Born in Long Beach, California, Rivera was at the peak of her career as perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated regional style influenced by the norteno, cumbia and ranchero styles.
A 43-year-old mother of five children and grandmother of two, the woman known as the "Diva de la Banda" was known for her frank talk about her struggles to give a good life to her children despite a series of setbacks.
She was recently divorced from her third husband, was once detained at a Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and she publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan who verbally attacked her in 2011.
Her openness about her personal troubles endeared her to millions in the U.S. and Mexico.
"I am the same as the public, as my fans," she told The Associated Press in an interview last March.
Rivera sold 15 million records, and recently won two Billboard Mexican Music Awards: Female Artist of the Year and Banda Album of the Year for "Joyas prestadas: Banda." She was nominated for Latin Grammys in 2002, 2008 and 2011.
Transportation and Communications Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said "everything points toward" the wreckage belonging to the plane carrying Rivera and six other people to Toluca, outside Mexico City, from Monterrey, where the singer had just given a concert.
"There is nothing recognizable, neither material nor human" in the wreckage found in the state of Nuevo Leon, Ruiz Esparza said. The impact was so powerful that the remains of the plane "are scattered over an area of 250 to 300 meters. It is almost unrecognizable."
A mangled California driver's license with Rivera's name and picture was found in the crash site debris.