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Often hailed as "the Mexican Madonna," Gloria Trevi was not only one of the most daring and cutting-edge Latin stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s; she may very well be the most controversial figure in the history of Latin pop and rock en español. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the Mexican singer's name was repeatedly dragged through the mud because of a major sex-related scandal; Mexican law enforcement officials accused Trevi and manager/ex-husband Sergio Andrade of sexually abusing and imprisoning adolescent girls--and in the Latin American media, the Trevi/Andrade scandal has been as huge a story as the O.J. Simpson trial was in the United States in the mid-‘90s (minus the racial element). Regrettably, the abundance of sordid, disturbing headlines surrounding Trevi and Andrade have often overshadowed the importance of her sometimes sociopolitical music, which could be quite challenging and provocative.
Trevi was born Gloria de los Angeles Treviño on February 15, 1970 in Monterrey, Mexico, an industrial city in the northern part of the country. The singer had a rough childhood; she was quite poor, and her parents (both of whom allegedly mistreated her) divorced when she was 10. But none of those things discouraged Trevi from becoming seriously interested in the arts. As a pre-teen, she studied ballet dancing and learned to play the piano; eventually, she learned to play the drums as well. Trevi was not only interested in Latin music; she was seriously into American and British rock and listened to Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Deep Purple, Pat Benatar and Janis Joplin (among others) extensively. Against her mother's wishes, Trevi left home when she was only 12 and moved from Monterrey to Mexico City to pursue a career in the arts. At first, life in Mexico City was a struggle for Trevi, who survived by doing everything from singing on the streets for money to selling tacos; she also taught aerobics for awhile. But her career started to take off when, in 1984, a 14-year-old Trevi met producer Sergio Andrade, who was about 28 at the time and went on to become her manager and mentor as well as her husband. After briefly singing with the all-female group Boquitas Pintadas in the mid-‘80s, Trevi became a full-time solo artist and, with Andrade's help, recorded her debut solo album, Que Hago Aqui?, in 1989. Released on an independent Mexican label, that album and its lead single "Dr. Psiquiatra" (which made it to 1 on the Latin charts) were a smash--and in 1990, Trevi landed a deal with RCA/BMG's Latin division. By 1993, she had sold more than five million albums overall. The Mexican Madonna was selling out large venues all over Latin America, where she embraced mostly Spanish-language material but also performed covers of songs by Zeppelin, the Doors and other English-speaking rockers on stage. Between her albums, live performances and racy pin-up calendars (which sold millions of copies), someone who had been dirt poor as a child had become one of Mexico's wealthiest, most affluent and famous women.
Even in the early ‘90s--long before her well publicized run-in with the law--Trevi was extremely controversial. The thing that made her so shocking to social conservatives in Mexico and other Latin American countries was her image--an image as defiantly and blatantly sexual as Prince or Madonna. Like Madonna--who she has often been compared to--and Prince, Trevi promoted sexual freedom in a very in-your-face way. Trevi wasn't the only female artist of Mexican descent who was often compared to Madonna in the ‘90s; the late tejano star Selena (a bilingual Chicana from Texas) was also described as one of Madonna's Mexican counterparts. But Selena, for all her sex appeal, was never as controversial or over-the-top as Trevi, whose live performances went out of their way to shock, taunt and offend social conservatives. Trevi's antics included wearing a bandolier of condoms across her bare chest and bringing young male fans on stage so that she could strip them down to their underwear. But there was more to Trevi than shock value and titillation--much, much more. Her material often had a decidedly feminist outlook, and she brought a sociopolitical perspective to topics like out-of-wedlock pregnancies, drugs and abortion. Upsetting social conservatives was exactly what Trevi set out to do; in many respects, she was the Mexican equivalent of a Riot Grrrl. Some Latino journalists have compared her to Irish agitator Sinead O'Connor--a very outspoken feminist--and Trevi was often quoted as saying that she hoped to run for president of Mexico someday. In fact, one of her pin-up calendars depicted her as a nude presidential candidate.
