Tucked inside the stables, next to the miniature appaloosas, there is a lumpy old rocking chair covered in plaid. A pack of cigarettes is stashed nearby, hidden in the crack of a crumbling pillar. Apart from the stage, it is the one place where Fernandez feels most at peace, a seat to think and smoke and watch the potrillos be born. Whenever they clashed over music, he summoned Alejandro to this spot. Now, during the long, restless summer of the kidnapping, he came here again, slipping out of bed and wandering down at 1 or 2 a.m., shivering in the darkness, waiting for tomorrow.
“They say that when my uncle dies, this is where he’ll come out at night,” his nephew, Pepe, says. One of Fernandez’s early records echoes that thought:
Beautiful and beloved Mexico,
If I die far from you
Let it be said I’m asleep,
And have me brought here …
Beautiful and beloved Mexico,
If I die far from you.
It was not until late August, three months after snatching Vicente Jr., that the kidnappers finally agreed to a deal. The Mexican media reported the ransom to be $3.2 million, a sum Fernandez has refused to confirm. “My son is not a cow, an animal, or a product,” he told the Televisa network. The drop-off could have been lifted from the pages of a spy novel: bundled cash, an unmarked plane and a pilot guided by a cell phone. Flying over the west Mexico wilderness, the money was hurled out the window. A new wait began. Two more weeks went by.
Late on the night of Sept. 11, as Fernandez tossed in bed, there was a buzz on the intercom. It was his ranch hand, Rodolfo, calling from the stables. Cuca answered.
“Tell Don Vicente there is a problem with one of the potrillos,” Rodolfo said.
Cuca passed the phone to her husband.
“What happened?” Fernandez asked.
“It’s one of the potrillos.”
“Why can’t you take care of it?”
“This is a potrillo that only you can help.”
Fernandez threw on a shirt and ran for the door, still in his underwear. He shot out of the house and onto the veranda, eyes wide in the blackness. There, 114 days after losing him, he found Vicente Jr. As he has done since his son was born, Fernandez kissed him on the lips.
He called to Cuca: “It is a potrillo, but it’s your potrillo, and he’s fine!”
Vicente Jr. laughed. He appeared to be in good health. He seemed well-fed. He told his father he had not been beaten. But once inside, under the light, Fernandez got a closer look.
“What’s in your hand?” he asked.
Vicente Jr. had been covering his left hand with his right one. He let go. Now his father could see. There were two fingers missing, ring and pinky. They had been amputated, with surgical precision, just below the knuckle.
“Amor De Los Dos” A Love Shared By Two
The headlines rushed to judge: “Potrillos Leave Ranch.” “Violence Makes Them Flee.” “Looking to Forget in Texas.”
The day after Vicente Jr.’s release, he and his parents had flown to San Antonio, where he reunited with his wife and four children. Fernandez has a ranch there, one of several U.S. properties he owns and regularly visits. But this trip, under the circumstances, looked less like a stopover than an escape. A parade of popular Mexican entertainers, crime victims themselves, already had declared their intent to seek sanctuary in the north. To also lose Fernandez, the personification of all that Mexico holds dear–that, for many of his fans, was tantamount to a death in the family.
Publicado: 10-14-2008 12:08 AM
Every Sept. 16, on Mexican Independence Day, the airwaves buzz with a 24-hour Vicente Fernandez homage. Last year, more than 250 radio stations in the U.S. and Mexico participated, but the tribute could have been confused for a requiem. The honoree remained in exile. He had not acknowledged Vicente Jr.’s release. He had yet, for that matter, to confirm the abduction. When several suspects were arrested on New Year’s Day–including one, “El Coyote,” linked to a band of predators blamed for at least 50 abductions in eight Mexican states–Fernandez had no comment. The kidnapping, he explained, was a “nightmare.” He was eager to leave it behind him.
By then, though, his actions were speaking volumes–about himself and about his nation. After all that had happened, after everything he had lost and all he had salvaged, Fernandez turned around and went back. He went back to Mexico, to the country that had spawned him, not to play for the glitterati in Acapulco or the industrialists in Monterrey, but for his people in the hinterlands: Uruapan, Celaya, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Queretaro. The shows he returned for were called palenques, which is to say they were the climax of a night at the cockfights. The concert is held in the cockpit itself, a dirt ring under a corrugated-tin roof, where the roosters pair off with razors tied to their legs. The duels are a cornerstone of Mexican folklore, marathons of drinking and gambling, infused with sexual symbolism, by turns noble, cruel, absurd. When the final contest is over and the last carcass hauled off, a custodian enters the pit with a dustpan, sweeping up the feathers and blood. Then the headliner bursts from his dressing room, jostling through the crowd, down a narrow staircase, into the circular battlefield.
