April 9, 2004

The Son Also Falls

Riot at the funeral of Adan Sanchez were a pain to the culture he tried so hard to put in a positive light.

By Marisela Santana

No one is forever. That’s what his latest single resonates — that no one lives forever. While the lyrics in his “Nadie es Eterno” single encourage listeners to look beyond death and to not mourn the death of a loved one, fans of the fallen Latin star Adan Sanchez never thought it would happen to him — at least not this soon.

We listened to his music all the time, just as we do religiously to Lupillo Rivera, his sister Jenni Rivera’s latest album, , and of course, my favorite, Vicente Fernandez.

My 19-year-old sister, however, is married to Lupillo, figuratively speaking. So when I heard of Adan’s demise, I didn’t think it would have as great an impact on her as it did. But, boy was I wrong.

She was holding her 5-month old daughter at the time. After I told her, I had to grab the baby from her arms because she started crying on an instant. She started shaking and fell to her knees right then and there, sobbing and covering her face with both hands asking me to tell her it wasn’t so. But I couldn’t understand, not really.

I mean it wasn’t as if she knew him personally, right? Wrong. I am 14 years older than her, so for me life has pretty much toughened me, so I like to think. I figure I’m going to lose people who I’m close to one day to heaven, so as much as I wish that I wouldn’t. We all have to go one day — that’s our destiny. It’s how you accept it that makes the difference in all of our lives. Adan’s death caused a chain reaction of sadness throughout the Southland. Fans of the genre had just gotten over the brief scare Lupillo Rivera gave them when he suffered a car accident in Mexico last month, too. So when the news of Adan flowed into the states, fans were kind of hoping it would only be a scare as well, and that he would ultimately be all right. But this wasn’t the case — not this time.

After March 27, Adan’s demise was on the news day and night. Radio stations played his songs over and over, and even radio stations that never played his music paid their respects on the air for the artist who was killed in a car accident in the northwest Mexican state of Sinaloa. He was actually on his way back home from performing a concert there promoting his last album.

When news reached the states, fans flocked to his Paramount home looking for answers. Here was a boy, fresh out of high school who was selling albums like hotcakes, both in the states and in Mexico. He took the nickname of his father, the narco-ballad singer Marcelino “Chalino” Sanchez, yet single-handedly developed a much broader genre for fans of narcocorridos, along with genre-mates Lupillo, Jenni, El Original de la Sierra aka Jessie Morales, and El Narcillo.

Sharing the same fan-base, Adan and Lupillo were inseparable both on and off the stage. A friend of mine, who has another friend who’s father plays in Lupillo Rivera’s band, told me that earlier on in the week Lupillo visited Adan’s casket and asked to be allowed to have a few drinks alone with his good friend. They say that Lupillo spent three hours alone with Adan — mourning. This of course is privileged information — yet is special for fans of the two to know. So far, the public only knows that Lupillo hasn’t been able to speak publicly about his friend’s death.

But no one has ever wondered or asked about Adan’s fan base. It’s too bad that it took this young star’s death for Los Angeles to know his name, or better yet, to acknowledge who he was.

For the rest of the week, my sister, as well as thousands of Adan’s fans, awaited more news on when and where vigils would be held, and praying his family here would conduct a mass in his honor for his fans. As Wednesday arrived, news was released that a service would be conducted on Thursday, April 1 in his honor at St. John of God Church in Norwalk at 9 p.m.

The traffic was atrocious. It took two hours to get through the traffic, yet we still parked about seven blocks away from the church because of police barricades.

Even though we had already gotten word that police were arriving in riot gear, my sister insisted we get through. She had asked our father to take her and he told her she was crazy and that he didn’t want her getting hurt. As much as she knows I hate going to funerals and viewings, hesitantly, she asked if I would take her to the church. She had already bought a dozen white roses for Adan and was dressed all in white — for Adan’s mother had asked fans to dress in white. She said that Adan once told her that if he ever died, he wanted everyone to wear white because he thought black was such a sad color and he didn’t want people to be sad when he died.

