Selena Quintanilla, the Queen of Tejano, was murdered 20 years ago. For fans, the anniversary is bittersweet; marked by tragedy, the day is spent mourning through celebrating everything Selena was and still means to us.
Pop culture moves at breakneck speed, yet two decades later, Selena's impact is still deeply felt. Just visit any karaoke bar and chances are someone will sing "Dreaming of You" or "Amor Prohibido." (Pandora, a karaoke bar in the Tenderloin, even has Selena's likeness spray-painted on one of its walls.) What is it about this singer that has inspired so many for so long?
I can only speak for myself. I grew up as a first-generation kid stuck in an all-white Catholic school. When I first discovered Selena, I became obsessed with her joie de vivre and her dedication to being exactly who she was. She was proud of her heritage, a feeling I hadn’t come to yet. She was also an American. These two influences were not opposing forces, but a new reality. For me, Selena was a role model in how to exist between two disparate worlds and not feel the need to pick one over the other. She taught me to stop apologizing for or hiding my difference and revel in it instead.
Listening to her music, I often get sad, imagining all the could-have-beens. But eventually my focus switches from what didn't happen to what did. I become overwhelmed with gratitude that she was here at all and that she has so much to show for it: not just in the music she left behind, but in the way she made people who weren't used to being represented feel seen, the way she redefined the word "mainstream" to encompass Latino culture, the way she opened minds and hearts, the way she still does, the way she projected fearless joy, the way we keep feeling it.
This day isn't about the details of how her life ended, but how she lived it. Here are some of my favorite Selena moments:
A forbidden love affair in the desert, set pieces that lead to nowhere. I'll take it!
FYI: If you click on this video, you will be bidi bidi bom bom-ing in your head for the rest of the day.
In case you need more evidence that Selena was a great and humble person, just watch this video. Apparently, there was zero security at this event, causing fans to continuously jump on stage. Selena dances with them, kisses them on the cheek, thanks them, and keeps on singing.
When I think of iconic Selena moments, her last concert, held at the Houston Astrodome in February 1995, immediately comes to mind. This disco medley captures everything Selena was known for: her voice, her charisma, her stage presence, her love of people, her smile. Watch Selena do what she did best:
Descanse en paz.