When Mexican norteño singer Jenni Rivera perished in a plane crash early Sunday, she became the latest Hispanic celebrity whose sudden death came at the peak of their thriving career.
Rivera was one of the most successful female singers in grupero, a male-dominated regional style influenced by the norteño, cumbia and ranchero styles. Her death after a performance in northern Mexico has Latinos in mourning.
It also brings back memories of renowned Hispanics who left their mark on the Latino culture, yet died young and tragically.
The notable ones include baseball great Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican-American baseball Hall of Famer known for his humanitarian work. The first Latino Major League Baseball player to get 3,000 hits and win 12 Gold Glove Awards died in a plane crash in 1972 delivering relief to Nicaragua earthquake victims.
Since his death, there have been numerous books, awards and documentaries about him.
Another well-known Hispanic killed in a plane crash was “La Bamba” star Richie Valens. The Mexican-American singer, who had recently hit the charts with “La Bamba,” died in a 1959 plane crash with fellow musicians Buddy Holly and Big Bopper. A movie about Valens’ life was released in 1987.
The Spanish-language rock and roll pioneer, credited with starting the Chicano rock movement, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Pedro Infante, the Mexican icon, died in 1957 while a plane he was piloting crashed en route to Mexico City. He was in more than 60 films and recorded about 350 songs.
Carlos Gardel, an Argentinean who was a prominent figure in tango, was mourned nationally in 1935 after he was killed in a plane crash in Medellín, Colombia.
Several documentaries and movies have also been made about the Andes flight disaster, a plane crash that took the life of 29 people, including a rugby team, after the plane was on its way to Chile from Uruguay. There were 16 survivors of the crash, which lived for five months in frigid conditions with little food and water, surviving by eating the dead passengers.
Of course, it’s not always plane crashes that suddenly end the life of a Latino celebrity.
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, better known as Selena, was a Tejano singer at the cusp of her music career when she was killed by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar. Selena, who was called the Mexican Madonna, was about to cross over and become English-language star when she was gunned down.
Jennifer Lopez played Selena in a movie in 1997.
Selena became a cultural icon after her death because she was so proud of her roots and, in the face of adversity, reached her dreams.
One of Rivera’s most successful albums was actually a tribute to Selena, and already people are saying Rivera will leave a similar legacy.
“Jenni was just an amazing force. From the very beginning I've said that she could garner an Academy Award for her work in 'Filly Brown.' She had a tough life, but she also had an extraordinary gift,” Edward James Olmos told Billboard.com. "She touched millions of people and she'll be missed."