Jenni Rivera

10 Dec

OK so she was someone who had a huge number of positives and also a huge number of negatives. Its safe to say that her  positives outweighed her negatives. Sure she couldn’t sing very well and people would argue that she was “ghetto,” couldn’t speak Spanish very well, and contributed to having young Latinas act out like a malandrina – a party girl who drank, had sex and spoke just like the men. Jenni even had a sex tape that was leaked all over the internet. Yup, quite controversial. However, you have to focus on her positives.

Jenni has been the most successful female banda singer in history. Not only do her records sold (about 20 million) tell of her popularity, but her concerts were frequently sell outs. She was one of the few Latinas to sell out back to back nights at the Nokia theatre and the Staples Center. The night of her death she performed to 17,000 people with many more being unable to get inside.

Putting the numbers aside, her musical work is still something that nobody has been able to replicate. Jenni began her musical career singing simple narcocorridos and glamorizing the malandrina lifestyle. She was esentially a chola from the ‘hood singing with banda. While I don’t agree with the song topics, Jenni was banned from radio stations and was told everywhere that she wasn’t proper. Gustavo Arellano (another controversial figure) wrote a story on Jenni in 2003 and mentions that Mexican culture is still stuck in seeing a woman as a virgen or a whore. Jenni was somewhere in the middle and Mexican mainstream society couldn’t handle it. A woman was supposed to be submissive and follow a man’s orders. You would figure that in the 2000’s women would have broken free from the chains of machismo. However, in a country that recently ended a 70 year dictatorship and still condones anyone who isn’t Catholic, this is a big deal.

In the early 2000’s Jenni recorded “Se Las Voy a Dar a Otro” and “Mi Vida Loca II.” I admire both CDs because both show that Jenni could somewhat sing, but because she also shows what many Mexican- Americans want to show, but are afraid to show. In the front of both CDs she appears clean cut, classy with a beautiful. In the back of the CD she is either dressed in a leather jacket on a motorcycle wearing a bandana or flashing the westside sign. Its a symbol of being Mexican-American. You are BOTH worlds and are proud of it. Her song topics: covers of “Angel Baby,” Freddie Fender, “I Will Survive” and other cult classics in the Mexican-American world. My favorite song is “El Nopal” using a metaphor of a cactus to describe her disdain of a man she once loved. One of my favorites is also “Dama Divina” a song that mentions all the popular mainstream media stars and then says that she is nothing like them; in fact she is a divine woman. Sure she also wrote a song called “Ovarios” because according to her, if men can write songs about their balls then she can write one about her ovaries too.

On a personal note, “Se Las Voy a Dar a Otro” was played at least 5 times on a road trip to Mexico and the CD “La Gran Señora” is literally stuck in my mom’s CD player and is played at least 5 times a week at full blast.

Rest in Peace Jenni and thank you for bringing pride to Mexican-Americans and later Mexicans without selling out your body or the essence of your personality.

Dama Divina

El Nopal

Mariposa del Barrio (live)




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