Vargas giving a concert in the Plaza de España, in Madrid, Spain, in 2006
|Birth name||Isabel Vargas Lizano|
April 17, 1919|
San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica
|Died||August 5, 2012
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
|Years active||1961 – 2012|
|Associated acts||José Alfredo Jiménez|
Isabel Vargas Lizano (April 17, 1919 – August 5, 2012), better known as Chavela Vargas, was a Costa Rican-born Mexican singer. She was especially known for her rendition of Mexican rancheras, but she is also recognized for her contribution to other genres of popular Latin American music. She has been an influential interpreter in the Americas and Europe, muse to figures such as Pedro Almodóvar, hailed for her haunting performances, and called "la voz áspera de la ternura", the rough voice of tenderness. The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, presented her with a Latin GRAMMY Statuette in 2007 after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of that organization.
Early life 
Isabel Vargas Lizano was born in San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica, on April 17, 1919. She went by Chavela, which is a pet name for Isabel. At 14, she abandoned her native country due to lack of musical career opportunities, seeking refuge in Mexico, where an entertainment industry was burgeoning. For many years she sang on the streets but in her thirties she became a professional singer. In her youth, she dressed as a man, smoked cigars, drank heavily, carried a gun and was known for her characteristic red jorongo, which she donned in performances until old. Her first album, Noche de Bohemia (Bohemian Night), was released in 1961 with the professional support of José Alfredo Jiménez, one of the foremost singer/songwriters of Mexican ranchera music. Vargas recorded over eighty albums since then. She was hugely successful during the 1950s, 1960s and the first half of the 70s, touring in Mexico, the United States, France and Spain and was close to many prominent artists and intellectuals of the time, including Juan Rulfo, Agustín Lara, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Dolores Olmedo and José Alfredo Jiménez. She partly retired in the late 1970s due to a 15 year-long battle with alcoholism, which she has described in her autobiography (Y si quieres saber de mi pasado [And if you want to know about my past], published in 2002) as "my 15 years in hell" At 81 years old, she publicly declared that she was a lesbian.
Return to the stage 
Vargas returned to the stage in 1991, performing at the venue "El Hábito" in Coyoacán, Mexico City. She debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2003 at the age of 83 at the behest and promotion of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, a long-time admirer and personal friend of Vargas.
Appearances in film 
She is featured in many Almodóvar's films, including La Flor de mi Secreto in both song and video. She has said, however, that acting is not her ambition, although she had previously participated in films such as 1967's La Soldadera. Vargas appeared in the 2002 Julie Taymor film Frida, singing "La Llorona" (The Weeping Woman). Her classic "Paloma Negra" (Black Dove) was also included in the soundtrack of the film. Vargas herself, as a young woman, was alleged to have had an affair with Frida Kahlo, during Kahlo's marriage to muralist Diego Rivera. She also appeared in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, singing "Tú me acostumbraste" (Because of you, I got accustomed), a bolero of Frank Domínguez.
References in literature and music 
Joaquín Sabina's song "Por el Boulevar de los Sueños Rotos" ("Down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams") is dedicated to Vargas.. Sergio Ramírez Mercado, a Nicaraguan writer, published in 2011 the novel "La Fugitiva," a fictionalized account of the life of Costa Rican writer Yolanda Oreamuno. In Ramírez' work, Oreamuno's life is told by three women who pressumably met her. According to many critics, one of the female characters telling Oreamuno's history is a singer that resembles Chavela Vargas. The character talks about her own life, and its non reciprocated lesbian love for Yolanda Oreamuno.
Selected discography 
- Piensa en mí, 1991
- Boleros, 1991
- Sentimiento de México (vol. 1), 1995
- De México y del mundo, 1995
- Le canta a México, 1995
- Volver, volver, 1996
- Dos, 1996
- Grandes Mementos, 1996
- Macorina, 1996
- Colección de Oro, 1999
- Con la rondalla del amor de Saltillo, 2000
- Para perder la cabeza, 2000
- Las 15 grandes de Chavela Vargas, 2000
- Grandes éxitos, 2002
- Para toda la vida, 2002
- Discografía básica, 2002
- Antología, 2004
- Somos, 2004
- En Carnegie Hall, 2004
- La Llorona, 2004
- Cupaima, 2006
- Soledad, 2007
- Piensa en mí, on Splendor in the Grass by Pink Martini, 2009
- Luz de Luna, on San Patricio by The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder, 2010
- Por mi Culpa!, 2010
- Luna Grande, 2012
See also 
- Boccanera, Jorge, Entrelineas: Dialogos con Jorge Boccanera, ed. Mario José Grabivker (Buenos Aires: Ediciones instituto mobilizador fondos cooperativos C.L., 1999)
- Vargas, Chavela, Y si quieres saber de mi pasado, ed. J.C. Vales, 2nd ed (Madrid: Santillana Ediciones Generales, 2002). In the interview with Jorge Boccanera, Vargas is quoted as saying she arrived in Mexico at 17.
- Garrido, Isaac (5 August 2012). "Chavela Vargas Dead At Age 93, Famed Mexican Singer Challenged Catholic And Chauvinist Preconceptions". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Diccionario de la Musica Española e Hispanoamericana. 5 vols. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 2002. s.v. "Vargas, Chavela".
- Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne, "Crossing the Border with Chabela Vargas: A Chicana Femme's Tribute" [sic] Chap. 3 in Sex and Sexuality in Latin America (New York: New York University Press, 1997)
- Diccionario de la Musica Espanola e Hispanoamericano. 5 vols. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 2002.
- Vargas, Chavela, Y si quieres saber de mi pasado, ed. J.C. Vales, 2nd ed (Madrid: Santillana Ediciones Generales, 2002)p. 189
- The GULLY | México | Chavela sale del armario
- Lo, Malinda. "The Life and Music of Mexican Legend Chavela Vargas." afterellen.org January 25, 2005
- Vargas, Chavela. (2006) Chavela at Carnegie Hall, CD recording, Tommy Boy
- Vargas, Chavela, Y si quieres saber de mi pasado, ed. J.C. Vales, 2nd ed (Madrid: Santillana Ediciones Generales, 2002)
- Tu Me Acostumbraste - Chavela Vargas on Odeo
- "Sergio Ramírez: política y ficción" (in Spanish). Sigueleyendo. April 8, 2011.
- "Muere Chavela Vargas" (in Spanish). Esmas.com. Televisa. August 5, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
- Garrido, Isaac (5 August 2012). "Chavela Vargas, famed Mexican singer, dies at 93". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Official website
- Chavela Vargas at Allmusic
- "At Carnegie Hall" album review on Sound Generator
- Chavela Vargas at the Internet Movie Database