The singer's career was seriously interrupted in the late ‘90s, when Mexican law enforcement officials accused Trevi, manager/ex-husband Andrade and choreographer/backup singer Maria Raquenel Portillo, a.k.a, Mary Boquitas, of corrupting minors, sexual abuse and kidnapping. The authorities' main witness was singer Karina Yapor, who was only 12 when, in 1996, she left her native Chihuahua to live with Trevi and Andrade in Mexico City. Yapor went to them for musical training, but Mexican officials alleged that Trevi and Portillo (who recorded a solo album for Sony's Latin division in 1995) brought the aspiring singer to Mexico City in order for her to have sex with the much older Andrade. Yapor was only 13 when she became pregnant--allegedly by Andrade--and she has since written a book about her experiences with Trevi and Andrade, who she accused of "horrible physical and psychological abuse." Subsequently, the case against them became even stronger when two other aspiring Mexican singers, Karola de la Cuesta and her sister Katia de la Cuesta, came forward and made allegations of sexual abuse against Trevi and Andrade. Trevi hired the de la Cuesta sisters as backup singers when they were still adolescents; Mexican police have alleged that Trevi was actually recruiting them for Andrade's sexual pleasure. And in 1999, another teenage singer who Trevi allegedly recruited, Delia Gonzalez, told Mexican television that Andrade forced her to make a pornographic movie in San Diego, CA and that he "raped me for nine months…He would get mad and spit on me, he would strap me, he would lock me in a room." Between Yapor, Gonzalez, the de la Cuesta sisters and Andrade's ex-wife Aline Hernandez (who made many of the same allegations of sexual abuse), Mexican law enforcement felt that the case against Trevi and Andrade was incredibly damning. Once praised by social progressives for encouraging sexual liberation and female empowerment, Trevi found herself being accused of promoting sexual enslavement and female oppression. Nonetheless, Trevi still had her share of diehard fans who refused to see her as villain; some fans have argued that she was manipulated by Andrade and was very much a victim herself. But Trevi's detractors, including Yapor and Gonzalez, have asserted that she knew exactly what she was doing and was a very willing accomplice in his alleged crimes. The Laredo Morning Times quoted Hernandez (who has often described ex-husband Andrade as a sadistic, controlling misogynist) as saying, "I think Gloria arrived as innocent as the rest of us were. If Gloria contributed to all this, it is because (Andrade) made her ill, turned her, trained her, educated her in his way."
When prosecutors accused Trevi, Andrade and Portillo of crimes that were major felonies under Mexican law, they denied all charges and ended up fleeing to Brazil. In early 2000, they were apprehended in Rio de Janeiro, where they vowed to fight extradition back to Mexico. Trevi was being held in a Brazilian federal prison when she became pregnant; at first, she claimed to have been raped by a prison guard, but Trevi subsequently recanted that story when DNA tests proved that Andrade was the father of Angel Gabriel (the baby son she had given birth to). Exactly how Trevi became pregnant with Andrade's son behind bars is unclear; officially, she was denied conjugal visits, although there was speculation that Trevi and Andrade bribed a guard (who arranged for them to have sex). Some Brazilian prison officials have alleged that Trevi became pregnant on purpose through artificial insemination, possibly because she believed that getting pregnant would help her avoid extradition. The Brazilian government wasn't quick to hand the alleged offenders over to the Mexican authorities; in April 2000, a Brazilian federal court ruled that the evidence against them needed to be studied extensively before Brazil could agree to Mexico's extradition request. But in late 2002--after almost three years behind bars in Brazil--Trevi, Andrade and Portillo finally agreed to quit fighting extradition and returned to Mexico to stand trial. In Mexico, Trevi's return was every bit the media circus that the O.J. Simpson trial had been in the U.S., and some Mexican intellectuals argued that the country's media were paying way too much attention to her case--often at the expense of serious political and social issues that needed to be addressed. To be sure, the return of Trevi, Andrade and Portillo was the top story in the Mexican media, just as the Simpson case had dominated the U.S. media in the mid-‘90s--and like Simpson, they had a "dream team" of high-priced defense attorneys (at least 12). In late 2002 and 2003, Trevi awaited trail in the Aquiles Serdan prison near Chihuahua