Friday, July 19, 2013

via Dangerous Minds: Juan Gabriel, The Elton John of Mexico!

Journalist Gustavo Arellano, in his fabulous “Ask A Mexican!” column for OC Weekly, has often used Mexican singer Juan Gabriel–“the bronze contemporary to Elton John but with better hair, tunes and moves”—to explain why Mexicans love Morrissey so passionately. Young Chicanos in southern California in particular have become Morrissey and The Smiths’ least likely but most devoted and dedicated fans.  Mexicans like Morrissey because his music reminds them of ranchera. Specifically Gabriel, “El Divo de Juarez,” a.k.a. “JuanGa.” 
Arellano said: 
It may be that [Morrissey’s music] echoes the music of the ranchera. His trembling falsetto brings to mind the rich, sad voice of Pedro Infante, while his effeminate stage presence makes him a version of Juan Gabriel.
So who is this Juan Gabriel guy?
Juan Gabriel’s career started in 1971, around the same time as Elton John’s meteoric rise to fame. He was brought up in a Ciudad Juárez boarding school and started singing in nightclubs as a teenager. Ranchera music originated as folk music on the ranches in rural Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century. Arellano describedthe genre as “the virulently nihilistic ballad form of Mexican popular song, where women are ingrates, alcohol is your only true companion, and emotion is for los jotos (fags).”

Gabriel is best known for his emotional delivery, effeminate demeanor, and amazing stage clothes. His stage presence is like a veteran Vegas performer’s, with multiple costume changes, flowing scarves, glittery, shiny colorful outfits.
Although he has never publicly announced his sexual orientation, everyone “knows” that he is gay, similar to Elton John’s “Let’s not discuss it, shall we?” status in the public mind during the 1970’s and 1980’s before he came out officially. In a culture where hardcore traditional masculinity is highly valued, somehow the flamboyant Gabriel gets a pass. His campiness, emotionality, and four decades’ worth of songs crying over a lost love, are the antithesis of machismo yet an accepted part of Mexican culture now. He has produced and written songs in other genres besides ranchera–ballads, pop, rock, and disco–for other Latin artists. Mariachi bands cover his songs and often have a band member who flits about the audience in a very politically incorrect imitation of Gabriel during solos and flirts with the men in the crowd. Gabriel has been credited with changing the Mexican male mind to some degree about gender roles and the acceptability of homosexuality, although the topic is always deftly avoided. In 2009 when a journalist asked him outright if he was gay, his response was, “Lo que se ve no se pregunta, mijo” (“What you can see, you don’t need to ask about, son.”)
Cindy Casares from Guanabee said: 
This old queen is another one for whom the entirety of Mexico just looks the other way. Macho men in cowboy hats go to his shows, call him a fag and then cry during his songs. No one would care, Juan Gabriel, if you just admitted it. Except the gays, who would love you for it.
Gabriel hijacked the 2009 Latin Grammys when he won Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year. Instead of playing a short medley or a couple of songs, he kept performing for 40 minutes and wouldn’t leave the stage.  Not even Kanye West would try to pull a diva move like that!
Above, “Estoy Enamorado De Ti”
Weepy Juan has a real bad case of the sads in 1972’s “Me he quedado solo”
Posted by Kimberly J. Bright

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