On Sunday, January 25th 2009, I lost my son Cristian to Pontine Glioma, a rare form of brain cancer that has no cure. On Tuesday March 10th, 2009 I had another painful loss, I lost my partner, my mentor, my friend, my brother and my second father. Ralph Mercado the only person in my life that truly could wear all those different hats. Ralph was more than an inspiration. He made such an impact in my life in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Today marks two years since that fateful day. I can still remember it as if it were yesterday; I can still feel the pain that the news of loosing such an important person in my life brought me.
Ralph was the reason I decided to pursue a career in the Latin entertainment business. He provided me with the inspiration I sought out for. With Ralph I co-produced 7 successful years of tropical music concerts at Madison Square Garden. It was because of Ralph that I decided to open up my own music label, Prestigio Recordings/Sony Discos. He did advise me against it, and I didn’t listen. To date, it was the worst investment I have ever made. I should have listened.
There were people who were scared of Ralph, they had this perception that he was this impenetrable force to be reckoned with, and he was. However, I knew the other side. I saw what others didn’t; he was caring and he had a gentle soul. He would always call me to set up meetings for one reason or another, most of the time we would just end up drinking wine and talking about life. We would never really cover any ground on what the meeting had initially been for. It didn’t matter. I enjoyed every minute of it and learned so much about love, life and business from our conversations. What a better teacher than the self-made impresario of Latin music who I had the great privilege of calling my friend.
I can close my eyes and go back to December 2008 when Ralph had been released from the hospital for a short while. I remember going to visit him and his son Ralph Mercado III being so amazed at how his father reacted when he saw me. When Ralph saw me he smiled and requested that I take of my coat. All he kept asking about the baby (my son Cristian), who was in very bad condition at that time. That was the kind of man he was, the kind of man who while he was lying in bed sick he would think of others. He was the kind of man who always showed me love and inspired me everyday that I had the privilege to have him in my life.
That day, before I left, I kissed and embraced him. He was my family, my partner; words would fall short to describe the impact that he had in my life. I feel so happy that I was able to share that day with him and see him smile before he passed. Today I feel honored to have the pleasure calling his son Ralph Mercado III my partner and friend. Together we will continue to work and fulfill the legacy his father left behind. It eases my heart a bit knowing that my son is with someone I hold so close to my heart. I am sure Ralph is in heaven discussing the production of Thomas the Train events with Cristian. I know their legacies will live continue, on earth, in heaven and in all of our hearts.
John “Gungie” Rivera
Forever Cristian’s Daddy