Superstar Mexican Singer, Juan Gabriel, Dies In Santa Monica, CA

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Superstar Mexican Singer/Songwriter, Juan Gabriel, Gave $100,000 to NM Children & Youth, Gone At Age 66

By ROBERT NARANJO/valleydailypost,com

Santa Monica, CA – Alberto Aguilera Valadez, best known by his fans worldwide as, “Juan Gabriel,” a Super Star Mexican singer and songwriter, who sold an incredible 100 million albums in his career, which is the record in Mexico, has died of a heart attack at his beachfront property in Santa Monica, California on Sunday, Aug. 28. He was 66.

Juan Gabriel, who, early in his career, was turned down by recording companies in Mexico and the U.S. many times, but he didn’t give up and after securing a label, sold the most albums (100 million) in Mexico’s music entertainment history, has died of a heart attack at the age of 66, at his beachside home in Santa Monica, California, according to James Espinoza, of the El Llano section of Espanola who is a longtime associate and “right-hand man” in New Mexico for  Juan Gabriel.

Espinoza was Gabriel’s highly trusted confidante and took care of matters for him in New Mexico. Espinoza said he “was more than an employee. I knew him but not as a fan,” he said. “It went beyond that,” he added. Espinoza was a good, trusted friend of Gabriel’s in New Mexico. “He had a beach house in Santa Monica, and that’s where he passed away,” Espinoza told the Valley Daily Post in an interview conducted August 30 in El Llano.

Juan Gabriel, who was born in Mexico, came from a poor family. His mother worked for an upper-class family in Ciudad Juarez as a maid. He later bought the very same home that his mother worked at. She would take him there while she worked at her job. Gabriel owned several homes including one in Nambe, NM, which “is currently on the market” according to Espinoza, Gabriel’s “shot caller” in NM for many years. But it was on the market before the untimely death of the Superstar Mexican singer/songwriter.

Photo courtesy of James Espinoza, for the Juan Gabriel Family. Photo shows Juan Gabriel, (Left) and James Espinoza of the El Llano section of Espanola. Espinoza says the photo was taken around 1990. 

Asked how he met Gabriel, Espinoza told the Valley Daily Post, that he and his father, were at the Tesuque Flea Market as the elder Espinoza wanted to sell tools he had accumulated through the years. James Espinosa said he saw Juan Gabriel walking by and looking at his father’s tools that were for sale. Gabriel was wearing sunglasses and a hat, in an effort to go unnoticed. But Espinoza recognized him and went up to Gabriel and said in Spanish, ”?Juan Gabriel, verdad?” (Juan Gabriel, true or right?) Gabriel, seemingly hesitated, but confirmed he was by responding, “Si soy Juan Gabriel,” (“I am Juan Gabriel”), and then asked Espinoza, “?Hablas ingles?” (Do you speak English?). He informed Gabriel that he did and Gabriel told him he may have some work for him. Espinoza said that was the beginning of a long association with Juan Gabriel up to the beloved singer’s recent death.

After that Tesuque Flea Market chance meeting, Espinoza went on to become Gabriel’s trusted adviser and friend of the famous singer. He said Gabriel only had one child when he met him and that child was an infant.

Espinoza said he traveled with Gabriel to all parts of the world on Gabriel’s private jet. They visited Spain, Portugal, Germany, and many more places, also using Gabriel’s jet to travel to concert shows in the U.S. and neighboring countries.

Gabriel participated in what’s known as“Caravana” (caravan) shows. He was part of a Caravana, with Lola Beltran, which came to Santa Fe, according to Espinoza. Gabriel “was a natural entertainer and was very handsome,” part of why he was loved by his fans, Espinoza said.

And Gabriel was fond of local culture. He had a pretty good size church built on his rancho in Nambe. Espinoza said that Gabriel wanted to visit the Iglesia de Santa Cruz and used some of its characteristics in his own church. Espinoza, being an artist,would make a painting of what Gabriel wanted, then the painting was turned over to the architects. Gabriel’s church in Nambe “was a pretty good sized one” Espinoza noted..

“He didn’t like to talk about any illness that he was fighting,” Espinoza said when asked what happened to him that led up to the heart attack that cut Gabriel’s life short at 66.

Did Gabriel slow down or have less show-stopping performances as he got older Espinoza was asked. He was known for “high energy” and “uptempo” shows according to Espinoza. He added, that in fact, at a recent show that Espinoza attended, Gabriel showed no signs of letting up and in fact he said, “It was one of the best shows I ever saw him perform, and I saw a lot of them.” Espinoza said, and added that “for concerts, Gabriel would pace himself” suggesting that the heart attack was sudden and unforseen.

Espinoza, told the Valley Daily Post that on Dec. 8, 2O15, Gabriel had planned a benefit concert in Santa Fe to raise money for the area’s children. The sold-out concert had to be canceled by Gabriel due to health reasons, but Espinoza said that Gabriel put up $100,000 dollars of his own money and spread it out to local and state non-profits who help and support children and youth, like Moving Arts Espanola, Espanola Valley YMCA, and the Children’s Hospital in Albuquerque, just to name a few.

Juan Gabriel was a singer-songwriter who was nominated and received many awards in his illustrious career and was known as the “Juarez Divo,” nonetheless, Juan Gabriel never won a Grammy for singing. That was a big oversight by Grammy officials his fans say.

Juan Gabriel was a good example of a rags-to-riches story, but after becoming rich and famous, he remained a down-to-earth person and always looked to help children and youth whenever he could, according to Espinoza. Likely doing it because his own formative years were difficult and he sought ways to make some of the world’s children live an easier life than he had.

The day after his death, a black wreath was placed the gate to his expansive rancho in Nambe that Gabriel loved so much. The name of the ranch was inscribed at the entrance, “IVJOHAJE,” the first letters of names of his three children, according to Espinoza.

The Espanola Valley and New Mexico’s children and youth have lost a generous and gracious benefactor, Juan Gabriel. “Que en paz descanse.” (May he rest in peace.)