JUAN GABRIEL'S GREATEST GIFT TO US ISN'T HIS MUSIC.. IT'S HIS MESSAGE
It's Saturday morning in Mexico City. Five year old me awakens to the smell of Pine-sol, there's clanking sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen, 'Querida' is playing on full blast with my mother's loud singing to accompany it. La olla de los frijoles (the bean pot) is whistling, the smell of chiles verdes and tomatillos asados (grilled) is tickling my nostrils. Mom yells out, "Ya despiertense flojos!"
That's the type of memory that crept up on me yesterday when I learned the devastating news that Juan Gabriel, our Mexican legend died. One of my first thoughts was, "My mom must be devastated!" I decided to send her my condolences.
I can imagine that a large percentage of Latinx millennials experienced a similar reaction upon learning about his passing. Many took to social media to express their sentiments.
POTUS also released a statement on Juan Gabriel's death.
Growing up I didn't comprehend the courage, the depth, the art, the importance of JuanGa's artistic mission on earth. In my young mind, he was just a weird singer who wore flamboyant clothing ranging from neon suits to sequin and fringe jackets. He was an odd man who commanded a stage and sang about heart break, who sang songs that made you feel deeply, a man who sang about life in a way that you felt connected, a man who sang about life in a manner that spoke everyone's language, the rich, the poor, the intellectual, the young, the old. When you hear it, you feel it. He was of the people.
Growing up Mexican, you are introduced early on to a machista culture, a culture where men like Juan Gabriel are at the forefront of ridicule and abhorrence. A culture where the majority of Mexican fathers would be ashamed to have a son like Juan Gabriel. A culture where people would use his name to insult or offend a man who they perceived to be gay. Juan Gabriel was redefining masculinity boldly, unapologetically and openly, one silk or sequin shirt and show at a time. They called him El Divo De Juarez.
I cannot pretend that I have been a hardcore fan of Juan Gabriel. I hadn't listened to his music ever since I moved out of my mom's house 13 or 14 years ago. Learning of his death created a wave of memories that led me to youtube his old shows, go to Spotify and listen to endless songs that brought upon more and more childhood memories. As a kid in my immaturity, I laughed when boys would call each other 'JuanGa' to offend each other, I covered my ears at times and wished my mom would turn those loud love songs off. Now after uncovering a Juan Gabriel I never took the time to truly learn about, I revere his brave spirit, his courage to be a freedom fighter and to own all that he was in machista culture. He did all of this while in the loudest and most fashionable way possible. Long live Juan Gabriel, and may his fearless spirit continue to live through all of the freedom fighters out here!