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Viva Mi Gente!: 12 Latino Celebrities and Characters Who Thrust HIV/AIDS Into Popular Culture

May 15, 2013


Héctor Lavoe

Héctor Lavoe

Héctor Lavoe was one of the most well-known Puerto Rican salsa singers. Lavoe is best known for the anthemic "El Cantante," a song that describes what it's like to be el cantante ("the singer") of all the songs, but people fail to recognize the pain behind the music while they're enjoying it.

Lavoe had a long bout with drug addiction, and in 1979 he even sought the help of a high priest of the santería faith to help his recovery. This is documented in the song "Aguanile." Though he briefly recovered, he relapsed following the deaths of his father, son and mother-in-law. After those deaths, and his diagnosis with HIV, Lavoe attempted suicide on June 26, 1988, by jumping off the ninth floor of the Regency Hotel Condado in Puerto Rico. He survived the fall, but his body never recovered. Lavoe died on June 29, 1993, from AIDS complications at a New York City hospital. Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez played Lavoe and his wife Puchi in the film El Cantante in 2007.

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