‘Ranchera’ singer Chavela Vargas, 93, who came out as a lesbian at age 81, died of heart and respiratory problems in her native country of Mexico on Sunday, according to The Washington Post.
Born in san Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica in 1919, Vargas moved to Mexico when she was 14. She rose to fame singing “rancheras’ while clad in men’s clothing, carrying a pistol and smoking cigars. She also refused to change the pronouns of the songs, which are often traditional love songs sung by men to women.
A contemporary of luminaries including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Federico Garcia Lorca, Vargas appeared in the 2002 film Frida that starred Salma Hayek. She sang the ballad “La Llorona (The Crier)” in the film.
With more than 80 albums under her cinturón Vargas’ was known to have affairs with women throughout her life, according to the Washington Post but she did not come out as a lesbian until the release of her autobiography “Y si quieres saber de mi pasado” (”If You Want to Know About My Past).”
“What hurt was not being homosexual, but what they throw it in my face as if it were the plague,” Vargas wrote in the book.
Here is Vargas singing in Frida.
Image via Getty.