On March 31, 1995 Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, known worldwide as just Selena, was murdered in a Corpus Christi parking lot by the head of her fan club. She was just 23 years old.
I was a living in Corpus at the time and going to elementary school. I remember the day clearly because they sent us home early from school, and there was no school the next day. The entire state of Texas basically shut down to mourn the loss of the young singer. Well, at least the predominantly Latino communities, anyway.
Next Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of this tragic event. This weekend, many communities across Texas will feature tributes to the slain singer, who's reputation has reached legendary status to many who were fans during her short period on top of the Latin musical word.
It's sort of hard to explain Selena's importance to those who didn't grow up in predominantly Spanish communities. To Texans of a certain age there was no brighter star; we saw someone who looked like one of reach dazzling heights in the music world, claiming Grammy wins, and playing what felt like the largest show ever at the Houston Rodeo. Selena had just finished recording her first English album and we were expecting her to take over the the pop charts the same way she had the Latin charts.
And we were right. When Dreaming of You debuted on the Billboard Top 200 it debuted No. 1, making Selena the first Latin artist to ever do so. Sadly, this was four months after her passing. Celebrating the accomplishment only reminded us once more of what we had lost. And what we lost was an artist poised to succeed, one that was going to be accepted, one who would have legitimized us in the eyes of the rest of America.
The Selena myth was quickly capitalized on with a biopic starring Jennifer Lopez in 1997, which to this day dominates social media circles when it pops up on television. I have a friend named Mollie and we frequently communicate in nothing but quotes from this film, especially the most memorable scene: Selena and her siblings are stranded on the side of the rode due to a tour bus mishap, Selena flags down a car, the car is a tricked-out lowrider being driven by two cholos, the cholos immediately stop, we get the line, "She looks just like Selenas," followed by "Rewind!" (This is how I tell everyone to back up their cars now.) This leads to the two cholos trying to pull the bus out, a bumper being pulled off and the immortal line "anything for Selenas." Do yourself a favor, and search #Selenas on Twitter.
Mollie and I are just two of the millions of young Latinos who behave this way. My sister still has her Selena doll; she saved that thing from at least three hurricanes -- that's how important Selena is to her. And that's why the Selena celebrations happening across Dallas this Saturday, in Oak Cliff and Lower Greenville, are going to be the can't-miss parties of the weekend. Because she inspires such love in her fans, even 20 years after her death.
Things kick off at 4:00 in Oak Cliff at the Country Burger, home to one of the area's best Selena tributes. There's going to be an art show and music provided by the Faded Deejays crew. Oh, and there's a look-a-like contest, where I'm 90 percent sure I'm going to meet my future wife. Meanwhile at The Crown & Harp, where at 10 p.m. the Faded Deejays will play a four-hour set dedicated to Selena's music. Tjhis will all culminate on Sunday at Texas Theatre with a screening of the Selena movie in conjunction with the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, also at 4 p.m.
It's going to be a wild weekend, and it should be. Latino culture is not one for mourning a passing; it's one for the celebration of life. It's why we have a Day of the Dead: We don't have wakes, we party; we remember. Corpus Christi might be throwing a huge festival in honor of Selena, but damn it if Dallas isn't going to do it's best to properly honor her as well. Because she's an important part of our culture. Selena is our musical icon. She could have been the world's, but tragedy struck, and we're not going to forget that. So, go to Oak Cliff on Saturday, and join in the party. You might just learn a thing or two about hope, and what a sense of community feels like.
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