Hundreds of fans of the late Banda singer Jenni Rivera gathered in Long Beach Thursday morning to dedicate a park in her honor on what would have been the Long Beach native’s 46th birthday.
The memorial ceremony included a prayer led by Rivera’s daughter Jacqui Rivera, a pledge of allegiance led by Jacqui’s daughter Jaylah, and the singing of the national anthems of America and Mexico by Mariachi Los Reyes.
Jenni’s father Pedro Rivera also sang Las Mañanitas, a traditional Mexican song that is sung for birthdays.
“Thank you guys for honoring her. It’s a pleasure, it's an honor, to be her daughter, and I'm so proud of her,” said Jenni’s daughter Chiquis Rivera to the crowd.
Various local officials also provided comment on Jenni’s life and work in the community.
“Jenni Rivera was somebody who fought for her family,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.
“She was someone who really believed in the city and the city believed in her, so it's an honor to be here."
“She was an inspiration worldwide; she connected fans,” noted Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro). “We could feel her pain and relate to her struggles. And even if your struggles were not identical to Jenni’s, you were inspired by her, because she was not a victim, she was a survivor."
“She was a true Long Beach girl,” Councilman Dee Andrews noted. “I was amazed of the hurdles she was able to overcome and impressed by all the people she had helped through her foundation."
Jenni’s sister Rosie, CEO of the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation, also spoke about her sister, but with words directed especially to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently made disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.
“I normally speak in Spanish but on this occasion I want to say a few words in English to direct them to an individual whose name I don't even want to say,” Rosie said in Spanish. “To say in English who the immigrants are, in case he doesn’t know, who is a Mexican woman.”
Rosie shared her sister’s early struggles as a straight-A student and teen mom who went through poverty and domestic violence but who continued to fight despite people telling her she would never succeed.
The city of Long Beach watched that woman ride a bike eight months pregnant with her 4-year-old daughter in the back to make it from home, which was a garage, to daycare, to school, to work and back home,” Rosie said.
“That woman grew and turned into that beautiful butterfly,” Rosie added. “Long Beach City was the cocoon that made it possible for that caterpillar to turn into a butterfly.”
A ribbon-cutting, the release of butterflies and the planting of a buddleja—commonly known as a butterfly bush—also followed, as well as the unveiling of a 125-foot-long mural in Jenni’s memory.
Jenni Rivera died December 9, 2012 in a plane crash in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. She was born and raised in Long Beach and attended Polytechnic High School and Long Beach City College and graduated from California State University, Long Beach.
Jenni was also known in the community for her philanthropy, especially through the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation—which helps single mothers suffering from poverty, addiction and abuse. Rivera herself was a teen mom and suffered domestic violence, according to family members.
More amenities are expected to be added to the park in the future, including a tot lot and workout equipment, officials said. The park is located adjacent to Chittick Field Park.
The mural was funded by Jenni Rivera Enterprises and painted by Sergio Ramirez and Daniel Antelo of Wall Dogs—famous for their works on skyscrapers in Los Angeles—and Rivera's son, Michael Rivera.
A Jenni Vive concert is scheduled to take place on Thursday, July 2, at 4:00PM, at Marina Green Park, 386 East Shoreline Drive.
This story was updated on July 2 at 4:52PM with information on the mural's funding and painters.
Photos by Stephanie Rivera.