Jenni Rivera was truly a CHICANA Mexican regional music star (even sang it out loud in a song) representing the LBC, homies, single-moms, and chakalosa lokas from across Cali, the southwest and the Americas. I was at her last L.A. concert filled to capacity at the Gibson with hundreds of decked out 18 to 70yr. old women and some men including her soon-to-be ex-husband where she sang about love, sadness, diva-ness, and living your life how you want, without apologies. The mujeres in the audience (including me) were always left inspired, stronger and with a little less emotional pain to carry back home–this wasn’t exactly what we think of as “feminism” but it was something that each of us felt as empowerment, and damn even therapy.
I have been a fan of Jenni since maybe 2000 when she was on her father’s disquera (record company) and just starting out. Her brother, Lupillo Rivera was much more famous than her for a while but has since dropped out of the limelight. Still, the family including her other 2 singing brothers (Gustavo and Juan) and father Pedro Rivera have all been involved in music and for many years have performed in “Mexican music” clubs across Los Angeles, the Southwest and Mexico. While working for the United Farm Workers, Pedro and Lupillo even came to the Cesar Chavez Walk I organized in Los Angeles and Lupillo shared about the importance of supporting Raza and how their father was once a campesino. Of course I was excited to have them, but still secretly wanted to have Jenni there too.
Jenni was truly like no other. So many didn’t know about her until her death but she was truly “INOLVIDABLE” (unforgettable) also the title of one of her singles. She was like the homegirl that you grew up with, the loca who always had an opinion, the traviesa always having problems, and the one who knew your life– really, for many mujeres MeXicanas– her experiences were practically identical to ours and they WERE our life. Early on she struggled as a single mom and student and often didn’t fit in. Even in the music industry she was in a state of neither here nor there. Many would criticize her for singing in English or not being “Mexican” enough. In her personal life or interviews she was too loca, too proud, etc. Still through all that she owned it and was just herself –in all of her contradictions and that is what us, her publico, got to see, know, and love.
There have been comparisons to Selena– and though they have some key similarities mainly both being bicultural Chicana singers, they are also hella different. Let’s keep it real— Jenni was gangsta….not only cuz she was and represented the hood till her dying day– but ‘cuz she always stood up for herself, her family and her cultura– to anyone from Spanish language news people like “El Gordo y La Flaca” to people on the streets. In her early days she sang narco-corrido style– and even through that – I loved to see a woman with power –however misguided it was. She mostly performed BOTH banda and nortena music…I know many don’t know the difference and lump it all together…but that’s like saying all hip hop or punk music is the same–whaaat? NO! There are various genres and styles even within musica nortena y banda! Jenni like her fans, crossed musical genres by recording a song with the banda rap duo Akwid (sample of 1 of their collabs with her: http://youtu.be/U4fDeb2rBgo -though hella sexist). My hope was to one day record a similar banda hip hop song with her, but more on the Xicanista (Xicana feminista) tip and with more banda/nortena music sounds. I even Tweeted her about it once (I didn’t get a response amongst the 1,000’s she gets daily). But that mix is something I had been working on for a few years and knew she would understand perfectly…here’s a sample of what I was thinking (Indpendence Day con Banda beat video: http://youtu.be/EHgLhd-K7xE).
Access is something she gave and shared freely—almost always available to the press, her fans, and those who reached out. She was accessible to her fans on many levels .. always visiting and sending notes to people across the U.S. and Mexico who were sick (my friend’s friend who is waiting for a kidney transplant – see the video here http://youtu.be/KtqjUH7Tj6I?t=1m26s) but also responding to people’s Tweets on a regular, and frequenting lugares where all the Raza is at. I mean, really- how many people see their favorite music stars at King Taco and get to have them sing their favorite song?
She did charity work but also used her name/fame for the cause singing after the Arizona march vs. SB 1070. Having herself experienced domestic violence and her family dealing with sexual abuse– she worked to bring these issues to light so much so that in 2010 she was named spokeswoman for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and honored by the Los Angeles City Council for her charity work and community involvement with “Jenni Rivera Day.”
As a woman, she has been through so much and as she said recently in an interview “The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up.” With her own reality shows, makeup line, plus-size clothing line and decade or more of chingon(a) recordings in Spanish and English–she will be loved, missed, and remembered for years to come.
In true Jenni fashion, “♥ the Haters!”
#PaisaPower #BandaDiva #LaChicanadelaBanda
((Check out her banda/nortena oldies in the video and “Chicana Jaliscience” at 5:38 – O.G status!))
*thanks to Raquel Gutiérrez for challenging my definition of feminism on the 1st post of this and to Rosalee Gonzalez for getting me to write even a bit. Yo, some Chican@s identify with Morrissey, some with Tupac, others with Kurt Cobain and then some other others with Jenni, and for some –all the above…to each their own, v’edad?
**Special shout out to Madeline Medina Elenes aka “La Chacalosa” my fellow Xicana Indigena ranchola fan of Jenni Rivera who know’s what’s up and does todo al cien as well as all my vaquera homegrrrls since 1999 who first introduced me to Jenni and were by my side the various times we saw her over the years from Arena to Lidos, Hacienda de Pico and finally at the Gibson.
Here’s a collage of photos of Jenni over the years… truly an original Ranchola Chicana de la Banda