Only have a minute? Listen instead
My father would be honored and would appreciate it so much. I could not think of a better place. San Benito has meant so much to him. It was a large part of who he was and who he became, both as an individual and a musician.
SAN BENITO — Freddy Fender Lane filled with song Saturday as a crowd seated in folding chairs or standing, with some swaying to the beat of music, joined Margarita Huerta Fender and her brother Isidro Huerta as they sang “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” famously recorded by their uncle Baldemar Garza Huerta, the singer better known as Freddy Fender.
Behind their podium, a fringed shawl hid the marker from the Texas Historical Commission ahead of the official unveiling to honor the contributions of the city’s oft-remembered son.
The San Benito Historical Society held the official presentation ceremony for the marker at 143 Freddy Fender Lane. This two-story brick house, near the resaca, sits on land where Fender often visited his extended family as a young man — and later where he started his married life with his wife Evangelina and their growing family.
The Grammy-winning singer, also called the Bebop Kid and the Mexican Elvis Presley, achieved crossover success in the Tejano, country and rock music scenes in a career spanning 50 years and several national hits with songs like “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Secret Love.”
On Oct. 14, 2006, Fender, 69, passed at his Corpus Christi home due to lung cancer.
Near the marker, the Fender family homestead is the residence of Corina, Dolores, Angelica and Baldemar Huerta, first cousins of Fender, who were part of the effort to recognize Fender and create a place for the public to come together for the unveiling.
Outside the home, Marla Huerta, the youngest of Fender’s five children, conveyed the significance of connecting the marker honoring her father to this specific place within the city he loved.
“My father would be honored and would appreciate it so much. I could not think of a better place. San Benito has meant so much to him. It was a large part of who he was and who he became, both as an individual and a musician,” said Huerta as she addressed the crowd of fans and officials.
“He once said, ‘Once you drink water from the resaca—it is in your blood.’ That is why my dad left so much of himself here,” she said.
In attendance, local Tejano country singer-songwriter Veronique Medrano saw this newest development as a step forward in the long path ahead for wider recognition for the contributions of Fender and others like him.
Currently, she is working on a campaign to get Fender inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“This is one big step to everything we hope to do. Next year is the 50th anniversary of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” So I think Texas making this statement right before the anniversary is something that everyone should understand. It is us as a community and as a state, wanting recognition for our icons for their contributions to music,” Medrano said.
Before the unveiling, addresses came from the Treasurer of the San Benito Historical Society Sandra Tumberlinson, Chair of the Cameron County Historical Commission Wilson P. Bourgeois, Mayor of San Benito Rick Guerra and Marla Huerta, with the keynote address by former state senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.
He once said, ‘Once you drink water from the resaca—it is in your blood.’ That is why my dad left so much of himself here.
In his address, Lucio, Jr. told the story of meeting with Fender as a teenager when his father took him to see Freddy Fender play. Lucio Jr. described Fender as a man of rare, God-anointed talent who not only created music but served his community by bringing it to the national stage.
“Freddy Fender is among the top of those that made us all very proud to live in the Rio Grande Valley, the Magic Valley, and that was made possible by Fender and others like him,” Lucio, Jr. stated.
After the addresses and musical tribute, Fender’s extended family gathered around the marker and, at last, removed the shawl revealing the newest tribute to the musician to the cheers and clapping of the crowd.
Afterward, friends, family and fans gathered around the marker to show off memorabilia, swap stories and take photos. For the artist who was always proud to proclaim his hometown and return for concerts and festivals, his marker concludes:
“Even with his fame, Fender never forgot his humble roots and hometown. One of San Benito’s favorite sons, he is buried in the San Benito City Cemetery.”
To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey’s full photo gallery here: