Feature

A Tribute to Selena

By Christina Ossa

Volume 2 Issue 1

October 8, 2021

A Tribute to Selena

Good Morning America article which shows a picture of Selena posing with her Grammy award in 1994 (https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/culture/story/selena-quintanillas-husband-chris-perez-reflects-death-25-73440003)

If you have a dream, don't let anybody take it away." -Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.


In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, let's take a moment to remember an insanely talented Mexican Tejano-pop singer, Selena Quintanilla, born on April 16, 1971. I've listened to her songs on repeat since I was a child. As an American Latina, her music was always playing at family get-togethers and at least once every month. The same could probably go for other Latino households and even others in general.


She was a rising Spanish singer star in the 1990s who was just about to cross over to sing music in English. At the beginning of her career, she sang and helped her brother, A.B. Quintanilla, write songs, but her passion was to someday sing and write music in English. She had a unique, soulful voice and could sing multiple in genres with no problem. Her story and rise to fame had changed the Hispanic community, but it ended on a tragic note; she was shot dead by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar, on March 31, 1995. Selena's death was a massive shock to the Spanish community up to the present day; however, the lasting impact she left on our community still lingers, as she's widely known by almost all Latino families and has fans across the globe.


A Slow Rise to Fame:

Selena began her career by singing at quinceañeras, performing at weddings, and at her father's restaurant, “Papa Gayos” in Lake Jackson, which later shut down. She started with a family band, consisting of her dad, Abraham Quintanilla, as the manager, her sister, Suzette Quintanilla, on the drums, and her brother, A.B., writing songs and playing the bass. Once the family restaurant closed down, her dad decided to take a chance on Selena's talent and have them travel across the road. However, his rise to fame proved to be a slow one. She would travel across the West of the United States, performing shows for Latinos and other fan who followed her music. Eventually, she gained recognition and was signed by EMI Latin in 1989.


From there, Selena would gain a large and almost cult-like following. Latino fans and others across the globe loved Selena's voice, her music, and her personality. Even when she gained more recognition, she didn't change and continued loving her fans equally no matter how many she had. One of the qualities she's most renowned for is her immense trust and kind attitude toward anyone and everyone. However, one of her most famous albums, Amor Prohibido (Translation: Prohibited Love), brought her to the peak of her career.


Along with one of her hit-singles, Como la Flor (Translation: Like the Flower), she was recognized for her talent and in 1994-1995 was finally approved for a crossover album. It was rare and revolutionary for her career as a Latina singer to have the opportunity to sing her Hispanic music in English. Only a handful of other Latinos, such as Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, or Gloria Estefan, had sung crossover albums; therefore, for Selena to have a crossover contract as a pop singer was an immense achievement, especially considering she was only twenty-four at the time. She even won her first Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album at the 36th GRAMMY Awards in 1994, which marked her as the first female Tejano artist who had ever won that category. Continuing with her momentum, she was even allowed to perform live at The Astrodome in front of over 61,000 fans on February 26, 1995. This concert, unbeknownst to anyone, would be her last live event.


An Untimely Death:

Selena's success only continued to grow, as the ambitious Tejano-singer would also go to form a fan club in mid-1991. However, since her family was caught up with her music production and she was busy with her new albums, songs, and live appearances, she had no one to manage her club. This led her to hire one of her most enthusiastic followers, "Selena's biggest fan," Yolanda Saldivar, who eventually quit her job as a nurse to run Selena’s club and boutiques. Even though Yolanda was just "Selena's fan" on the surface, she had a crazed obsession with the Tejano-singer. Selena trusted Yolanda to the extent that when she opened her first two boutique locations known as Selena, INC. in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, she relied on Saldivar to run them. At the same time, she was busy with her music career. The club began to go downhill in January of 1995 after her father started receiving calls from angry fans who never received the monthly "Selena goodies" they paid for with their enrollment in the club. With further research by Abraham, he found that Saldivar had used forged checks to embezzle $30,000 from both the fan club and boutiques.


Abraham was enraged, consulting Suzette and Selena on what they should do about this situation. Abraham and Suzette wanted Yolanda immediately fired; however, Selena did not want to fire her because she believed Yolanda was her friend. Selena eventually fired Yolanda early spring 1995, and after three weeks, Selena finally agreed to meet Yolanda to get financial records, but Salvador refused to give them back. They met in Corpus Christi at a Days Inn motel, where Yolanda had a handgun ready. The outcome of this meeting was a nearly bled-out, dead Selena, found crawling to the lobby of the Days Inn.


The days and weeks after her death, Latino and even American radios across the country played and had fans chanting her songs. Her death also happened just before she was set to release her new crossover album, which was released instead as a memorial to Selena.


Selena has been missed since her death, and this year marks the 26th anniversary. She still has millions of fans to this day and is almost worshipped among the Latino community. Her debut, though not as long-lasting as was hoped, forever changed the Hispanic-English music industry. Her influence over the music industry paved the way for many famous Latino-American singers, such as Shakira, Demi Lovato, Becky G, and even Beyonce. She met Selena and looked up to her when she was younger. Even by me, Selena will forever be remembered. Her music will be played in Latino households across the globe for generations to come, and I know I have always admired Selena since I can remember. She's an inspiration through and through, and who knows the immense success she would've had if she continued down the path of global-wide fame she was approaching. Her story and end were overwhelmingly depressing, but this does not muddy the recognition and inspiration that comes along with the name "Selena Quintanilla.


Sources Used:

The Queen Is Dead – Texas Monthly

17 Artists Inspired By The Divine Glory Of Queen Selena Quintanilla | HuffPost Communities

Selena: The Series (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjN57npxqTzAhWlY98KHT6SBaoQFnoECAYQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.netflix.com%2Ftitle%2F81022733&usg=AOvVaw3HZYiJAQMbuCJ0zGZ8TDB-) (used as more of a guide of events, nothing specific)

Selena (film)(again, used as more of a guide of events from what I can recall)