Beloved ranchero singer Vicente Fernandez received a tribute Monday from Chicago's Mexican community, which named in his honor a stretch of the main shopping street in the city's Little Village/La Villita neighborhood.

"Come on and sing, Chente, sing" shouted the more than 300 people gathered at noon around the Little Village Arch at the corner of 26th Street, and the "Idol of Mexico" responded with an a capella version of "El Hijo del Pueblo" (Son of the Village).

With banners, posters and Mexican flags, the crowd cheered and applauded under the falling rain as the 72-year-old vocalist intoned the verses that speak proudly of being born in "the poorest community, far from the hubbub and hypocrisy of society."

"I'll always have Chicago in my heart because it was here I began my first tour 47 years ago," Fernandez said. "It's an honor that a street of this neighborhood will bear the name of a humble servant, it is worth more than I could ever pay."

The ceremony was hurried along by the rain, but there was time nonetheless for state Sen. Antonio Muñoz to read a statement proclaiming Vicente Fernandez Week in Illinois, and for Chicago Alderman George Cardenas - born in Jalisco state like Fernandez - to present him with the key to the city.

"Chente" announced the end of a career during which he received all the showbiz prizes and honors imaginable, and bid farewell to his fans in Chicago this weekend with two concerts accompanied by his eldest son, Vicente Jr. EFE