Freddy Fender: Where will his legacy go?

SAN BENITO — For nearly 15 years, Freddy Fender’s easy smile has beamed from the top of the city’s water tower.

Born Baldemar Huerta in the El Jardin barrio, he swam in the resaca across the road from his home on Rossiter Street, which the city named Freddy Fender Lane in 2004.

In the city’s cantinas, he honed his legendary voice before recording his songs at the Ideal Recording Co.’s studio off Sam Houston Boulevard.

In 2006, the Grammy Award-winning singer was buried at San Benito Memorial Park, where his image stands emblazoned across a tall granite monument.

Two years after his death, the city opened the Freddy Fender Museum to honor its hometown hero.

But now it’s unclear whether the artifacts and items will become part of the new $1.7 million San Benito Cultural Heritage Center when it opens possibly later this year.

On Friday, Vangie Huerta, Fender’s widow who owns legal rights to his name, said she has requested the city enter an agreement in which it would prominently display his name outside the new museum while compensating her for the use of his artifacts.

“It’s an asset,” Huerta said from her home in Corpus Christi. “It draws people.”

Huerta said the city has not discussed her request for an agreement since about September.

City Manager Manuel De La Rosa is discussing with Huerta “the future of the Freddy Fender Museum,” city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated.

“The city has been speaking to Mrs. Huerta and is certainly open to further discussion regarding the future of the Freddy Fender Museum,” De La Rosa stated. “We think it would be in both parties’ benefit to have an agreement to protect our interests. Any agreement would have to be sent to the city commission for their consideration and determination.”