“Thank you for making me feel like I’m in my home, with my family,” Fernandez told the audience one night last December in Tuxtla, the capital of Chiapas, as he stood in a ring still speckled with the detritus of bird.
Not only had he come back, but he had come back with his namesake. In the months after his release, Vicente Jr. had signed up as road manager, reacquainting himself with his father and his father’s songs. “It’s strange, because when they were young, it was my son Vicente who sang all the time, not Alejandro,” Fernandez says. Alejandro eventually “was given the voice,” as Fernandez puts it, which for a time joined them together on stage. Now it was Vicente Jr. who wanted to participate, a triumphant duo out on victory tour. “Instead of coming back traumatized, he came back more humane,” Fernandez says. Vicente Jr. struggles to explain: “My life started over in September. I’m like a newborn right now. What else can I tell you? You’ll have to wait until I grow up again.”
It was almost 1 a.m. when the concert started, nearly four hours after the first rooster’s death. The tiny pavilion was smoky and close, an overflow crowd of 3,000 spilling into the aisles and blocking the exits, which only the aproned barmaids with their metal beer trays seemed able to thread. Fernandez stood under the fluorescent glare of a bingo tote board, looking up at his audience from the bottom of the pit, surrounded and exposed. Every face in the house was visible: jowly impresarios in big-bellied guayaberas and adolescent beauty queens with studded tiaras, cowboys, athletes, peasants, even little children, eyelids drooping and arms wrapped around the necks of their dads. Within minutes, someone hurled a tequila bottle from the back, cracking open a man’s skull in one of the lower rows. Fernandez stopped mid-verse. “He didn’t do anything to you, you beep coward!” he yelled at the troublemaker, restoring order with an artful string of four-letter words. Fernandez wore a blue suede traje de charro and a sombrero as big as a truck tire. He gripped a cordless mike in his left hand, right palm over his heart. His chin was cocked back, lips pursed like blossoms. Sweat poured off his forehead and down his cheeks, soaking through his shirt and waist-length jacket, forming two album-sized circles in the leather under his arms.
Vicente Jr. sat in the front row, on a folding chair, within reach of anyone. He had on rumpled jeans and a windbreaker. Halfway through the show, Fernandez motioned to him. Vicente Jr. climbed into the ring. “The eldest of my potrillos,” Fernandez announced. The crowd surged, cheering, flashbulbs popping, a mixture of elation and relief. Vicente Jr. waved back, then clasped his hands. His father thanked everyone for their prayers. He was offering more than platitudes, though: something that might serve as a remedy for all he and his son, and his fans and his country, had endured. It is the only elixir he has ever known. He wanted Vicente Jr. to sing.
The song was one that helped make Alejandro famous, “Amor De Los Dos,” the first duet recorded by him and his father. Now, for a few unexpected minutes, it belonged to Vicente Jr., and to everyone else in the house. His voice warbled, hesitantly, groping for the key. He is not his father, or even his brother, but on this night nobody cared:
My life is your life,
A love shared by two.
You make me suffer;
One day you will pay.
There is no forgiveness for you.
His father’s face was growing red, his eyes puffy. He wrapped an arm around Vicente Jr., gripping the hair on the back of his neck. Their cheeks were almost touching. Fernandez responded:
If I have offended you.
The arena exploded. The people wanted more. Here was the Mexico that Fernandez believed in. This time, he did not hide his tears.
P.D. Para las que no entienden les algo la traducion mañana, sin falta y para las que si entienden disfrutarlo es una historia triste y a le vez feliz; cuando lo lei no pude aguanta las lagrimas y solo le decia gracias Dios por regresa con salud y vida a Vicente Jr a su familia. Pues porque negarlo potrillas la familia Fernandez es como nuestra familia, no?
Publicado: 10-14-2008 12:14 AM
Publicado: 10-14-2008 12:42 AM