Juan Carlos “La Mona” Jiménez publicly apologized yesterday for the repugnant statements he made about Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. During a performance earlier this week, La Mona got himself worked up about Maduro, to the point that he yelled “let’s rape his daughter!”, expecting a cheer from the audience. But that was not at all the response he got from his fans or from the Argentine public. This is only the latest in a string of scandals involving the cuarteto singer. Earlier this year La Mona admitted to having plagiarized a song three decades ago and agreed to pay restitution to the real author. Only a few weeks later, he was charged with criminal negligence in a case involving the death of a fan at one of his concerts. All in all, not a good few months for the veteran performer from Córdoba, Argentina.
Born to a poor family and, by his own admission, raised among drunks and prostitutes, La Mona has been on stage since he was sixteen. He began performing as a member of Cuarteto Berna, specializing in the local dance music known as “cuarteto”. Quickly he made his name for his powerful singing voice and flamboyant performance style. As he got more comfortable fronting a music group, he began dressing up in colorful outfits and dancing frenetically around the stage. With his long curls and tight pants he looks like a darker, pudgier, Latin Mick Jagger. His 1986 hit “Quién Se Ha Tomado Todo el Vino?” (“Who Drank All the Wine?”) propelled him to national fame. In almost five decades of performing he has released eighty-seven albums. He likes to joke that is birthday will one day be declared a national holiday.
His comments about the embattled Maduro this week earned him strong censure in the mainstream and online media. As he tells it, his wife and long-time manager Juana Delseri forced him to sit down and read “all the things they were saying about me”. Delseri wanted to make sure that her husband felt “as embarrassed as she was” by the blunder. She succeeded, and La Mona issued a heartfelt apology, citing his upbringing as a cause for his behavior. This was not the first time La Mona was criticized for criticizing a political figure during a concert. About a year ago he went on a (not quite so awful) rant about Argentina president Mauricio Macri, for his alleged involvement in money laundering and the appearance of his name in the notorious Panama Papers.
It’s no surprise that La Mona apologized so quickly after realizing the public disgust with his comments. After a risky operation on his vocal cords, followed by a series of public scandal, he is clearly trying to salvage his reputation as he approaches retirement. He apologized in 2015, after a video showing him performing lewd acts with a group of women onstage went public. He apologized last February during a trial alleging that he and Delseri had knowingly plagiarized a song in 1986.
More damaging has been the couple’s penance after a fan was trampled to death while standing in line for a La Mona concert in April. Delseri, who is known as an assertive and vocal defender of her husband, was actually forced to leave the wake of the deceased young man. Investigators concluded that the decision to suddenly push up the time of the concert caused a rush among the expecting audience that contributed to the young man’s death. It’s too early to tell what the ultimate effects of the legal proceedings will be.
All his troubles notwithstanding, there’s little risk that La Mona will completely alienate his fan base. He is too popular and has been around too long. The Argentine public also generally appreciates an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve and is unafraid to express controversial opinions. There’s something raw and authentic about La Mona Jiménez that endears him to large sections of the public. His manner might be brusque and his comments ill-advised, but the public has forgiven him before and will again.