Chavela Vargas
Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

In hindsight, we are responsible for preserving our Latin culture’s history. We can do this by sharing and retelling the stories of marvelous Latin talent that left a mark on our culture.

That said, we cannot overlook the involvement of influential figures such as acclaimed film director Pedro Almodóvar in preserving and safeguarding iconic careers such as that of Chavela Vargas.

Did you know that Almodóvar gave Chavela a second chance when she thought her life had been left at the bottom of a bottle of tequila?

Today, we’re rehashing this story.

Who was Chavela Vargas? 

Let’s talk about the prominent Costa Rican-Mexican singer Isabel Vargas Lizano, better known as Chavela Vargas (1919 – 2012). For starters, it’s undeniable that her strong, heart-wrenching vocals are still one of the most powerful to this day. With songs like “Paloma Negra,” “La Llorona,” and “Adoro,” she became one of the generation’s most popular ranchera singers between the late years of 1950 to 1970.

There was a reason for Chavela’s painful tunes, though. With her deep sorrow came her dark personal challenges. The main challenge she faced during her life was her major drinking problem in the 1970s. For that reason, she left the spotlight.

How did Pedro Almodóvar help her career?

One of the notable creators that helped her back to the spotlight was the Spanish director and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar.

How did it all start? He became a fan by listening to her music throughout his late youth in the 1970s, but then she fell out of the music circuit. However, once she returned in the 1990s, he made it a point to meet her. 

Since then, Almodóvar has been a known admirer of Vargas’ work and even called her his muse. He would feature her songs in his early films, which is credited as one of the ways he helped Vargas’ music reach a bigger audience

In 2017, he even appeared in her biographical film ‘Chavela.”

Chavela Vargas’ legacy

Vargas’ is also known for her genre-bending mannerisms. She was often known to wear “masculine” attire and to sing from a male’s perspective. But it wasn’t until the age of 81 in 2002 that she officially came out as a lesbian in her autobiography “Y Si Quieres Saber de mi Pasado.”