Salsa’s “golden boy” is joining with PAHO in a new campaign to end domestic violence

Throughout Jerry Rivera’s 18-year singing career, music has been his voice. Today, after recording 14 albums and selling 6 million copies, the former “Salsa Baby” is ready to send a grown-up message that goes beyond love songs.

Rivera is adding his voice to the growing chorus of celebrities and other advocates who want to see an end to domestic violence. In late 2006, he was named a Champion of Health by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and agreed to be the spokesman for a new campaign to stop violence against women and children, especially in Latin America and among Hispanics in the United States.

Don’t bother calling me
I’m not the same person as before

You can’t control me
Or hurt me anymore

They’re the first lines of Rivers of Pain, recorded by Rivera and his sister Saned in 2005. The song and music video have become a musical manifesto for Spanish-speaking women struggling to overcome domestic abuse.

This is just the beginning of a new stage in my personal life that I’ve now made part of my professional career,” Rivera says. “This message goes wherever I go.” Indeed, the anti-violence campaign that started at PAHO and is featured prominently on the singer’s website has by now reached millions of Rivera’s fans in the Americas and throughout the world.

Music in his veins

Jerry was born Geraldo Rivera Rodr?guez in the town of Humacao on July 31, 1973. In his case, it’s no clich? to say he came into the world with music running through his veins. The Rivera family is rich in musical talent, from Jerry’s tropical musician father, Edwin, to his older brother of the same name, to his younger sister Saned and two other brothers, Ito and Jos?, who both play instruments professionally.

Almost as soon as he could walk, Jerry started accompanying his father and his mother, Dominga, to performances and eventually sang with them in their band, Los Barones Trio.

But despite his professional success ? or perhaps in part because of it ? there came a moment when Rivera wanted to do something more than sing love songs. It was a period when he felt surrounded by violence in his own country. “Every day I would wake up depressed … seeing death all around me,” he recalls.

Far too many women need to hear Jerry Rivera’s inspiring words. According to PAHO data, one in three women in Latin America and the Caribbean has suffered violence at the hands of a domestic partner, and much of the violence includes sexual abuse. The problem cuts across social, racial, religious, and geographical lines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than three women are killed by their domestic partners every day in the United States.

Since appearing at the November 2005 celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence, he’s recorded a public service announcement for PAHO’s anti-violence campaign, he’s visited battered women’s shelters in cities throughout the Americas, and also participated in seminars and given radio interviews exhorting his fans to help bring an end to violence against women. He is also helping the Pan American Health and Education Foundation raise funds for programs to reduce violence and help battered women.

Today, Rivera says he feels deeply committed to the cause, to such an extent that he follows a number of cases personally, staying in touch with women who have decided to escape violent homes and try to build a better future.

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