Vicente Fernandez Had To Pay Over $3 Million To His Son's Kidnappers

Vicente Fernandez, the late king of "Ranchera" music, lived what many would consider a charmed life. He was born in a small town in the Mexican state of Jalisco and spent his childhood doing work like digging ditches and shining shoes to help make ends meet in the humblest of beginnings, per the NPR. However, at 29 years old, Fernandez finally hit it big with the ballad "Tu Camino y El Mío." From there, he went on to record dozens of albums, earning fame, fortune, and three Grammys in the process.

But as the saying goes, there is no rose without a thorn — and the thorn in Fernandez's life was particularly traumatic. A combination of Fernandez's fame and wealth unsurprisingly catapulted both himself and his family into the spotlight, which unfortunately made one of his sons a target of a terrible kidnapping scheme. From accusations of family members being involved with the plot to the physical torture involved, here are details of the miserable 121 days when Fernandez's son, Vincente Fernandez, Jr., was missing.

A normal day and an abnormal demand

May 20, 1998, seemed like a normal day when Fernandez was told that his son had been forcibly taken from his ranch, Los Tres Potrillos, by a group of armed men. The ransom? A cool $5 million pesos — which was around $3.2 million at the time. 

Worse still, the criminals reportedly demanded that Fernandez not inform either the police or the public about the kidnapping, forcing the famed singer to pretend that everything was okay in public while grieving in private (per El Comerico). In fact, Fernandez first received the news that his son had been taken right before a concert in Morelia, Michoacán, was set to begin. To keep up appearances, he played the show as if nothing had happened, per Zocalo.

But while Fernandez may have been able to put on a front in public, in private he was clearly seriously affected by the news. According to Fernandez's associates, he would go to his ranch's stables so that he could cry alone. 

Fans of the ranchera star have also wondered if his performances during that time had a deeper meaning, and point to one particular line in his ballad "Acá Entre Nos." "There is no doubt that pain is also sung when you can't cry," reads one line. But while Fernandez was in torment over his son's disappearance, it was nothing in comparison to what Fernandez Jr. was facing.

Tales of chains, darkness, and mutilation

Mexican cartels are not generally known for their kindness, and the one that targeted the Fernandez family was no exception. Though Fernandez was willing to pay for his son's safe return, he found it difficult to collect such a large sum at such short notice — and extended Fernandez Jr.'s imprisonment.

According to The UN Refugee Agency, Fernandez Jr. was blinded-folded and held in chains for the first 55 days of his imprisonment, which comes to around one-half of his total time in captivity. But things sadly got worse.

The cartel that had kidnapped Fernandez Jr. was known as the "Mocha Fingers." This was because the gang would cut off the fingers of their victims and send them to family members as a way to incentivize the ransom payment. In keeping with their brutal methods, they hired a surgeon to cut off the ring and pinkie finger of Fernandez Jr.'s left hand. These two fingers were sent to his father. According to Zocalo, this was the turning point and Fernandez quickly ensured his son's release after receiving the horrific package. 

To this day, Fernandez Jr. still suffers from PTSD from his terrifying ordeal, according to El País. Though he and his family were able to get some closure after multiple members of the cartel were arrested, there is still one big mystery about the nightmare that haunts Fernandez Jr.

Was a family member involved in the plot?

Even though the prosecution of the cartel members brought some closure to the Fernandez family, there are still mysteries and conspiracies that remain. One of the strangest and most heart-breaking is the persistent rumor that one of Fernandez's sons, and Fernandez Jr.'s brother, played a part in the miserable ordeal. 

Though the accusations remain unproven, one of Fernandez's biographers, Argentine writer Olga Wornat, openly wrote in her book "The Last King" that Fernandez Jr. has long suspected that his brother, Geraldo, was involved. Geraldo had enormous control over his father's career and was largely considered his de-facto manager.

Though it seems far-fetched that Geraldo would have had any part in his brother's ordeal, Wornat has two pieces of evidence that she believes point to his involvement. She claimed that part of the reason was the obvious one: money. In an interview with El País, she noted that she believed Geraldo had been a part of a money-laundering operation — thus, the kidnapping could have been a way to cover his tracks. However, Wornat also added that she also believed it was partly down to personality, which she noted was described as "dangerous" by multiple people.

"I consider Gerardo a psychopath, because of everything the family told me. A person without empathy, capable of the worst things," she said, also pointing out that many of his friends and associates were cartel members who had acted in similarly brutal ways.