Freddy Fender is at the center of an effort to get more Latino representation in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The “Wasted Days, Wasted Nights” and “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” singer from San Benito voiced his hopes of being the first Mexican-American to join the high honor, which he called “Hillbilly Heaven,” in 2004, two years before his death.
Veronique Medrano, a Tejano artist from Brownsville, is leading the charge for more equitable representation by the Country Music Association. Medrano launched a Change.org petition on June 7, days after what would have been Fender’s 85th birthday. She said this has been in the works since 2017 when she was “shocked” to realize Fender, who performed for 60 years, was not recognized.
“You start to notice a very clear conversation about who can be memorialized and who cannot,” Medrano says of the lack of representation by the CMA.
When asked if the CMA was aware of the petition, if Fender is being considered, and/or if there are current efforts to improve the representation of minorities in the hall of fame, the association’s press office referred to the election process website page. The emailed statement was copied and pasted from the page, it appears, and did not directly acknowledge or answer MySA’s questions.
“Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is conducted solely by the CMA. New members, elected annually by an anonymous panel of voters chosen by the CMA, are formally inducted in the invitation-only Medallion Ceremony held in the museum’s CMA Theater,” the emailed statement says.
Medrano said now that she’s finished graduate school, she’s dedicating her extra time to memorialize and preserve the impact of her fellow musicians. She said Freddy Fender, born Baldemar Huerta, is just the start.
She points to Johnny Rodriguez, Linda Ronstadt, the Texas Tornadoes, Los Super Seven, and Rick Trevino whose work deserves recognition and preservation.
“This is a conversation, this is a point to say ‘How long are we going to let these organizations devalue our impact in the arts,'” she asks. “Ya. Enough is enough, they had enough time.”
Medrano breaks into tears when mentioning how Fender worked through cancer, which eventually ended his life at 69, to advocate for his work and possibly earn an induction.
“It absolutely breaks my heart, it breaks my spirit,” she says “To think that this man at the end of his life, all he wanted was this and they still couldn’t give it to him and still have not had the respect to give it to him.”
Medrano says she doesn’t have the inclination that one petition will solve the issue, but hopes it shows there’s power in numbers.
“It gets the conversation going on how many other Latinos and Mexicanos we have failed to acknowledge and honor in this way and have this conversation about our presence and our impact,” she says.
Medrano hopes other music panels, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Grammy Awards with the Lifetime Achievement Award, will take notice if the CMA does not.
“My god, the man has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is not no one. He has won three Grammys, he was constantly on the Billboard charts,” she says. “There are just so many other ways to acknowledge his impacts and honor his family.”