no one’s home.
And while you rode the train to your first desk job after college, you probably didn’t wonder how you went so wrong. You didn’t sit there questioning whether the system/world/powers that be had won after all as you questioned what would ever become of your life.
You most certainly didn’t follow this rabbit hole until a familiar tune crossed your playlist, only for you to realize the words were different. Different but instinctual because Creedence Clearwater Revivial’s “I wanna know” was now “Ahora no,” but you wondered if it hadn’t been that way always.
And that moment probably didn’t make you realize you were traversing the same highway your dad and six-year-old you would singing Creedence Clearwater Revival late at night while picking up your mom from work.
You probably didn’t tell yourself to suck it up because look how far you’d come for them and how far you’d still go.
But if he was for you, I don’t have to tell you what today feels like.
You know listening to him was equal parts warm hugs and facing life with an overflowing drink in hand.
You know that in the course of a song, he’d prove no matter how bad you’d felt, you could feel just as good. You know, like he did, that’s there’s a power that comes not from simply showing your vulnerability but entirely owning it.
Today, it’s tempting to see everything with stoic indifference, but I promise I’ll chose his brazen alternative--always.
And I promise my mother and I will never not drive around singing his hits and I promise I won’t forget Juan Gabriel, "Que nunca podré."
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