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Why had I never heard of Jenni Rivera?

December 12, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash in Mexico this week. I had no idea who she was.

Apparently Rivera was a wildly popular Mexican-American singer who sold 15 million Spanish-language albums, was nominated for Latin Grammy awards and appeared widely on Spanish-language cable television programs and was a business woman. She was a voice coach on a Spanish-language music contest show called "La Voz." Judging by her Wikipedia entry, her personal life was every bit as colorful and was likely covered extensively in Spanish-language gossip magazines. Rivera was also American, born in California in 1969 to a Mexican-American family.

I probably know less about the celebrities and fake celebrities on the covers of gossip rags than many people do, but I at least have a passing awareness that there are people called the Kardashians and a group of young women who became famous on a show about teenage mothers and for their train wreck lives. The difference is that those people are on English-language shows and the mainstream media largely ignores what's going on with the Hispanic community.

It seems a little odd that there can be such a popular, well-established celebrity with a longstanding career that so much of America has never heard of, but it's probably a sign of the times. I suspect, though don't know, that it's very easy for someone from a Spanish-speaking country to come to the United States and never have to learn much English when there are Spanish language cable channels, businesses that cater to Spanish speakers and bilingual education and the like. The country is no longer much of a melting pot. There's no need for newcomers to melt anymore.

Does it pose a problem for national unity or future political campaigns if there are large groups of people who no longer like the same things or share the same language living in the country? Maybe I'm reading too much into this. In any event, I am certainly sorry for the death of Rivera and sorry that the first time I heard of her was when I saw her obituary on the wire.


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