“Both men and women were into me.”
Costa Rican-born, Mexican singing sensation Chavela Vargas’ story is finally being told in a full-length documentary titled simply “Chavela.” Vargas, who still has a Twitter presence, was one of Mexico’s most celebrated ranchera singers. Not only was she famous for her singing, she also broke free from societal norms that said she shouldn’t “act like a man.” The lesbian singer wore men’s clothing in the ’50s and ’60s, bucking the norms that she was raised with, much like Frida Kahlo. Vargas, who died in 2012 at the age of 93, speaks to that topic directly in the documentary through found footage.
“If you’re lesbian, you’re marginalized,” Vargas says. “But I put on pants and the public stayed quiet.”
According to those close to her who were interviewed in the documentary, Vargas was very secretive with her lovers, never revealing who they were. But some say she “slept with all of Mexico.” The singer had a close friendship with Kahlo, the Mexican artist who was known to take female lovers. It wasn’t until 2000 that Vargas publicly came out in an interview with Spain’s newspaper “El País.” She was 81 years old. Not only did the famed ranchera singer say she was a lesbian during the interview, she challenged the Catholic church and its views on homosexuality, arguing that she couldn’t be damned by God for living the way she was born.
“One’s truth always prevails,” Vargas says in the documentary. “It costs a lot. You suffer a lot, but you make it through.”