Thousands mourn U.S.-Mexican singer Jenni Rivera

Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:14pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners on Wednesday packed a Los Angeles theater to pay their final respects to Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera more than a week after her death in a plane crash.

Rivera, 43, best known for her work in the Mexican folk Nortena and Banda genres, died after the small jet she was traveling in crashed in northern Mexico on December 9.

Rivera's family, dressed in white, led the memorial service eulogizing the singer. A bank of white roses was displayed in front of Rivera's bright red coffin and a brass band performed musical interludes.

More than 6,000 people crowded into the theater about 30 miles north of her childhood home in Long Beach, California. Tickets for the service at the Gibson Amphitheatre sold out within minutes, organizers said.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Rivera was called the "Diva de la Banda." She sold about 15 million albums and earned a slew of Latin Grammy nominations during her 17-year career.

"Jenni made it OK for women to be who they are," her manager Pete Salgado said at the service. "Jenni also made it OK to be from nothing, with the hopes of being something."

Rivera had five children, the first at age 15, and was married three times. Her third husband was baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Rivera's private life influenced her songs, which often referenced living through hardship.

"She's a fighter and she knows it's in all of us," Rivera's son Michael said between video tributes.   Continued...

People watch a live broadcast of the memorial service for Mexican-American singer and Spanish language television personality Jenni Rivera at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, December 19, 2012. REUTERS/David McNew