In a glittery dark purple bell-bottom jumpsuit, Selena Quintanilla performed for the last time in the Houston Astrodome on Feb. 26, 1995.
March 31 will mark 24 years since she was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, Selena’s former fan club president. Saldívar spent a nine-hour police standoff inside a truck with a loaded gun before she was arrested by police in the parking lot of a motel in Corpus Christi.
You can’t help but move your hips and feet when anything by Selena comes on. The legendary queen of Tejano rocked the genre in the ‘90s with her unique voice, addicting dance moves and daring stage outfits.
She continues to be a strong influence on many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans because, while the majority of her music was in Spanish, she was always open about her insecurity speaking Spanish and not being “Mexican enough.”
Like Abraham Quintanilla, played by Edward James Olmos, said in the movie Selena, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!”
He’s absolutely right.
20 years later, the line still rings true to Mexican-Americans born in the U.S. with their roots in Mexico. Selena paved the way for many that were stuck in the middle of two identities, never feeling good enough for either.
Growing up in a family full of Tejano musicians, it’s no surprise that watching “Selena” reminded me of my childhood.
My dad and uncles have been musicians since they were kids and love regional Mexican music because it’s in their blood. Every weekend for years they packed up their instruments and toured the U.S., playing shows from coast to coast just like Selena and her siblings did until the day she died.
This genre of music shaped my childhood and the way I express myself artistically. It isn’t just a genre of music — it’s a culturally rich lifestyle many people like me grew up with.
Selena’s music was always playing in my house, especially on Sunday mornings when my mom would wake up early (too early for a Sunday) blasting the tunes from our Sony boom box.
Every day my dad was singing around the house, whether he was in a good mood or not. When we all gathered at my grandma’s house for holidays, birthdays and random Sundays, my dad and uncles would bring out the accordion and guitars to play for us just because it was the normal thing to do.
I don’t remember the first time I listened to Selena, but I do remember the dozens of Christmases singing her songs during our annual karaoke show-off. “Como La Flor” and “La Carcacha” are still some of my go-to karaoke songs.
I wasn’t alive when Selena was, but I know the significance of her and her music. The same can be said for many young Mexican-American girls today.
Selena is such a household name in Mexican culture that not knowing who she is would be like not knowing who Beyoncé is — and that’s saying a lot.
More than 20 years after her death, Selena continues to make an impact on my life, and I have no doubt she’ll do the same for generations to come.