Banda singer Jenni Rivera gives a speech at Long Beach Polytechnic High School after being inducted into the "Poly Walk of Fame."
Popular Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera returned to her hometown high school Tuesday morning to attend a ceremony honoring her achievements. The "Queen of banda" spoke about her difficult journey as a high school mother and pioneering female singer to a crowd of fans.
Rivera was inducted into the Long Beach Polytechnic High School's (or "Poly's") "Walk of Fame" – a fence with commemorative plaques that stretches along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
The Walk of Fame is the brainchild of Long Beach Councilman Dee Andrews, who came up with the idea over 30 years ago. It was finally materialized earlier this month. Andrews didn't have to look hard to find inspirational Poly alumni. The Councilman has so far inducted former NFL player Willie Brown, former international tennis player Billie Jean King, former Long Beach mayor Beverly O’Neill, and Grammy Award-winning singer Thelma Houston to the Walk of Fame. But as Andrews noted, none of the other alumni drew a crowd as large as Rivera did on Tuesday.
"These people have been here since 8:30 this morning," Andrews said, pointing to the crowd on the bleachers. He added that the presence of the fans signifies how Rivera "...has to be something very, very important to this community.”
Rivera was raised in Long Beach, California by immigrant parents. While attending Poly High at the age of 15, Rivera got pregnant. Still, she graduated from high school with honors and scholarships. She said she was encouraged by her mother to keep studying.
Reflecting on her journey as a young mother, Rivera addressed the crowd in Spanish: “Ahora puedo decir que he completado mas metas de las que…yo tenía pensado en completar – y me quedé con mi bebe. No la aborté como era la moda en ese tiempo.”
Rivera’s address translates as, “Looking back, I can say that I’ve achieved more goals than I originally sought out to, and I kept my baby. I didn’t get an abortion – as was the trend at the time.” Rivera added that, were it not for her first child, Chiquis, she many have “never worked so hard."
After having four more children and surviving two abusive relationships, Rivera launched her career as a Mexican banda singer. An unconventional blend of German and Mexican music, banda music is characterized by festive-sounding brass instruments, percussion and bass. In genre traditionally dominated by men, Rivera went to become known as the "Queen of banda." Since then, she has won several awards including a Billboard Latin Music Award. She has also been nominated for a Grammy award, and has produced her own reality TV show. Rivera has also supported charity efforts for female victims of sexual abuse and for children with cancer.
Rivera's successes are not the only reason the singer has recently been in the limelight. Last year, the singer was put on trial for smuggling cash at an airport in Mexico.
But fans at Tuesday's event only had positive things to say about Rivera. Patricia Rivera is a 2008 Poly High School alumna who grew up listening to Jenni Rivera's music. “What I was going through, like some of her music, went with me," Patricia Rivera says of listening to Jenni Rivera's music. "I got pregnant young and I graduated high school from here," Patricia Rivera adds.
According to radio personality Carlos Alvarez, Jenni Rivera is the first female banda singer to have filled the Gibson Amphitheatre and the first female Mexican Regional artist to sell out two consecutive nights at the Nokia theatre. Rivera hopes to sell out her show at the Staples Centre on September 3 in Los Angeles.