Thousands mourn U.S.-Mexican singer Jenni Rivera

Eric Kelsey
Reuters Middle East

LOS ANGELES, Dec 19 (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 Dec. 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 (48 km) 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.

In recent years, Rivera branched out into television,

appearing on a reality television show and serving as a judge on

the Mexican version of the singing competition "The Voice."

Television broadcaster ABC was reported to be developing a

comedy pilot for the singer.

Rivera's plane crashed in mountains south of Monterrey

killing all seven on board.

The singer was to perform in the city of Toluca, 40 miles (64

km) southwest of Mexico City, in central Mexico after a concert

in Monterrey. It is not clear what caused the crash.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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