Grieving fans remember singer Jenni Rivera as tough, unsinkable

A Jenni Rivera memorial in Lynwood.
A Jenni Rivera memorial in Lynwood.

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Southland fans of banda singer Jenni Rivera have been gathering in different places to grieve — including the singer's home in Encino, her family's home in Lakewood and at the Plaza Mexico mall in Lynwood.  

The 43-year-old performer and mother of five, who was born and raised in Long Beach, died with her entourage in a small plane crash in northern Mexico near the city of Monterrey over the weekend.

At the home in Lakewood Monday, relatives came and went while reporters — some of whom had flown from Mexico at the news of Rivera's death — held vigil outside the house.

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So did many of Rivera's fans. Some lived nearby. Others had spent hours getting there to pay their respects. Many of the people milling around on the street were women.

These fans regarded Jenni Rivera as a survivor, tough and unsinkable. In addition to her powerful voice and her songs about love, loss and survival, Rivera appealed to people because her story often resembled their own.

Reared by Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera became pregnant with her first child at age 15 and left Polytechnic High School in Long Beach for continuation school. She eventually graduated from Cal State Long Beach and became a successful entertainer and businesswoman, all while caring for her children, weathering failed marriages and enduring other personal struggles.

"Her music is a legend to me, and I know to thousands and thousands of people," said 21-year-old Micaela Arita of Anaheim, who drove to the house after she'd heard the news. "She is just a person to follow because of her career. She has been a strong woman, and she has helped so many people out there. She was really strong. Even problem after problem, she was always there."

While Rivera sang primarily in Spanish, and in a traditional genre, she appealed to first-generation Spanish-speakers and to people like herself and Micaela Arita — younger, bilingual Latinas and Latinos who absorbed her candid lyrics about life and love from a female point of view. 

Local radio stations carried hours of programming in Rivera's honor. La Raza 97.9 FM alternated her most popular songs with tearful calls from listeners, who lamented her loss like that of a sister or friend. Callers who didn't know Rivera's family sent them condolences on air, while others wept openly.

"How sad that she left us at such an early age," one caller said in Spanish.