Chavela Vargas turned 92 yesterday. Born in Costa Rica, she migrated to Mexico at the age of 15 and, in time, became a well-regarded singer in small bars and cantinas. At the age of 32 she began her professional recording career, a career that has now spanned sixty years.
She is a powerful figure in the world of Mexican ranchera music but in many ways inhabits a symbolism far greater than just that. As transgressor of gender norms who often took to dressing like a man; to her connections to other legendary figures like José Alfredo Jiménez and Frida Khalo (she was one of the artist’s lovers); to her struggles and recoveries through bouts with alcohol; to her sexuality (she publicly confirmed her lesbianism in her 80s); and her ups and downs in her own professional career, accented with a late-in-life resurgence, she is Mexico.
She is the most fitting person to perform the first ranchera selection on “Monday Blues,” here singing “Un Mundo Raro”