As tired as I was that day, I agreed to take her as long as she promised not to pass out on me. Police barricades re-routed foot traffic around and around the church for blocks at a time. Yet, as many times as they told us that the family had canceled the mass it had promised for his fans, my sister insisted we get through somehow, just so she could at least leave his flowers at the church’s entrance — at least that, she would tell me with tears in her eyes.

The whole time I couldn’t understand why it hurt her so bad. She was angry that the family felt it necessary to cancel the mass. “Why does there always have to be people to mess it up for the rest of us,” she asked. “It’s people like these who give all of us a bad name. It just makes us all look bad.”

She was right. People have to know that amongst all the crazy people who just show up just to show up, to follow the chain reaction, to say that they were there, to kick-it with their friends, to just be a part of a sea of people — there are the true fans who had no part in the upheaval, in trying to turn over passerby’s cars, who climbed the trees or who challenged authority — who were there to actually say good-bye to this one person whom they loved so much, and maybe if possibly tell his mother and sister, how much their son and brother was loved.

Early on, there was no riots like news outlets were reporting. Maybe a few people got into fights, but not riots. Yet police were already in riot gear with pellet guns in hand — waiting and willing.

News must have been really slow that night, because the mass and massive turnout was on every news station on television. Thousands of people showed up. Norwalk Sheriff’s brought in extra deputies from all over the county and were preparing for a riot. More than 8,000 people attended the viewing throughout the day, but by 7:30 p.m. the crowds started getting bigger and out of control — that is, according the news outlets. But there was no riot — at least not until 9:30 p.m. or so, when disappointed fans who waited for hours to pay their respects to the singer were turned away and a lot of the mourners surged into the streets, overturning portable toilets and rocking cars.

In the sea of people outside the church, TV crews were driving the crowds crazy. It was as if they were feeding the frenzy. People were on top of cars, on the walls. The crowd definitely had the potential to get out of hand, but it didn’t, not at first. Amongst the hot-dog vendors and the illegal T-shirt vendors, there was a woman who was walking around with a basket of recuerdos she had made by hand. I asked if she was selling them because I thought, ‘great here’s another person making money off of Adan’s demise.’ To my surprise, she said no. She said she was giving them away for free because she owned a flower shop near his residence and had known him personally. So I took one for my sister and told her she was a great person for her gesture. Any other person would have taken advantage of the situation to make a quick buck.

The crowd was so thick it was impossible to get close to the church and by 9 p.m. the crowd already knew the mass had been canceled by the family, but people still kept arriving. It was about 9:30 p.m. when the doors to the church open and the crowd got a glimpse of Adan’s casket. Apparently, the family had decided that they needed to take Adan some place safer.

As the hearse doors are closed, the crowd disperses to make way for the hearse. At first, it’s a beautiful image. People are lining up along the streets, leaving just enough room for the hearse and its entourage to get through. My sister begins to run so that she could be a part of that. But I grab her arm because I see people are running and not really thinking about the dangers of so many people running at the same time in the same direction. In the back of my mind, I already see people getting trampled and killed. But at that moment, like my sister, they aren’t thinking about that. So I grabbed her and to make sure she gets to where she wants to go safely. Luckily, we are able to form part of the human passage-way for the hearse. It was a beautiful sight — at first. It looked like the Red Sea parting for Moses, except for this was a crowd parting to make way for the hearse. Finally, the hearse passes right in front of us and she gets to place her roses on the roof of the hearse and lets her hand glide on the side of the vehicle while saying “I’ll never forget you Adan.”

The hearse passes, and immediately following is its entourage and patrol cars driving with force and not caring who is in their way. In a matter of two seconds I turn to my left and a patrol car is shoving people out of its way forcefully. I see people rolling off of the hood of the patrol car and inside there are two officers wearing riot gear. All the while I haven’t let go of my sister’s arm. It all happened so quick. As soon as the second SUV driving behind the hearse passed, I told her we have to get out of here and pull her through the crowd to the empty side of the street. It’s there that she breaks down crying. So I embraced her and asked if she was content. There, he got her flowers. It was enough, but she still wished she could have prayed for him at his service. I told her she could do that for him at home. After she calmed down, we walked back to the car.

