By Mariana Gonzalez.


Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernandez said goodbye early Sunday to the "palenques," the traditional Mexican parties, with his last performance at one of those venues in his native state of Jalisco.

Outfitted in a black "charro" suit of the traditional Mexican cowboy, with a white shirt and his ever-present charro hat, the singer bade farewell to his fans at the Guadalajara palenque telling them that he will always carry their applause "in my heart."

"I'm here to thank you for everything you gave me during the 46 years of my career. Your applause will be in my heart until I die," the 72-year-old artist told the 6,000 people who changed "Chente, Chente!"

Fernandez, considered mariachi music's all-time great, announced in early 2012 his retirement from the concert stage to spend more time with his family and to step down while his image among the public remains impeccable.

The artist admitted to some health problems from an inflamed liver and said his decision to retire is "definitive," although he did add that he will continue to record albums.

The singer who made famous such numbers as "Mujeres Divinas" (Divine Women) and "Las Llaves de Mi Alma" (Keys to My Soul) will make a farewell tour through Spain, Central America, South America and the United States, to make his final wrap in the land of his birth.

In a career stretching over more than 50 years, the "Charro of Huentitan" recorded more than 90 albums, gave countless concerts and won numerous Billboard, Grammy and Diosa de Plata awards.

The midnight concert was unforgettable and attended by fans from all over Mexico, but also by foreigners who wanted to be on hand for the historic event.

He had promised not to stop singing as long as the public did not stop applauding and for more than three hours, Fernandez performed many of his old favorites as well as more recent recordings, to which the audience sang along from beginning to end.

His white hair contrasted with the power of his voice and the energy he displayed onstage.

"Por tu maldito amor," "Nos estorbo la ropa," "Lastima que seas ajena," "Aca entre nos," "Mujeres divinas" and "Urge" were some of the numbers the singer performed, along with ranchera classics such as "Que te vaya bonito" and "Si nos dejan," by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and "La diferencia" and "Ya se que tu te vas," by Juan Gabriel.

"Don't go, Chente!" shouted the crowd on more than one occasion, while the singer closed his eyes to listen to the fans accompanying him with one voice on many of his numbers.

Fernandez's wife Cuquita was also present and he approached her and kissed her several times and dedicated "Se me hizo tarde la vida" to her, and his children Gerardo and Alejandra were also there and at one point he invited them up onto the stage to sing with him.

He closed the concert with the popular melody "Guadalajara" but there was no more appropriate song he performed than "Volver, volver," and after just the first few notes the crowd began singing along.

Fernandez bade his final farewell amid a rain of roses and gifts tossed up to him on the stage and he symbolically embraced the crowd just before moving off the stage.

His farewell tour will come to a conclusion with two concerts, to be held Dec. 14 and 15, also in the western state of Jalisco. EFE