Jenni Rivera: A Symbol of Resistance
Jenni Rivera’s transcendence as an artist cannot be measured by her musical career alone. Born Dolores Janney Rivera Saavedra, the musician would be turning 50 today (July 2) — and thousands of people in the United States and Mexico still mourn her death.
Rivera died in a plane crash on December 9 2012 after performing at a concert in Monterrey, Mexico — it was the pinnacle of her fame; she was revered for music that mirrored her soul and self. Rivera sang the life of dolores (sorrows), and her fans sympathized.
Before becoming famous, Rivera was a realtor, a single mother of several children and a daughter of an immigrant family. Rubenesque and proud of her curves, she suffered abuse from domestic violence and cheating lovers. Who in the Latino community in the United States does not know a woman like that? That was exactly the root of her success. She looked so much like her audience, overwhelmingly female, that she could not disappoint them. Latinas made her their spokeswoman, and she gladly took the torch.
In 2000, Jose Pepe Garza, famed radio announcer and promoter, realized her potential. He instantaneously knew what she could represent as a socio-musical icon for thousands of women who were in her same situation.
As she became a symbol of women’s resistance and dignity almost immediately, the Latinx LGBTQ community also revered her. By having such a powerful ally in Garza, Rivera was ready to challenge the very macho world of the Mexican folklore music.
In that sense, Rivera was the follower of other pioneer singers in the same musical genre as Lydia Mendoza, Chayito Valdez, Chelo Silva and Paquita la del Barrio, among others, who with their songs dared to shake the scaffolding of machismo and feminine oppression.
For Rivera the great message was: “Do you get drunk thinking of me after you abused me? Really? Well, guess what? I’m going to get drunk, too, and I’m going to look for a lover because I already have my own money and my job!”
Her songs were packed with joyful liberation as well: “Las Malandrinas (The Mischievous),” “Querida Socia (Dear Partner),” “Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida (Party girl, Rebellious and Daring),” “También Las Mujeres Pueden (Women Also Can)” and “Ovarios (Ovaries)” — a brief sample of the many songs contained in the 13 albums recorded in her lifetime.
Her concerts were celebrations of liberation that reached paroxysm when women began to throw their bras on the stage. And Rivera, laughing out loud from stage, encouraged them: “They’re too hot, right? Is your brassiere squeezing you?”
Rivera is not with us anymore. But she left a musical legacy in which she broke paradigms and rules, empowering the thousands of women who faithfully followed her. She was never only a singer. She was and forever will be a symbol of resistance.
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