In a couple of days, Angelica Rivera, known to most Mexicans as “La Gaviota” for the part she played in a popular telenovela, will be taking left of center stage in the most important role of her life as the First Lady of Mexico. The problem is that most Mexicans are not happy with that.
In the last two election cycles, the ones that elected Felipe Calderon of the PAN, the outgoing president, and Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, the incoming president, have left Mexican’s with a bad taste in their mouths because of charges of fraud and corruption. So on December 1, and for the next six years, Angelica Rivera will be facing a tough crowd, something she didn’t have to face when she worked as an actress for Televisa.
During the presidential campaign, the 32-year-old model and actress was criticized, mainly because she was an actress. People asked, “How could an actress be a first lady?” But a big point of criticism came from her modeling career when she posed in skimpy outfits, for posters and calendars. The running joke was that Peña Nieto’s people were going to have to go to all the mechanic shops in Mexico and pull down the calendars with the image of his wife, half-naked in suggestive poses. One thing’s for sure, we’ll probably never see her wearing those bikinis again.
The fact is that Peña Nieto and Angelica Rivera are too perfect for comfort. They look like a perfect couple for a certain style of Mexican: the Fresas, or Juniors, (upper class, old money, young people). The image is impossible to shake off as they are both young and pretty and have a conservative style. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with many Mexicans. During the presidential campaign, there were reports, which were never denied or confirmed that Peña Nieto had beat Angelica Rivera so badly she had to check into the Hospital Los Angeles. But that doesn’t matter much anymore because the campaign is over and now Rivera will be one of the biggest stars in Mexico.
Angelica Rivera’s climb to the top, and business as usual
Angelica Rivera’s climb to the top started when the famous Mexican actress Veronica Castro spotted a young Rivera and suggested she become a contestant in a Mexican talent search program, which she won. And as things usually work in Mexico, Rivera ended up marrying Veronica Castro’s brother, Jose Alberto, a telenovela producer who is now dating the much, much younger actress, Angelique Boyer.
But never mind the nepotism and the closed circle of people who move in and out of show business and politics. This is Mexico. Televisa used to be the only TV station in Mexico, and the PRI used to be the only party to rule Mexico. While people felt that was changing, both when TV Azteca started airing programs and when the PAN won the presidential election in 2000, it now appears pretty much like we’re back to business as usual.
Although, it does appear as if the world that was once kept in the closet is not more acceptable and pen today. So I suppose there has been some progress. About the time Angelica Rivera was born, the president of Mexico, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, (of the PRI of course) had a mistress, Irma Serrano, who had also been the mistress of a cousin of president Miguel Aleman. Serrano used both men’s positions to launch and advance her career as a singer and actress. In his book La Capital, a Biography of Mexico City, Jonathan Kandell puts it this way, “…there was an assumption among politicians and businessmen that careers in entertainment had prepared these women for relationships that traded sexual favors for economic rewards and professional advancements.”
But watching the new first couple during the campaign, it was difficult to see who was managing who. Sometimes it seemed as if Rivera was helping Peña Nieto become a more charismatic and fluid public figure. Rivera looks like a polished leader. Her husband, the president, looks more like a follower. My take is that she will be a powerful first lady, and she just might be pulling the strings on her puppet.