On our way back home we took the side streets so we didn’t get a chance to see the people chasing the hearse and acting crazy. It wasn’t until we got home that we saw on television what Adan’s so-called fans were doing. I was appalled and angry. For God’s sake, this was a funeral service, not a Lakers game, it was not a concert and it was not Whittier or Hollywood boulevard where people could go to cruise. What were they thinking? I thought to myself. From people on top of the hearse or the SUV’s that were driving in front of and behind it, to the chasing of the entourage, we didn’t see any of that until we saw it on TV.

It was horrible and I couldn’t believe that the event turned out that way.

In all honesty, it was embarrassing, and I think that if Adan were still alive, he would be embarrassed, too. I am sure even he couldn’t believe that his so-called fans were acting in that manner. Because it’s stuff like that that does give Latinos a bad rap. It’s stuff like that that makes venues turn away events that will bring Latino or African American crowds together.

It was one thing to be upset that Adan’s family canceled the mass. But it was another thing to act a fool. The unfortunate part of it all, is that every media outlet was covering the event — so all of America, and probably people all over the world, were watching Latinos acting foolishly at a funeral service. I’m not going to deny it, I know that a lot of media outlets only cover negative events. If this were a positive event, and there were no misbehavior, the media probably wouldn’t have been there. It happens. But it shouldn’t have happened there. It wasn’t the time, nor the place. It’s behavior like that that makes the police want to be prepared. I over heard one guy say to another, “Look the police, dude, they dressed in riot gear, as if we’re going to riot or something. Why they always got to discriminate?”

Well maybe the police wouldn’t feel it necessary to prepare for riots if people wouldn’t start acting crazy. How about that? How about not giving the police reasons to prepare for riots when there aren’t any?

Even Adan’s mother made a public apology for canceling the mass, but it wasn’t her fault, not really. She shouldn’t have had to apologize. Yes, she should have chosen a bigger venue for the mass, but she shouldn’t have to apologize for people’s misbehaviors. I think she thought like me — that people would show up to pay their respects, and act respectfully. This was somebody’s son and brother and friend — and the people we saw on TV acting shamefully — I don’t think they thought about that. I hope they saw themselves on TV afterwards and felt ashamed, too.

I want to let people know that not everyone who showed up for the mass went to be a part of the crowd, or as we say in Spanish, to be montoneros. Some people went because Adan’s spirit, when he was alive, really touched them. I’m not just talking about my sister. I’m talking about the hundreds, the thousands of young girls who really loved this guy Adan for his personality. He never let fame get to his head, and no matter who he met, he treated everyone the same. He was a lover of life, sweet, funny and respectable — and that transcended to a lot of people even if it was through his music, and age, well that didn’t matter. People loved him. Men, women, teenager boys and girls, and even young children. He won the love of so many people in just a short time because he never acted like a superstar. He stayed humble and never let the money go to his head. I think that’s why so many young people loved him, because they could relate to him and his music and when he spoke, he spoke with people, not to them.

In his short life he made major history twice. He was the first Mexican singer to perform at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and his funeral service, the one was that was turned into a joke by the people who so-called loved him, was the opening news story on every news station the night of April 1. That was history, too.

The upheaval made me wish I was not a part of it. All I wanted was to make sure my sister got the closure she was looking for. It’s too bad other people had to mess it up for her and the hundreds of other young people who were looking for the same thing. To just say good-bye to someone who brought them joy and hope through his music — that was all that they wanted.

It was reported that Adan’s aunt, Juanita Sanchez, wept about the crowd’s behavior. “Adan wouldn’t have wanted people to act like this. It just causes more pain to the family,” she said.

And it’s so true. Not just pain to his family — but pain to the culture he tried so hard to put in a positive light.

Reprinted from LatinLA.com

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