Crossroads residents remember entertainer Jenni Rivera

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:10 a.m.

Although her fame was concentrated in the Spanish-speaking world, Jenny Dolores Rivera Saavedra was widely loved by many Crossroads residents.

The California-born, Mexican-American singer - known to her fans as Jenni Rivera - was reported missing after air control lost contact with the plane she was flying in Sunday afternoon.

The crashed plane was eventually found, and her death was confirmed Monday by her brother and father on the Spanish-language television network Telemundo.

Victoria resident Maribel Gonzalez, 46, said her life and Rivera's were one.

As a cancer survivor and single mother of four, Gonzalez said that Rivera's music helped her push through her hospital treatments and rough patches.

Rivera, a mother of five children, had recently filed for divorce from her third husband.

"For me, she is not dead," Gonzalez said. "She is alive."

Other area fans of the deceased artist shared Gonzalez's sense of hope.

Rosalba Barton, 32, a waitress at Taqueria El Rodeo, a Mexican restaurant on the corner of Navarro Street and Houston Highway, said hours into her work Monday that she was still in shock.

"I still can't believe it," Barton said. "I need to see her body first."

The Tamaulipas native said Rivera did what many women don't do after a messy divorce - move on and succeed.

"Despite her tragedies, she was a luchona," Barton said. "She was a strong advocate against domestic abuse."

Nineteen-year-old Esmeralda Reyes, also from Tamaulipas, said her co-workers at Guadalajara No. 9, near the intersection of Ben Wilson Street and Red River Street, had spent the morning listening to Rivera's music on the radio.

"Her music was so real," Reyes said. "She sang about things that actually happened to her and with a smile."

Reyes said she has hope the artist is alive.

"I've been waiting for her to come to Houston," Reyes said. "I still want to see her in concert."

Patricia Hinojosa, 37, manager at Las Palmas Mexican restaurant off North Main Street, compared the singer's death with the late Selena Quintanilla, who bled to death after being shot by the president of her fan club at the precipice of her English language crossover fame.

"She was like the second Selena," Hinojosa said. "Except for the fact that she has children that she left behind - I can't even imagine their pain."

Thomaston resident Lauri Pride said her family and Rivera's were former Norco, Calif., residents and neighbors.

"It seemed like a strange place for them to live. You'd think they be somewhere like Beverly Hills or something," Pride said. "They always had these huge family gatherings, and you could hear the music all the way down the street."

Pride said her 11-year-old son, Kevin, and Rivera's son, Johnny Lopez, 11, used to play together after school.

"She was a great mother," Pride said. "She never wanted her kids to feel abnormal. That's probably why she had them in Norco."

As a non-Spanish speaker, Pride said she got to know the singer as a mother - not a celebrity.

"It took me a while to realize how famous she was since I didn't listen to her music," Pride said. "She was very down-to-earth."

Through Monday afternoon, fans tweeted conspiracy theories and shared hopes of Rivera's survival, despite the family's public confirmation.

"Johnny is the sweetest kid," Pride said. "This all must be really confusing for him right now because there are fans telling him that she's still alive."

Port Lavaca residents Emily Treviño, 12, and Petra Perez, 11, said they believe the star was kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.

"I don't think it was an accident," Emily said. "On Twitter, they sent her a message saying she was their next target."

The Travis Middle School students sipped from a can of coconut juice at La Michoacana Meat Market Monday midmorning.

The water main at their school had busted, and they were out having brunch with their mothers and discussing the tragic event.

Both girls were born in the United States but - like Rivera - share a deep intimacy with their parents' Mexican heritage.

"She would always have a shot of tequila at her concerts," Petra said. "That's how you could tell she was a real Mexican."



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