Juan Gabriel doesn’t really need to claim a piece of Las Vegas history, given the legacy “El Divo Juarez” leaves in Latin America.
All the same, he really started something here.
The Mexican superstar’s death, just three weeks before a planned Friday concert at Mandalay Bay, reminds us just how big a deal Mexican Independence Day has become on the Strip since Gabriel’s 1990 concert took the Strip’s celebration of “El Grito de Dolores” to a new level.
Gabriel then had the biggest-selling album in Mexico (8 million copies of “Recuerdos, Vol. II”) and had sung to stadiums of 70,000 people by the time he was booked to play a 6,500-seat outdoor venue that had been set up for boxing behind The Mirage.
If it was a bit of a comedown, it didn’t bother him. “I see this as a big challenge for me,” Gabriel told the Review-Journal through a telephone translator in 1990. “One of the most divine things is to have to start all over again.”
For Las Vegas, it was a start, period. Mexican Independence Day had been more of a locals celebration in Freedom Park, with token casino support on the Strip.